The island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy, hibernates in the winter. The inhabitants take off for their second lives in other cities – sometimes in other countries – starting in November. Most of them don’t return until Easter. Of course, there are those with children in school, who live on the island year round, and experience the closed stores, depressing rain, empty streets, and silence of winter. While the island starts to wake up in the spring, it is the summer that brings it back to life. It becomes an entirely different place full of people and happenings. Finally, there is someone to admire Ischia’s beauty and behold its gifts.
August, when just about all of Italy and much of Europe goes on holiday, is the pinnacle of excitement on the island. The population doubles or sometimes triples with tourists. And all the natives put on their Sunday best to give the tourists the time of their lives. Truly, it’s a feast for the senses. I’ve already described the scents of Ischia. Now it is time for the sounds you’ll hear as you walk down the cobblestone paths and head toward the beach.
As you pass by one of the many espresso bars, you’ll hear the clinking of cup to saucer as hurried patrons – in their straw fedora hats, skimpy bathing suits, and linen cover ups – down their espresso before walking toward the shore. If you are standing by the bar, you’ll also hear the fainter tapping of the silver demitasse spoons against the delicate, ceramic cups.
In the background, you’ll hear honking horns as a line of cars driven by people in formal attire passes by. That means someone just got married. If you run outside the bar, you might catch a glimpse of the bride and groom heading off to one of Ischia’s beautiful views for a photo session.
Once you’re back on the street, you’ll become nostalgic for your youth as you take in the chorus of giggles from the children on the street. They will all be wearing bathing suit bottoms and no tops, even the little girls, and you might also notice the pop of plastic as it breaks away from sweaty skin. That’s the result of the water wings, a must have at an Italian beach, snugly wound around their chubby, little arms. One of the kids might be slurping what’s left of a melting ice pop, while another creates song by dribbling a soccer ball along the sidewalk.
The native adults will be hard at work. The whizzing of their motorinos – along with a pile of smoke – will assault your senses. The trucks – little by American standards but enormous on an island – will be delivering supplies to stores, hotels, and supermarkets that suddenly have turnover on their shelves. Every lift of the truck’s gate will produce a hard thump as it gets thrown open. You’ll hear the applause of shopkeepers trying to keep up with demand.
Although tourists come from all over, including Germany, Russia, and even the United States, the nearby Neapolitans swarm the place. Everything about them is louder – their clothes, their antics (like their lawless driving), and especially their voices. The colorful Napolitano dialect – often satirized in other parts of Italy – will become the anthem of your summer. You will hear Naninell’ shouting to Giuan, “C’a ggia’ fa? C’a ggia’ fa? U sol e’ trupp fort–” (Translation: “What can I do? What can I do? The sun is too strong.”) An occasional “va fa Napoli” or its cruder cousin (c’mon you know what phrase I’m talking about) might slip out, too. The crackling voices amped up to maximum volume will be your radio on the beach.
Still, you won’t mind. After all, the swoosh of rubbing your feet in the sand and the crash of waves on the shore will make everything else sound like a symphony.
Di Meglio uses the written word to help families create memories and stick together. You can follow her on Facebook at Francesca’s Newlyweds Nest and on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.