With the exception of common courtesy and a respect for human dignity, one must leave all assumptions behind when travelling. This is especially true for Americans in Italy.
Charley and I do not assume the following there:
-that the paper will be delivered regularly or that buses, trains, and ferries will be running (24-hour strikes occur with a day's notice);
-that the road to our hotel, with rock walls tumbling down the hillside at hairpin turns, will be fixed in our lifetimes;
-that garbage will ever disappear from roadsides, or even be collected;
-that drivers will move over for pedestrians (who have no sidewalks), instead of playing "chicken";
-that American prudishness about exposing the body is universal.
It is one of the things we love about southern Italy. Life is exuberant and loud. Neapolitans are brash, grabbing life as it comes and squeezing it tight (as evidenced by the antics of twosomes on scooters or in passionate embraces whenever the mood strikes).
Neapolitans are not afraid to flaunt their assets. The men and women are bronze, the women with thick chestnut tresses and filmy gauze dresses cut to their navels. They have little and live under the shadow of the ever-threatening Vesuvius. They disregard the mafioso clans that rule every aspect of their city: garbage collection, construction, gambling, drugs, pinball machines, and all other illicit activities.
"Humans are flawed," the Ischians tell us. Their island faces Napoli and Vesuvio. "We cannot be expected to perform perfectly all the time."
At our hotel pool on Ischia, I am surrounded by six-foot models in thong bikinis, topless women sunbathing, and men in Speedos. Some of the sights over age sixty are not pretty! Only the English and Russian women in that age group, like me, wear one-piece bathing suits.
Perhaps it's time to dig that bikini out of my suitcase!