This is the first in a series of stories about traveling to the island of Ischia in Italy.
Mine are the peasant people of Ischia in Italy. This island is considered a province of Naples in Italy. Ischia neighbors the more famous Capri. Another neighboring island, Procida, had its 15 minutes of fame when the charming film Il Postino was released. When my people left in the 1950s and 1960s, the island was suffering. World War II had decimated the economy of the entire country. And the spirit of the people was shaken. Italians are not ones for war. Truly, they are lovers and not fighters. Fighting Americans (many of whom were related) and changing sides took its toll.
Challenges Change the Islanders
Food and family are the top priorities in Italy. Back then, getting food on the table was difficult. My father disagrees. He doesn’t remember scrambling for a meal. But his older siblings have different memories. They were working the land to make ends meet. It was a tough life. In 1960, when my 13-year-old father left, everything changed. Tourism began to replace agriculture as the island’s prime business.
So, where is Ischia?
Well, it is the largest island in the Gulf of Naples. It is 17 miles southwest of Naples on the western edge of the gulf, according to the World Atlas. Foreigners travel by plane. Often, they have to take a flight to a European capital. Then, they take a shorter flight to Naples. During some times of the year, you can get direct flights from New York’s JFK.
You can easily access the island from Naples or Pozzuoli (birthplace of Sofia Loren). You simply have to take a boat or hydrofoil from either of those places. You go with the boat if you need to put a car or motor scooter on board with you. You go with the hydrofoil if you’re traveling without additional transportation. The hydrofoil, of course, is faster and takes about an hour. The boat will take about 1.5 to two hours. It all depends on whether you make a stop in Procida first.
What Makes the Geography Special
The island is actually a volcano. It last erupted 700 or so years ago. But in 2010 some experts warned it might blow again. No joke. Before you run away from Ischia, consider their final thoughts on the matter. The experts also said an eruption was not at all imminent. Still, they are monitoring it along with nearby Vesuvius.
These volcanic origins are not all bad. They provide rich soil for vegetation. You might credit it with the sweetest fruits and most delicious veggies you’ve ever eaten. Your body might also appreciate thermal waters and mud. Many athletes and ailing people come to Ischia for their healing powers.
For those who trace their roots to Ischia, it lives within the heart. It is where we find family and friends. It is where we find a slice of piece and Nonna’s parmigiana. Can’t beat that.
Innocence is defined as “lack of guile or corruption; purity,” according to Google. As I prepare to send my 5-year-old son off to kindergarten next September, this is the word that is smacking my mind like a hammer. He is sweet and good and kind. He wants to be friends with everyone in his class. He has no airs about him. He doesn’t recognize differences in race or religion or politics. He reminds us that stupid is a bad word. Whenever I say I’m getting old, he says, “No, mamma, you’re beautiful.” And when one of his friends cries, he is willing to hold out his hand or offer a hug. He has not yet realized the world is pummeling him. For this, I’m grateful. And I want it to last.
The First Sign of Trouble
As many readers know, my son had delayed speech. He did not really start talking until a year and half ago. I’m proud to report that he recently tested out of speech. In fact, now, we usually can’t get him to shut up. We get to have full-fledged conversations, not to mention arguments, with him. That’s just fine with us. During testing, the school’s child study team wanted to have him tested for ADD and ADHD, so we headed to a local hospital. It turns out he doesn’t have any attention disorders either. But the doctor did talk to us about getting him kindergarten ready. What she said stunned me.
Now, I must preface this by writing that this doctor was helpful and kind hearted. She worked well with my son. She impressed my husband, mother, and me. She told us that our son seemed kindergarten ready. When I asked what we could do to help him prepare. She said he was immature and that the other kids would probably have more “street smarts.” They’re going to be rougher and might not be as sweet, she explained. He needed to toughen up and get more worldly. At 5. At 5. At 5?
“Hell no,” is what entered my mind. But I just said, “Thanks.”
Confirmation the Doc Was onto Something
My son has only gone to school with other children with speech delays and other challenges. The class is tight like a family. The kids all help each other. They are sympathetic and understanding. They don’t make fun of anyone for the obstacles they have had to overcome. Their teachers are special people, who serve as strong role models. They foster the culture of kindness in the classroom.
My son and 4-year-old nephew are playing on an in-town soccer league with some kids already in kindergarten and first grade. They are not nearly as skilled as their teammates. They are just learning the game. They are smaller. They have to develop their skills and better understand the rules. But they get out there and play. One of the other kids called my son a loser and asked why he couldn’t score a goal. I saw the smiles drain out of my son. He was pale and reluctant to keep participating. Where were the other kids’ parents?
We convinced him to get back on the field. It was not even a game. It was practice, and this was a chance to improve, we explained. I also told him to never listen to anyone who called him names. I was proud he didn’t stoop to the boy’s level. But I know he also would never stand up for himself, which wasn’t good either. Suddenly, it hit me like a soccer ball to the head; the doctor was right.
Meanies All Around
Those mean girls are not just in high school. They are not even just girls. I started looking around. My niece’s class was full of kids calling each other names. She often has stomach aches that disappear when she gets away from her “friends.” Another mom told me about first graders shunning another boy during a play date. We’ve all heard the stories of online bullies and maltreatment on the playground. Some of it is a tale as old as time. Some of it is a new kind of evil, more sinister and grown up.
My first instinct is to teach my son how to pull a good left hook and never let anyone mess with him. But just the thought breaks my heart. Instead, I’ve decided to hang onto that innocence. I want him to have a pure heart, to give everyone a chance. I want him to be kind. I want him to be the kid who goes over to that shunned boy and extend a hand. I have been talking to him about bringing others who are left out into a group.
Indeed, he played with another student who doesn’t yet speak the other day. They didn’t really interact, but they kept each other company in the play area. His teacher tells me he helps another little girl who doesn’t speak at all yet. He will take her by the hand and show her the classroom and what she has to do. “She doesn’t talk yet, but she’s trying,” my son said of this girl. “I can tell she has a lot to tell me.” That’s something. That’s a win for innocence. That means I’m not giving up on this. And I’m not trying to change him. Those “street smarts” and “maturity” will have to wait.
What I Tell My Son
Every day before he goes to school, I tell him to do the following:
Listen to your teachers
If your friends are misbehaving, you should not follow them
Lead your friends into good behavior
If any of your friends are in trouble (crying, upset, not feeling well, etc.), you must help them
Be nice (bears repeating)
No hitting, no kicking, no biting, no pushing or shoving (he’s never done this but I want him to know it’s wrong)
Traveling to New Jersey might not necessarily be on your family’s bucket list. But it should be. Getting to the Garden State is half the fun, sometimes more. Before you can get here, you have to figure out the best means of transportation for your family and you. You have three basic options, and they each have pros and cons. Check out the best ways to get to N.J. for your family vacation:
Road Trip to New Jersey
Details: Mine is a big state. To drive from one end to the other, you will spend three hours or more in the car or bus. There are plenty of both rest stops and sites to see along the way if you’re interested. In fact, the road trip itself makes for a great vacation regardless of the final destination. AAA offers maps, tips, and discounts to members planning road trips.
Questions to Ask Yourself: Is the point of this trip to see New Jersey and nearby states or is it to arrive at a destination? Are you traveling with kids or elderly people, who might not be able to endure many hours in the car? What is your budget and can you afford the time it takes to travel and the amount of gas you’ll need? What are your travel preferences? From where are you coming?
Best Fit: Road trips like this are best for those who are up for an adventure. You never know what can happen, especially if you’re driving from a far-away location. If you have little kids and elderly people with you, the car might not be the best option, especially if you’re coming a long distance.
For your safety (not to mention pleasure), you should consider taking it easy and making frequent stops. There are plenty of rest stops and sites to see along the way. Families may want to stop to see the Statue of Liberty, the Land of Make Believe, or Great Adventure. There’s also Liberty Science Center and a slew of historical sites, including all those places George Washington supposedly visited. Nearby states, including New York and Pennsylvania, offer other fun stops. Most importantly, you have to be willing to put up with the inconveniences of the car, the potential for traffic, and the possibility of accidents, such as blown out tires and the like.
Visiting by Train
Details: Amtrak offers trains through the Northeast corridor. More than 20 years ago, I often took these trains from Washington, D.C., where I attended university to either Penn Station in New York City or Newark, N.J. They offer a chance for quiet reflection and some scenic views. It took about as long as a car drive would have.
Questions to Ask: Is this trip more about the destination or the journey? How long are you willing to travel? The train can be cost effective, depending on the type of ticket and the distance, but it can be costly; what is your budget? Do you want to stop along the way or see other cities? Do you have any train enthusiasts traveling with you?
Best Fit: Of course, you have to be in an area from which trains to Jersey or a nearby city depart. You can even travel from Los Angeles to Newark, but it requires multiple train changes and layovers and more than a few days. It can cost as much as a plane, too. The point is you need to be looking for a more relaxed journey to your final destination. And you have to be able to take more time to get where you’re going. Also, the train stations are historic sites. But they can be dirty, and you don’t always find the best people hanging out there. Still, I never experienced any problems. I traveled during the day or early evening and passed through the stations just fine. Kids who are into trains might get a kick out of this to boot.
Flying In by Plane
Details: Visitors to New Jersey can fly into Newark, Philadelphia, or New York City (JFK or LaGuardia) and still have decent access to the state. Obviously, Philadelphia is best if you’re planning to visit more southern parts of the state. New York, on the other hand, is best if you’re going to be in the northern part of the state.
Questions to Ask: This is the costliest option in most cases, so is this in your budget? Do you need to arrive in the state quickly? How are your kids on flights?
Best Fit: This is a great option for families. You will arrive at the destination the fastest. You will need to rent a car or take a cab or bus to your final destination from the airport, especially if you flew into New York or Philadelphia. Of course, you have to budget for those additional costs. The plane is comfortable and safe. And you get the most time at the actual destination because you get there quickly. To be honest, whenever I can afford to travel by plane, I do it.
Every episode of Gomorrah continues to run like a thrilling movie. Regardless of the gruesome violence, you can’t turn away. What continues to fascinate me are the references to religion. Of course, it starts with the title, which refers to the Gomorrah of the Bible and how Neapolitans say Camorra, the name of their crime syndicate. In the Bible, Gomorrah and Sodom are cities in which the people are committing such grave sins that God eventually showers them with burning sulfur.
In Gomorrah, the TV series that airs Wednesday nights on Sundance TV, the metaphoric sulfur shower is coming in a slow and steady stream. We are witnessing the unraveling of characters because of the seven deadly sins. In episodes 7 and 8, greed was on tap.
Follow the Money
At the start of these episodes, you see a family who had won a road trip in a rental car. When they are returning the car, they express gratitude for the decency of the contest. Often, these kinds of contests turn out to be fakes and the “winners” get nothing but heartache. They say how happy they were that it turned out to be legitimate. Then, they go on their way. Out of the car they just drove across Italy comes tons of drugs hidden inside. From the beginning of this season, we’ve been seeing where the drugs come from. We’ve seen it come out of statues of the Madonna, pineapples, and now vehicles.
New Money Kills
Viewers recently got to know Gabriele, who was also referred to as “principe” or “prince” because he brought in the most drug money. Ciro is impressed with him. When others in the new crime family start getting jealous, Ciro puts the kibosh on the concerns. Rosario, known as u’ nano or dwarf, suspects Gabriele is betraying the democratic alliance. Ciro tells Rosario, who is one of his oldest and dearest friends, to quit being jealous. He explains that Rosario and the others are getting their pay day and their say in this new democratic crime family. Gabriele is buttering their bread. And he warns u’ nano that there will be trouble if he messes with Gabriele’s success.
In the meantime, viewers know that Gabriele is actually playing both sides. He’s working for Ciro and Gennaro at the same time. He is also using all these riches to make some pretty showy purchases. He lives in a swanky apartment with his steady girlfriend, a black woman who owns a salon in town. He buys himself three sports cars and gets her a panther. Yes, an exotic animal is among the stars of this episode. One of his friends in the crime family warns him to live more humbly or risk getting ratted out by a jealous figure. Or looking suspicious to the police. His girlfriend agrees and says, “Money is not going to stop a bullet from killing you.”
So, Gabriele sells the cars and moves the panther away from his home. He keeps him in a cage.
Father v. Son
Don Pietro is still holed up in a shack. Patrizia is his confidant and passes him his medication. When he wants to find out who the highest earner is among Ciro’s crew to kill him. Patrizia objects. He gets offended, and she runs off. She decides she doesn’t want to do this job anymore. But her uncle Malamore comes to see her and explains that you can’t just leave a job with Don Pietro. He might have her killed. So, she returns and hears him out. He tells her she is not getting paid to have an opinion. While she was gone the highest earner gets security men and starts to cover up his money making tracks because Ciro and his friends have warned him. Don Pietro explains that killing the highest earner in Ciro’s gang will splinter the alliance. Patrizia confirms who the highest earner is, and he decides to have Gabriele killed. But for a moment Don Pietro seems to wonder if Patrizia is the one who warned him and thus he now has some security.
No One Is Really Family in a Crime Family
Rosario doesn’t care what Ciro thinks. He’s suspicious of Gabriele and thinks he’s not evenly splitting his earnings. To send a message, Rosario shoots up Gabriele’s girlfriend’s salon during the night when no one is in there. Gabriele comes to the entire alliance and pleads for them to make this right. He’s been slapped in the face. It should not happen if they are all committed to a true democracy. Despite the fact that Ciro and Rosario are like brothers, Ciro has some thugs beat up Rosario in front of the neighborhood. The thugs tell him he’s out of the alliance for what he did. Rosario runs to Ciro’s house with his face all bloodied. They have an argument. But Ciro tells him he can make things right by apologizing.
While this is happening a guy named Angelo takes Gabriele to feed the panther. He’s down because his girlfriend wants nothing to do with him after the salon got destroyed. Near the cage where they are keeping the panther, Don Pietro shows up with his henchmen and shoots Gabriele in the head even though he had begged for his life and explained that he was working with Gennaro, too. He’s dead. The revelation that he was working with Gennaro, too, seemed to make Don Pietro all the more convinced killing him was the right path.
Death Is All Around
After Gabriele gets killed, the word is that Rosario did it. After all, he had destroyed the salon. Ciro encourages the alliance to investigate and determine who really did it before taking revenge. He sends Rosario away to the beach with his wife and young daughter. The family is emotional. While the young girl is playing on the beach, Rosario and his wife are sitting in a restaurant drinking water. Rosario expresses his concern. He tells his wife about Ciro killing his own wife Debora, which is a shock. Rosario goes outside to play with his daughter. From the restaurant, his wife sees two henchmen running onto the beach to shoot Rosario from behind. Their young daughter is trying to revive her lifeless father.
Ciro heads to the family’s home to give his condolences. There, Rosario’s wife slaps him in the face. She tells him that she knows what he did. He tells her it would be better for everyone if she kept that to herself. Ciro does not believe Rosario killed Gabriele. So, he tells the alliance to put off making any other moves. He wants to figure out what happened. He insists on tracking down Angelo. Ciro gets an undertaker to let him into the cemetery after hours and picks a gravesite for Rosario. They dig the hole for the casket. Then, the undertakers leave Ciro in the cemetery with the door unlocked.
Burying the Hatchet
Next, Angelo, who is making love to a woman, gets ambushed. He runs out of the apartment in his underwear and is lured to the hole in the ground, where Rosario is supposed to be buried. While in there, Ciro makes him talk. He says Gabriele was shot by Don Pietro and that he had been working with Gennaro, too. The alliance is invited to hear the story firsthand from Angelo, who remains in his underwear, shivering in the dirt, believing he is getting buried alive. Everyone leaves. Ciro helps him out of the hole and sets him free. He doesn’t kill him.
Throughout this episode, you see glimpses of humanity in Ciro. He feels loss. He looks at his wedding pictures, which included Debora, of course, and Rosario, his best man. He is also taking great pain to care for his daughter. He does homework with her. He asks her about boys. He even helps her get dressed. In those father-daughter moments, he seems like any other guy you might know. In reality, he’s a cold, calculating mob boss. So, what will he do in the face of this latest revelation? The alliance has taken note; Don Pietro clearly knew Gennaro and Gabriele were aligned and he didn’t care. And Rosario, which Ciro points out, was right about Gabriele all along.
Gomorrah is riveting. It’s not because of the thrilling storyline. That certainly helps. But it’s because of the profound characterizations of each personality in the show. Every viewer naturally gets to be an armchair psychologist. At this – the midway point of season 2 – you start to wonder if all the main characters are really the same person, just at different stages of life. Then, you start to think that the war they’re all having with each other is really just symbolic of the internal struggle we all face as we grow older. Sorry, but I had to wax philosophical. It’s the only way to live with what I’m seeing on screen. Believe me, you have to live with what you see. It’s like a scar on your memory that you can’t scrub away.
Still, watching is holding up a mirror to your face. It’s looking closely at every line and flaw and stray hair. It’s admitting there was a reason so many of our families ran from southern Italy, made lives elsewhere, and never looked back. Every once in a while, that’s important. Episodes 5 and 6 immediately addressed food and family, the driving forces of everything that happens in Italy.
La Fame Is the Plight That Leads to Destruction
“Fame” means “hunger” in Italian. My husband says “la fame” is what hooks even seemingly innocent people into the disgusting life of the Camorra, the mafia in Naples. In the last episode of Gomorrah, which focused on Italy’s obsession with religion, you saw drug dealers smashing statues of the Madonna to get to their stashes. In this one, you see the dealers opening pineapples to get to the drugs. And the old man, Don Aniello, is eating an apple as he oversees them. He talks about how much he likes fruit.
The fruit is highly symbolic and sets the tone for the rest of the episode. The warring families now run by Ciro and Gennaro (and perhaps to some extent his father Pietro Savastano) have to find peace, so money begins to flow into their neighborhood in Naples again. Until then, the people are forced to live with la fame.
In various scenes, throughout both episodes, you see the ups and downs of the drug business symbolized by full dishes of pasta on the table. Don Pietro throws his dish of pasta across the room in an uproar over his son taking over their mafia family. You see Ciro and Rosario (the Dwarf) eating spaghetti with tomato sauce contemplating the future of the “dogs,” old friends of Gennaro’s who are still wet behind the ears and trying to play both sides. These junior mafiosi – Trak, Little Bird, and Bomber – are hungry for money. They live in a shack of an apartment that looks like a jail cell only grimier. They speak of the people starving in light of current events with the mob families.
Let Them Eat Spaghetti
The trio act out by viciously robbing people at different points in the show. They clear out an entire apartment building to claim it as their own place to deal drugs. The bookie is making tomato sauce when Trak comes to shoot him in the head. In the end, the trio betrays their old friend Gennaro, who comes unarmed to woo them back to his side. They shoot and kill Angelino and injure Malamore, confidants of Gennaro’s father. But they refrain from killing Gennaro as per the agreement the two sides made with Don Aniello. At the end of the sixth episode, “the dogs” are still holed up in that prison of an apartment. But with their guns by their side for fear of retribution, they are finally eating. They too have dishes of spaghetti with tomato sauce in front of them.
That dish – spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce – is poignant. After all, that is the most basic of meals for an Italian. It is representative of the bare necessities. Being able to have that is why so many people in Naples and the rest of hungry southern Italy are willing to put up with the atrocities of the Camorra. It feeds them.
Father and Son, Papa’ e Figlio
In the Sopranos, you always had the feeling that Tony wanted a different life for A.J. You got the sense, in fact, that he wished his father had wanted better for him, too. In Gomorrah, on the other hand, you get the feeling that Pietro wants Gennaro to be more like him and that he doesn’t want this criminal life enough. Pietro meets with his son at a store that sells bombonieri, favors for Italian events, such as weddings and baptisms. He explains to Gennaro that he bought 500 statues of the Madonna (of Mount Carmel) as the bombonieri for his son’s baptism. It was what his late wife wanted to thank the Madonna for the miracle she gave to them – a baby boy. Pietro tells Gennaro that his mother wasn’t supposed to be able to have children. And his Nonno wanted Pietro to find another woman because the Savastano crime family needed a male heir. Pietro was in love and insisted on marrying Genny’s mother. That’s why they were rewarded with him.
Of course, then he described how he has let him down. He feels as though Ciro and Co. are attempting to humiliate him, and his son is going along with it. After all, Ciro asked to have a meeting with him about peace, not Don Pietro. By now, Gennaro has abandoned his father to Naples (as his father wished). He is living a new life with his girlfriend, whose father works with Don Aniello in Rome. He has impressed the Romans with the cocaine supply he has coming from Honduras. His reign seems to be apparent.
Raising Children in this Sinister World
At the same time, viewers are seeing Ciro’s 10-year-old daughter for the first time since he killed her mother. She is watching her father pack to leave for this meeting with Gennaro. She tells him that the new house doesn’t feel like home because the old house made it seem as though her mother was still with her. His face looks pained. He hugs her and tells her it will take time to get used to the old place. Once he arrives at the hotel, he speaks with his daughter on the phone and they express how much they miss one another. It’s one of the few times you see a loving side to this cold, calculated murderer.
Not long after that Gennaro sneaks up on Ciro in his hotel room. He seems like he might finally kill him, which is what his father told him to do when he sent a gun made with a 3-D printer. (Oh yeah, technology is revolutionizing crime syndicates, too.) Ciro tells him to shoot already because he’s sick of this life and of himself. He explains that he used his own two hands to kill “Debora mia,” his wife. Gennaro asks how he explained the death of his wife to his daughter. Ciro says that’s his business and to just shoot him. Instead, Gennaro throws the gun at him and says, “Remember this as the day I could have killed you but I didn’t.”
Letting Go of Your Babies
The next day, they sign off on the peace treaty, which includes Ciro’s team buying drugs from Gennaro’s people, in front of Don Aniello. Ciro returns home and spoons his sleeping daughter in one of the few images of love apparent in this series. The agreement also has Don Pietro and his few henchmen imprisoned in one little part of town. This sends Don Pietro into a rage. Gennaro had previously told his father that their real problem was he never trusted him. Now, Gennaro was getting the family business in order – not to mention having saved his father’s life in Germany.
Patrizia, Don Pietro’s messenger, says, “My father always said, ‘Young children need you to give them milk. Grown up children need you to give them trust.'” Don Pietro agrees that he will give Gennaro trust. He tells his men to follow the rules. This works out until Gennaro’s meeting with Trak, Little Bird, and Bomber ends with two of Pietro’s henchmen shot. Then, he says his son’s words don’t mean anything anymore. We’re left to wonder what their divisions will mean for the extended mob family.
I love Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The first picture that comes into focus is when the pink horizon that is distinctly Floridian meets the spire of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom. You step onto Main Street, which represents America’s greatest potential and sweetest charms. It just may be an America that never was, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it ever had been? If it ever could be?
Mickey balloons whip against each other in the wind. The handlers carrying them seem almost as if they may float away at any moment. Cotton candy, popcorn, and Casey’s hot dogs leave the delicious scent of childhood hanging in the air. Newcomers have no idea where to train their eyes. Yet, the magic isn’t as obvious as many presume. It’s subtle, but you are still immediately aware of its presence.
The Power of Pixie Dust
I love Disney World. My people worked the land as both a way of life and a way of making a living. My father is an old-school Italian, a bit of a curmudgeon from birth. He’s a hard worker with busted shoulders to prove it. He has always been a homebody, who preferred his house to a restaurant, his routine to thrills. But he never missed a chance to bring us to Disney World when we were kids. He was a father most of all at Disney. That’s not to say he doesn’t love us at home. He does. But on vacation at Disney World, he was devoted to us. Us alone. There were no landscaping clients or employees or headaches about this and that.
A big fan of Michael Jackson and early MTV, my father could hardly wait to see Captain EO. Right outside the theater, we kids would try to catch the water from the dancing fountains. When Hollywood Studios arrived, we would look forward to seeing the Golden Girls house facade and feeling the burn on the Backlot Tour. One time my brother and I rode the giant bees and made a video as though we were the stars of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.
No attraction captivated us as much as Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom. My mother hated it. She did not like any ride that made her feel as though she was flying. In fact, she still begrudgingly joins us on this one, closes her eyes, and clutches my father until the ride is over. My father, on the other hand, still loves it explicitly because it allows him to fly. And he spreads his wings over Neverland, a world with no cares and no responsibilities, a world of fantasy and whimsy. It is a world we could never really know except in our wildest imagination. But soaring over the wide-mouthed Tic Toc Crock and Hook, the neon flashes, and those Lost Boys, you feel as though it is all too real. You feel as though you are somewhere else.
Indeed, that is the magic of Disney World. Once you step on property, you can completely shut out the rest of the world. You get the rare opportunity to open up the corners of your mind that you long ago locked in the name of becoming a grown up. So, you can visit beloved stories of princesses or pirates, talking animals or lovely mermaids. There are superheroes and jungle cruises and the chance to ride an elephant. You can take a leisurely walk from one country to the next, all the while sampling their food and chatting up their natives. Living in this world for but a moment, you can twirl and spin and roller coast. You can step into a favorite movie and sing at the top of your lungs with a Dole Whip in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. It’s marvelous. And indeed you can fly. Oh yes, you can fly.
Criminal Catholicism refers to how mafia, such as the Camorra in Naples, defiles religion. In season 2 of Gomorrah the subject of how mob bosses and their loyalists relate to the Catholic Church is jaw dropping. Already in season 1, viewers observed Don Salvatore’s devotion. He would go to church, pray, and indulge his mamma’s religious pursuits. Yet, he was a vicious mob boss, who murdered anyone who crossed him, including a young boy. He often invoked Jesus, even when intimidating and threatening fellow mobsters.
The Boiling Point
In season 2, the writers of Gomorrah put Don Salvatore’s bizarre religious rituals into focus. At the start of a pivotal episode, he serves as the godfather to the son of a henchman. During this time viewers learn something that the other characters never find out. Don Salvatore is gay. Or at least he is attracted to a transgender woman. He seems to have a real affection for her. But criminal Catholicism and society make him hide his true feelings in public. At the baptism, for instance, he turns away when his transgender partner is performing a song at the party. Later, he brings the transgender partner’s sister to his own birthday party and introduces her as his girlfriend. He sometimes kisses her in the street to show others he’s with a woman.
Things Get Interesting
Don Salvatore’s mother gets word her son is seeing a woman in the “blue houses” and asks to meet his special someone. He tells her they will meet when he is sure it’s a serious relationship. We learn from the transgender woman that Don Salvatore does not drink alcohol, do drugs, or have sex when she jokes about it with her family. We also see a scene in which the transgender woman tries to entice him to make love by taking off her shirt. He says she’s driving him crazy, but he can’t. They sweetly part. But he takes her sister outside to make others believe that is her real girlfriend.
When the transgender partner shows up to sing at Don Salvatore’s birthday party, one of the henchman makes many loud, vulgar jokes about the transgender woman’s “pesce” or “fish.” The transgender woman and her sister posing as the girlfriend run out in tears. When the cake comes out, Don Salvatore takes the knife and coldly stabs the hand of the comedian henchman. Don Salvatore later explains he did it because the transgender woman was the sister of his girlfriend, and it was disrespectful. The henchman begs for forgiveness. But Don Salvatore takes away the henchman’s drug-selling piazza as a punishment.
Bringing on the Traitors
Despite a large transgender and gay population in Naples, homophobia is largely accepted. Part of the problem is the church’s criticism of the gay lifestyle. Don Salvatore prays and prays. He’s constantly making the sign of the cross. He has his henchmen hide drugs in religious statues that are his cover business. They smash Madonna statues numerous times in this episode. Indeed, the symbolism could not be more obvious.
But stabbing that guy over the homophobic barbs would prove Don Salvatore’s fatal mistake. Ciro and Don Salvatore don’t like to share and it becomes clear one of them is going to take the other out. Ciro moves in to talk to the stabbed henchman and his best friend to get them to turn on Don Salvatore.
The End Is Near for Someone
The criminal Catholicism is never more obvious as it is at the end of episode 3. Don Salvatore is present when the two henchmen declare to Ciro on the phone that they want to kill their boss. Don Salvatore restores the stabbed henchman’s drug selling post to thank him for his loyalty. Viewers are left to believe that Ciro is going to sleep with the fishes. The men had invited him to off Don Salvatore after a religious ceremony in his mother’s town in which he participates every year.
This is where stuff gets weird. The ceremony has Don Salvatore’s mother helping to dress him in white sheets (including a hood reminiscent of the KKK, which was meaningful to an American like me who related it to the maltreatment of gay and transgender people). He also carried a sponge with pricks in it that the men marching in the procession would use to slam their own chest. Don Salvatore kissed his mother, participated in the procession, cleaned himself of the blood from pricking and turned to his men.
Ciro and the two others watched him. Then, the men held Ciro down on his knees while Don Salvatore told him of his oncoming demise. Finally, Don Salvatore commands the stabbed henchman to slit Ciro’s throat. Just as he is about to do it, he refrains and moves the knife up to Don Salvatore’s throat and quickly slashes it. Ironically, Don Salvatore dies with a pool of blood around him on the altar of the church.
Dead or Alive?
Don Salvatore’s death revives other mobsters. Don Pietro of the Savastano clan sees this death as his moment to make a comeback. He returns to Naples with the help of his henchman Malamore. First, Don Pietro tells his son Genny of his plans. But he is still distrusting of his boy. The tension between them is more than palpable. We also see Don Pietro visit the grave of his wife, who Ciro had killed. He promises her he will never leave her again. This kept up the theme of mutated love that we’ve been witnessing in season 2.
Malamore brings his innocent niece, Patrizia, into the business by having her become an informant to Don Pietro, and they are holed up in an apartment of a retired couple, who were left with no choice but to take them in. What’s noteworthy about this is that the girl has a lion tattoo because her father, who was dead, had called her a lioness. Don Pietro tells her the tattoo would be unnecessary if she really was a lioness. So, she burns and mutilates her arm to remove the tattoo. This wins the trust of Don Pietro.
Viewers also get insight into Scianel, the only woman participating in Ciro’s newly formed family. She’s particularly cruel and heartless with her daughter-in-law. While Scianel’s son is in jail, his wife is servant to his mother, who treats her like garbage. The girl is having an affair with one of the other henchmen and calls her MIL a witch behind her back.
By episode’s end, Ciro has arranged to meet with the Savastano family to devise a peace accord and avoid total war again. Much to Don Pietro’s surprise, Patrizia informs him that Ciro has asked for Genny and not him.
Gomorrah is the No. 1 TV drama in Italy, and it airs with English subtitles on Sundance TV every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.
Alitalia filed for bankruptcy for the third time. The news is causing shockwaves in Italy. The Abu Dhabi-based Etihad had come to the rescue in 2014, and before that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and a number of Italian companies had bailed out the national carrier in 2008, according to The New York Times. These efforts all failed. Now, Etihad has announced it has no plans to continue its investment, according to CNN.
How Italy Is Taking the News
Scouring Twitter amid news of the filing, you saw that Italians are sick and tired of bailouts. In fact, La Repubblica reported the results of a survey in which 77 percent of Italians were against helping.
One headline in La Repubblica read “Alitalia, un pasticciaccio tutto italiano,” which means, “Alitalia, a big, all-Italian mess.” In that story, Massimo Giannini compares happenings in the European Union to kick off the subject. “In Paris, you are voting to save Europe,” he writes. “In Italy, you are voting to kill Alitalia.”
What This Means for Alitalia Travelers
While Alitalia has suffered from an inability to compete with discount airlines, Ryanair and easyJet, for domestic passengers, it was still the go-to for many Italian Americans. Or at least many of the ones I know use it. Recently, many of my Italian friends and family visited the United States and traveled with Alitalia. Indeed, a few people I know have flights coming up in the next few weeks. So, what are Alitalia travelers to do? Discover the steps to take starting now:
Call Your Travel Agent
Many Italians I know still use a travel agent. Or you prefer an online agency, such as Expedia or Orbitz. Get in touch with your contacts or customer service to find out if they have any information. This is helpful even if they don’t have any news for you because you will be on their radar.
Call Alitalia Directly
If you don’t have an agent or simply prefer your independence, you can call the airline yourself. To reach support from the United States, call 800 223 5730. To reach it from Italy, call 892010. You can also call Italian support for the airline from abroad by dialing +39 06 65649. (Remember the + sign is the prefix you must dial from your point of origin, so you will need to look that up if you don’t have it.)
Keep Tabs on the Headlines
Should Alitalia flights be grounded, you will hear about it in the news. With so much going on in the United States and other places these days, you might have to look for the headlines yourself. Set up Google alerts, so any story about Alitalia is emailed to you. Scan the stories to learn what’s happening with flights and passengers. At the Alitalia website, you should also sign up for the newsletter. There’s a chance the staff will share information about canceled or grounded flights. That’s not a guarantee, of course, because some companies use newsletters just for promotion.
Have a Plan B
Recognize that travel with Alitalia is not the most secure at this point. So, be prepared for the worst. Alert family, friends, or chauffeurs who are going to pick you up at the airport that things might change in light of the bankruptcy. Brace yourself for some inconveniences. If you have kids, prepare them as well. Bring along extra snacks and distractions in case there are major delays.
Also, figure out if there are other travel options for you. Do not purchase a new ticket unless you are certain your flight is canceled and the airline won’t be doing anything to rectify the situation for you. One would like to believe they would protect consumers during this challenging time, but you never know in these circumstances. As they say in Italia, “In bocc’ al lupo,” or “In the mouth of the wolf.” It just means good luck. Really. But it seems perfectly suited to this scenario.
Gomorrah season 1 recap is my gift to those who are just tuning into Italy’s No. 1 TV drama. In it, you will find links to the descriptive recaps I wrote after each and every episode of the first season. The show is based on the critically acclaimed book Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano. It has been captivating Italians since 2014. Recently, Sundance TV introduced Americans to the show about the Camorra, the mafia ring that began in Naples but has infiltrated many parts of the world.
While the show and the book have unearthed the seediest elements of Naples, Italy, and mankind, I still recommend both. These are works of fiction based on fact. Indeed, much of what is portrayed on screen happened in real life. The book and show help consumers understand the back story of corruption. What leads people to this life? Why the desperation? Astute viewers will make connections between this world and the economic woes facing Italy. You might even better comprehend the division between north and south in the Boot.
Gomorrah Season 1 Changed the World
I’m down with the Italian culture. My parents tuned into RAI my entire life. Now, I married a native of Italy, so I know a bit more than your average American about pop culture Italian style. I’ve never seen a phenomenon quite like the popularity of Gomorrah. All my Italian friends and family could talk about was this show when it first aired. This was especially true on social media. Viewing Gomorrah is like a cult. It is more than must-see TV. It is TV that reflects the reality of their nation and their world in Naples. I think that’s what makes the violence and immorality so difficult for me to see. Truly, this struggle is real.
The First Episodes
Gomorrah, the TV show, was applauded Stateside, too. The New York Times named it among the best international shows in 2016. Fans of the Sopranos, frankly, won’t want to miss it. This show gets at the underbelly of the mafia in a way even Sopranos could not. Indeed, there’s nothing glamorous about the life of a gangster anymore, if there ever was. If you are ready to join the other viewers, here’s to catching up on Gomorrah season 1.