Sicily: Living the Examined Life

November 12, 2010

Laundry in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The bras on the line are symbolic.

Moving to a Sicilian village means exposing yourself to public scrutiny, undies and all. You’re watched, eyeballed.

One morning, a tall villager spots my husband Kim—who has just returned from the US—in the piazza. “So,” he says, winking, “the sheep is back in the pen, is he?”

How did he even know Kim was gone?

For two weeks, I leave the house early, before 7am, to work on a project with a friend. I finally get a day to sleep in, but the buzzer squeals violently, over and over. I throw on a robe and open the door. “Oh, sorry signora,” say my neighbors, “to disturb you so early, but we know you will leave the house soon and we need to talk to you.”

They’ve been tracking my movements?

I smell what neighbors are cooking for lunch. I hear them singing, bickering. Living life here is like reading a tell-all, and being shocked to see you’re one of the characters.

How will I fare, exchanging an anonymous life for an examined one?

Time will tell.


Hanging Laundry in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaClick to comment.

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8 comments to Sicily: Living the Examined Life

  • So true! Great post Jann!

  • catherine Billups

    Just like my life in Noto. I know that I am safe as we are all watched and when I forget and leave my keys in the door someone always comes to tell me and when I am away I know that my house is safe. I think it is a great system.
    I need no alarm clock because the bread man drives up the street in his Ape at 7.30 a.m. yelling ‘Pane’. Nice way to wake up.

    • Jann

      You’re right about the safety thing, Catherine! I’ve left keys in the door, too, and someone always rings the bell to tell me!

  • Ah yes, it is both a pro and a con of living in Italy. I love the sense of community that exists here, but at the same time, I sometimes feel that I have lost the ability to be anonymous. You are always noticed, always accounted for.

  • It has it’s up and downs. Any slight health scare you might mention to one neighbour, goes around the village in no time. Next time you’re in the village shop, everyone gives you a concerned look, asking after your well being. Burglars in the village wouldn’t get far either as they would immediately rouse suspicion.

  • Wayne

    About a month after i moved from Brooklyn to a the small new England town of Newburyport, I found myself at a saturday night cocktail party where another guest came up to me and said, “the supermarket is closed tomorrow.” not knowing this person, and not having asked him about the hours of operation of any market at all, I raised my eyebrows as if to say “and…?”
    He said, we’ve seen you drive up and park your car, and try to open the locked door of the supermarket nearly every Sunday. We live across the street. It’s closed on sundays.”

  • It is disconcerting but on the other hand, perhaps reassuring in that your neighbours are watching out for you as well as watching you. In my village in eastern Canada, I had people I didn’t know come up to me and compliment me on the new colour we’d painted our house. I was alarmed to find that they knew where I lived. I think I would be shy about hanging my undies out for public scrutiny, though.

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