Monday, July 25
Changing the face of Italy
Having recently been taken on a mini-tour of the little towns and stupendous sites lining the coastline of Rome's Lazio region, we proceeded past the bedroom communities of Nuova Florida not far from Nuova California. While I reveled in the concept that New York and New Jersey were once - new, in fact - construction back in the 'old country' was returning the favor. Except I then asked, why, exactly, Florida & California, per se?
[This query stemmed from the fact that all the streets were named after towns in Italy. So, instead of finding via Orlando and via San Diego, I caught via Assisi and via Parma instead -- once again revealing how sign guys in Italy need some serious training in their trade].
But then I was told a story of such tragedy, it belongs right up there amongst the great works of Tosca and Romeo & Juliet, which take Italy for its perfect setting.
These towns, like almost all of Southern Italy's cities, parks, coastline and even highways are littered with stunning palm trees (It is said that Rome alone has 20000 or more). In fact, palms were brought from Africa and the Middle East by the Emperors, and the trade has been steady ever since.
Until not so long ago, who knows how, when and where it all started, the trees being imported were not placed in quarantine effectively, the palms were sold to developers, towns and private households, and the (called punteruolo rosso for its red color) took up residence inside the hearts of the palms, killing them off nearly instantly. You can click on this link and see the bug, which leaves thousands of larvae to infest the palm, feeding on it until its verdant leaves simply droop, turn brown and die. Leaving the trunks a spongy mass of wood that can't even be burnt. The website shows a map of the areas of contamination, which pretty much covers the entire swathe of the balmy Bel Paese.
Once you start to take notice of the bald-tops of palm trunks, you can't help but be stunned by the sheer extent of the damage. Driving down the highway, you see some slightly healthier palms with rubber tubes coming out of them, as if they were on IV Life Support. Turns out, they are - but only those lucky enough to be in cities or towns who have made the effort (and spent the money) to save them.
How this passed by my radar 'til now is beyond me. This disease and its effect on the entire country of Italy should be something being discussed in the European Parliament, UNESCO and the United Nations all at once. I don't see how it is any different than the Taliban blowing up those huge Buddhist statues. This is a crime against humanity of epic proportions.
And the question remains...if this tragedy is not making the headlines on a daily basis, what are the efforts of the customs officials checking the containers coming from foreign lands? Or ridding the country of the plague in our midst?
I mean, if I am forced to toss out my tortellini in Arrivals for fear of bringing organisms to the USA, how could this mass extinction be going on without any word from the international community and the local press???
Heading to Italy's beaches this summer? Try to spot the missing palms...