Bella Italia and Other Stuff

Under the Second Amendment the American Constitution granted all citizens the right to bear arms.

Under the Magna Carta all free English men were granted “the right to justice and a free trial”.

20160528_115100And somewhere in their founding statutes all Italians must have been given the right to hang out their washing on the front of their buildings.

How else to explain the fact that wherever you go – even in one of Italy’s most beautiful towns on the Italian Riviera – you will find a line of laundry obscuring the delicate frescoes and stucco work of belle epoch mansion blocks. Satellite dish, never! Rubbish, not a scrap! Dog mess, even less! But a line of laundry is as Italian as salami di Milano.

The Special and I took a week’s break last month from our arduous Mediterranean retirement to return to Rapallo in Liguria on the western coast of Italy . We stopped overnight on the return trip from UK last year and were much taken. Besides there were rumours that Latin lover Paulo, who abandoned our own Princess Christina after stealing her heart last year, was in town and I needed to have words with him.

2016-05-28 21.36.06It was a great week. You cannot turn a corner without gasping at the startling beauty of the buildings and settings. Italian landscaping and Italian architecture, leveraging the awesome beauty of the mountainous Mediterranean coast.

Sitting atop, looking loftily down on the chic resort town of Santa Margarita and resonating five star pomp and grandeur is the Grande Imperiale. Around the bend the Continental offers a view straight through its marble foyer on to the  shimmering turquoise Med.

Wind down the hill, here stands elegant wrought iron, there classical stone work, villas with magnificent gardens their majestic trees rising from green sward, headily fragrant jasmine and neatly shaped shrubs and blooms, the work of a thousand hands. Then the view opens on to the bay with its crisply painted Art Deco bathing stations; visions of cocktails, canapes and Bright Young Things partying in the dying fall of the Great War, determinedly unseen the ominous shadows of a resurgent Fascist Germany.

“I say Freddy old thing, what do you say to a swim?”

“Anyone for tennis?”

Ah nostalgia! Ain’t what it used to be.

The Italian Riviera still has something of that Roaring Twenties feel about it. An insouciant splendeur that has not faded unlike Paulo, the beast. Was that him in velvet with the chihuahua (yes, I did have to check the spelling)? No! we see it is not him at all! But there stepping out of the Alpha Romeo, a new squeeze on his arm! Cannot be sure but something tells me, yes! The heartbreak. But he is gone. One day, Christine ma pauvre. He will be back for you.

Seven days soon pass. We loved it, the Special and I, but sometimes it takes a trip away to appreciate what you have at home. It was lovely to come back to the joys of an Islamlar summer, the fresh vegetables and fruit that are the main stays of our diet, the bright sunshine, blue skies and the warmth of Turkish people. Perhaps most importantly the very sociable nature of life here. Coming up for our sixth year and life now has a wonderful rhythm to it.

We are training for the island swim again. This will be the sixth time a group of Turkish and foreign residents swim from Mouse Island to Kalkan beach. We plan to swim on 8th October and to raise money for newly established charity in Kalkan, Kas4kids. All funds go towards supporting hard up families in the greater Kaş area and trying to remove the financial barriers to education that poorer children face. The swim takes around 3-4 hours and we land on the beach together to a great welcome from locals and holiday makers.

This year we have about 13 enrolled to date and the swim has become part of the calendar. Well done to my friend Joules who challenged me to do the swim with her in the first place.

Mind you, Kalkan seems subdued this year. Visitor numbers are seriously down and many businesses are struggling to make ends meet. The exception seems to be the cobbled street behind the main street which runs from Moonlight down to the Botanik Garden and White House Pansyon. The street has come alive since Salonica started up last year and a number of promising businesses have launched this year. I have to mention my friend Süleyman’s smart new restaurant Pera and the elegant Old Town boutique hotel and café at the end.

Talking of elegance, Kalkan’s built environment after a week in Italy seems a bit sorry at times; the old town and harbour, however, are the best visitor assets Kalkan has and it is good to see them rejuvenating. Western style tourism is under threat from the random violence of militant Islam but Turkey’s own government seems to have its face set against it too. In particular attitudes towards the sale of alcohol seem to be hardening. It is all part of a larger picture wherein the President and his party the AKP are grinding away the pluralistic, secular Turkey that was Kemal Atatürk’s gift to the world and slowly moving towards a religious government under an executive president, effectively a dynastic kingdom.

Read beautiful Turkish writer Elif Şafak’s article in the Guardian if you think I am exaggerating.

If, like me, you do not fancy ending up in prison for “insulting the President” or some such nonsense, here are four mildly subversive things you can do.

  • Have a glass of rakı and a little dish of lebleb (roasted chickpeas). Greatly beloved by Atatürk rakı was his constant companion. Before the AKP came to power in 2002 a bottle was 8 lira, it is now 70!
  • Go watch an opera or a ballet. Ismet Inönü, a great hero of the Independence War and of the Turkish Republic was a passionate lover of opera and the man behind the establishment of the six regional state opera and ballet companies. They are being slowly strangled. “Not part of our culture” as the AKP like to say.
  • If you are a woman, have a good laugh in public (the Deputy Prime Minister thinks that you should not)
  • Read anything by Elif Şafak, e.g. the Bastard of Istanbul – she was sentenced to 14 months (fortunately suspended) for writing it

Join me in a glass of excellent Turkish red wine made from unpronounceable grapes and a few arias from The Barber of Seville.

Just trying to bring down the government..

And hang your washing on the front of your villa.

Seems to have worked for the Italians

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