The hillside village of Gavorrano in the afternoon. © Erin Zaleski 2012
Sweden is in the grip of its chilliest, rainiest summer in centuries, and shortly after my arrival in late-May I began pining for Mediterranean heat, sun-baked terraces, and humid evenings laced with ice cream and strapless dresses.
So in July I fled south to Gavorrano, Italy.
Never heard of it, have you?
Neither had I, which I immediately took as a good sign.
Straddling a steep hillside in southern Tuscany’s Maremma about 25 miles northwest of Grosseto, the medieval mining village is free of grand hotels, “menus turisticos,” chain stores, and gourmet gelaterias (basic, perfectly tasty gelato is available at the local bar). When the midday sun is at its hottest the main square and nearby roads empty out; the sounds of voices and footsteps replaced with the buzz of cicadas and the mistral wind barreling over the hills.
It was as middle of nowhere as you could get for Tuscany in July, thrillingly devoid of the summer tourist crush, and with the bonus of the exciting (and alarming) possibility of running into a pack of wild boar after dusk.
The United States of Haiti? Newly back from Haiti, Pooja Bhatia draws parallels between the beloved “dysfunctional little country” she left behind and the direction her homeland appears to be heading.
“…ensconced back home in the U.S., the Land of Plenty, I see reminders of Haiti everywhere,” Bhatia writes in an article for the Daily Beast. “Our infrastructure is crumbling. The able-bodied and quick-brained can’t find work. The chasm between the super-rich and everyone else has so widened that our elites seem to inhabit a different country.”
Overstated? Perhaps. But she raises some good questions. And I’m always pleased to see pieces that spotlight Haiti–a rarity since the earthquake-induced reporting frenzy died down and the majority of journalists moved on to other crises du jour.
The Amanda Knox Case and Journalistic Neutrality Speaking of media frenzies, the wrap-up of the Amanda Knox appeal and subsequent acquittal of the accused had more than 400 reporters descending on poor Perugia, which just wants to go back to being known for its chocolate. More interesting, is the polarization within both the public and the media over Knox’s perceived guilt or innocence. Shades of gray are all but nonexistent in the sensationalized murder case: the Seattle student is either a duplicitous, sexually-charged killer or the the victim of a sexist, arcane legal system.
Oddly, such polarization has crept into some of the media coverage, specifically within the reporting of two high-profile journalists. Rome-based Barbie Nadeau who has covered Italy for Newsweek for a number of years sides with the “guilty” camp, while Nina Burleigh, who moved to Perugia to write a book on the case, believes that Knox was a victim of misogyny at its worst.
But where is the line between reporter and advocate? asks the New York Times. And to what extent should a journalist allow her opinions to bleed through her reporting?
Snuff, Barf & Amusement Parks: Scenes from the Real Afghanistan
Naples in the Rain, BLN. March, 2006
One of my favorite guilty pleasures, La Strada is a pictorial rendering of Italian daydreams. Run by a couple of well-known journalists, most pictures are taken on the fly with point-and-shoot cameras or phones. The resulting snapshots depict Italy at its most appetizingly authentic.
“F. Juvarra: Galleria di Diana 2008” from Marco in Italy. The perspective, the light, the interplay of black and white all make for a gorgeous image. Similar landscapes have cropped up in my dreams, so there was a personal attraction to this photo as well. For more of Marco’s stunning black and white photography, visit his flickr stream.