Sweeping, Weeping in Sicily

July 12, 2010

The street sweepers here wear suits bright as orange rind and dance with twig brooms.

I see them in the early morning as I stumble across the piazza in the direction of a latte macchiato. They clear the streets of bougainvillea petals and the debris of summer weddings: hearts of confetti, bottles of Asti, handfuls of rice.

Street Sweeper in Sicily with Twig Broom, copyright Jann Huizenga

And every morning I pray, “Please Signor Sweeper, hold tight! Hold fast to those twigs. Don’t go all plasticky on me.”

I want to weep when I see the changes sweeping Sicily, her Americanization: the new shopping malls plunked down among the olives, the SUVs, the McDonald’s in Upper Ragusa (though grazie a Dio the one in nearby Modica went belly-up).

So I savor the twigs. Because someday soon they’ll disappear, never to return.

Twig Broom, Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaClick to comment.

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10 comments to Sweeping, Weeping in Sicily

  • Rosann

    I just returned from a month in Rome and just loved, loved seeing the sweepers each morning outside my apartment in Trastevere. That photo hit home with me. About McDonald’s – there are quite a few in Rome and they do sell traditional breakfast pastries and espresso in real china. I, however, loved McD’s because one can use the bathrooms there without purchasing anything! It is sad to see those arches, though. Love the blog — I’m desperately trying to find a way to stay long term (a year to forever) in Italy…….. somewhere….. anywhere. My paternal grandparents are Sicilian. Maybe Sicily will open up to me!

    • Jann

      Hi Rosann–thanks for commenting! Re McDonald’s–you’re right–they’re so clever-they offer bathrooms w/out purchase AND in my area of Sicily (there is only one, thank goodness) McD’s is one of the few places offering (free) wireless!! And now they’re co-opting “local, slow” food slogans. You CAN manage a move to Italy!!! You just have to want it above all else!

  • wayne

    i Love these pictures. piero has laughed at me because i have take similar pictures of street sweepers in Otranto and Barcelona and Ischia. But I am a Virgo. I love to see people care for their spaces!

    Looking forward to meeting you!

  • Cathy

    So glad to hear McDonalds isn’t gaining much of a foothold in Italy!! I wouldn’t think the Italians would go for it… not with all the REAL, quality food we enjoyed there!

    • Jann

      Hi Cathy–well, unfortunately I wouldn’t say that McDonald’s isn’t gaining a foothold in Italy. There ARE several towns where they’ve gone under, but they’re fighting back hard. I just heard that they’ve got a new “Italian” menu here in Italy (not sure what’s on it), and also they offer free wireless in a country where it’s often hard to find a wireless connection…

  • Do I love those brooms!

  • Dennis Berry

    The day after you posted sweeping, weeping i was heading for starbuck,s for a latte macchiato, my drink of choice for many years. A new homeless man had shown up on main street. In stead of a sign and a paper cup he had a shopping cart with a waste basket, a dust pan and a collection plate. He was wearing an orange reflective runners vest and he was sweeping the side walk with a plastic broom. I put some money in his plate and went down the street where they sell wonderful twig brooms from the http://www.broomshop.com , they are made some where in oregon I bought a wizard fantasy broom. The man in the orange reflective vest now has a new dancing partner.

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