April 8, 2012

Piazza Bellini, Catania, Sicily. October, 1984

When I look back through my photos from trips to Italy over the years, I’m always amazed at the formality that some of my Italian friends assumed as I focused the camera. Stiff postures. Unsmiling faces. Rarely do they look into the camera. What gives? Is this some cultural thing instilled in them from childhood? This photo is not of friends of mine. It’s a group of card-playing men I saw in Sicily, and look...not a smiling face among them. Isn’t anyone having any fun on this mild evening in one of the most beautiful squares in Catania, named for the town’s hero-son, the composer of such operatic works as La Sonnambula and Norma. (Nearby, earlier that evening, I’d dined on Pasta alla Norma, a namesake dish made with rich tomato sauce and slices of fried eggplant.) These guys are clearly no-nonsense types when it comes to cards, and I remember being somewhat hesitant to take the picture. (As an aside, there had been a police/Mafia shootout in another Catania square earlier the same day.) I suspect that the pasta dish must have given me the little bit of operatic courage I needed.

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