As someone who grew up in northern New Jersey, I can admit that mallrats are my people. When I am in Ischia, I’m a little lost because there are no air conditioned shopping centers replete with movie theaters and food courts. People watching, although an art invented by the Italians, is limited to the piazza, which just isn’t the same as the mall. Who needs a centuries old church and trees when you can grab a Jamba Juice, have your haircut, and buy new kicks all at the same time?
You could move into the Garden State Plaza in Paramus (you could definitely live there), and security would probably take a week to notice because it’s so big. In fact, Ischia itself might be the size of the Garden State Plaza.
Usually, there is a total lack of convenience on the island. Even the supermarkets close at 3 p.m. for the siesta and many of them are closed on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons, too. Getting milk in Ischia is often harder than getting an organ donation from your cousin Luigi. Forget about finding a new purse at an affordable price or picking up a book on tape in the middle of the afternoon.
But once a year in August, stores from the Naples area — and some b-list celebrities — come to Ischia and set up booths to sell necessities — from furniture and pots and pans to clothes to sausage and cheese. Ischia is still in Italy, so you had to expect food to be sold, too. This flea market/sidewalk sale/show is called the Expo. (For more photos of the Expo, visit Francesca’s Expo Photo Album.)
The Expo opened in early August, and Antonio and I were among the first ones there. We purchased odds and ends for our apartment in Ischia, including a cheese grater and a rolling pin. And I picked up a lovely clock for 8 euro for our kitchen in New Jersey. I also bought these amazing paintings of Vesuvius — one for me and one for my mom — directly from the artist, Antonio Attanasio.
As a mallrat, I wasn’t quite at home at the Expo. The stores were mostly under a tent and some of them were actually outside. But the reality stars who made appearances and the ladies from Naples with the big hair and tight clothes in a rainbow of colors were the closest to Jersey folk I can find without going home. The Expo might only last a month, but it brings a bit of convenience — and color — to the islanders.