The Other Italy
Many people from foreign countries know the Italian cities - Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples - but those cities are now heavily cosmopolitan, less Italian and more god-knows-what. I suspect that in a few years of those cities will remain only the buildings, but the culture and the people will be gone - not evolved; erased.
There's another Italy, that few foreigners know. The Italy of the miriad of villages and hamlets scattered around the lowlands of the north, and the mountains and valleys.
Only a few of those villages miss more than one of these things: a church, a bar and a post office.
The church these days is often empty, yet almost never abandoned: the people still care about the campanile - belltower, symbol of the place and land visible from afar - enough to keep it in good conditions.
The bar is the centre of the social life. Much like a pub in the english countryside, it is where anyone can be seen sooner or later. Only seldom those bars are new and shiny and cool; most of the time they are watering holes for the locals, old and worn and barely meeting the stringent regulations of these days. In one case, far up in the mountains, I saw the owner ironing clothes in a corner while some customers were having a breakfast of pancetta, bread and white wine.
The post office works as public service and another aggregation point - it's where the elderly (because these days the majority of citizens of villages are elderly) can get their pension check and discuss of the latest news of the place. While repairing printers or other devices I've heard talking of cows and barns and fields, and births and deaths - and maybe I've seen a slight increase in births. And people just seeing each other, enjoying the chance of leaving home for a while.
Not all is so nice in villages; the main problem is a state of mind so conservative to become backward and closed to anything different. And yet... racist violence seems to be more an urban than rural problem. Countryside people may be closed and diffident towards strangers, but once one is accepted as a member of the community, there are little problems. Or that's what I have observed.
And when the choice is between urbanites and hillbillies... I know where I stand.