Italia: A Travel Guide for the Culturally Illiterate pt 1

Roma, Palermo and What Not Do To In The Boot

by Roxane Hudon

Roma

The city polluted with ruins: meet your friends off the beaten path and make sure all of you have no clue what any of it means, except that a lot of stuff happened here once, an Empire was built, an Empire crumbled and now there’s a whole lot of beautiful, leftover rubble lying about. All roads lead here, but no roads lead to any bars, so you may as well take a few photos while you’re looking for one, your mom will enjoy it, except for that one where you Ai Wei-Wei the Vatican, because you’re too hung-over to queue for 4 hours and get strip-searched by a security priest, pay 12 euros for Jesus and break your neck looking at that painting with the fingers almost touching. “La photo avec les doigts.” You don’t really care about all that religious and historical stuff, because you’re too stupid, ugly and classless. Come up with some great lines like: “EH! Anyone know where I can find some good Italian ‘round here?” Classic! Find something more “you”; drink in a square full of dirty, beautiful Italian students sipping on 9% Tennent’s Super Lager, choose the lamest of the pubs in the square and make it your destination of choice to drink all the alcohols, yell “I LIVE IN GLASGOW!” and set ‘em on fire. Do as the Romans don’t; eat a hot-dog from a vending machine while crouching over a bin like a cat, fall asleep on the sidewalk and beg your friends to leave you there. If you’re going to die, may as well do it close to God’s people; one of ‘em may pull you up and save you. Fuck ‘em, your pals know you, they pushed you down there for a reason, to stop you from fighting a bunch of lecherous Turks. Stay down there, maybe the beautiful people won’t notice you and you’ll become part of the rubble. You are Spartacus. Stay down there, enjoy Rome, see the sights, tigers used to fight humans here, God bless, Habemus Papam.

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Sicily

“This is not Europe, this is Africa”

 Palermo

Palermo window

Compare everything to Havana, because you’re worldly in a diminutive kind of way. You’ve travelled, you can compare buildings to other buildings and people to other people of the same sun-stroked variety, you know what you’re talking about. This is Sicily, this is Palermo, no one gives a shit. Make way for the guido on the pony, he’s got places to go, like the fish grill by the sea where his fat friend is munching on a handful of snails. Walk the dirty streets, endure the lustful stares and avoid humming that theme song trying to make its way from your stupid, cliché-ridden brain to your clumsy, ignorant North-American mouth. Rent a flat with the biggest window possible for a nice view of the seedy piazza and the sea, because you like to fake luxury.

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Order a gigantic plate of fish from the waiter who sits at your table and lights a cigarette after pretending to stab your friend. Shush that song, this is Sicily, this is Palermo and no one gives a shit about your Western worries, all the fat men in suits congregating around the BBQ’d calamari probably just work in the kitchen. Head to Vucciria where the daily market has been tossed aside to make way for illegal pop-up bars amongst its abandoned, graffitied buildings. Don’t trip on any gigantic fish heads while making your way to the street dance party. This is Sicily, this is Palermo, no one gives a shit about your temper tantrum at 1:30 am; your friends are dancing on the bar and ‘Get Lucky’ is an undeniable, international hit. Antonio isn’t gay, he’s making out with your friend in an alley, inhale the second hand dope and pee behind a metallic shed. Wake up, call your bank, sit by the sea and wait for a skipping Nigerian named Samson to tell you everything is going to be okay, because a woman once threw herself from that mansion you see on that hill over there. This is Palermo, after all. Pistachio gelato erases the Birra Morrettis from last night’s 90’s dance party, where a handsome man-child you nicknamed “Nirvana” became “The One Who Got Away” and an African told you to “watch your ass,” while pointing to the muscular bambinos watching it too. Arrive thinking this may be quite the romantic shithole and leave knowing you’ll come back.

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