It looks like Cesena is going to be my first full-size, history rich Plains City. Itâ€™s getting dark when I arrive, but I still manage to explore the old city with itâ€™s long porticos, narrow streets and imposing architecture before it gets too dark.
I head out towards the north side of town, through the gate and on past the hospital to where the city quickly fades away. What Cesena does seem to be lacking is a hostel, so I guess itâ€™s back to camping againâ€¦
Next day I get up early to explore the town a bit more. Thereâ€™s a hill next door and what looks like an old church at the top so I figure Iâ€™ll go take a look. It turns out to be an old monastery thatâ€™s being restoredâ€¦ not much to see from the outside-- but I do get a nice view of the cityâ€¦
Back into the Old City I come across another Open Air Market.
I need to buy some t-shirts so I try negotiating in my faux Italian with a couple of vendors. When I hear them talking to each other in Arabic I know their Moroccan, so I switch to Arabic. Theyâ€™re from Khouribga, the first town in my 05 Morocco blog, a city famous for exporting emigrants to Italyâ€¦ They give me a few useful pointers, like where to catch a bus straight to Moroccoâ€¦ Wonâ€™t need it this time, but Iâ€™ll keep that in mind for future reference.
Itâ€™s interesting comparing the immigrant situation in the different regions Iâ€™ve explored. In the central mountains, very few jobs, thus very few immigrantsâ€¦ Along the coast, quite a few African, Romanian and South Asian immigrants that look like they just got here yesterdayâ€¦ they mainly wander up and down the beaches selling anything they can. Itâ€™s a bit heartwrenching to think of a guy facing unspeakable horrors to cross the Sahara desert and Mediterranean to reach the shores of Italy-- only to end up trying to sell trinkets on the beach.
But these guys look patient, and hopefully theyâ€™ll end up settling in and improving their lives-- as long as too many of them donâ€™t show up and things end up backfiring on them.
Iâ€™ve observed the way Italians treat these folks, and generally it seems theyâ€™re treated with respect and sympathy. Of course, itâ€™s a precarious situation. If just one of these guys were to just snap and commit a violent crime, xenophobia could pop up its ugly head in no time at all. And the more the market for trinket vendors gets saturated, the more likely it is that somebody get pushed to the point of desperationâ€¦
But here in North Italy, itâ€™s a bit different.
The immigrant community seems to be fairly well established in society, with permanent jobs and generally legal status, thanks to the relative prosperity of the region. And from what Iâ€™ve seen in places like Khouribga, Fkih ben Salah and Attaouiaâ€¦ the Moroccan here canâ€™t be too bad off if they can all afford to build 4 story castles in their hometownsâ€¦
As far as the Subsaharan Africans-- I think back to my conversation with a Ghanan fellow on the bus from Paris to Milan. He explained to me how it works for them: A family with maybe 8 children will make a tremendous sacrifice to send one son abroad, legally or illegally, perhaps selling land or a house to get the money needed. But that son then feels a tremendously indebted and is often reminded that he now is responsible to help the entire family. Some manage to do so and go back to visit their home countries relatively wealthy.
Unfortunately, this perpetuates the myth that anybody who makes it to Europe can make a lot of money, and the poor fellow who doesnâ€™t manage to â€śmake itâ€ť in Europe, is often overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt and shame. He also told me of the fear that Ghanan sons have of being cursed by their parents-- thus even if one would want to he could never just forget about his familyâ€¦
That conversation often comes to mind when I see these fellows trying to make it work here in Italy.
Iâ€™ve also had the chance to talk with Italians about this matter. Most of them express sympathy for the Africans seeking a better life and yet anger that the government and the European Union seems incapable of patrolling their borders properly. Thereâ€™s perhaps ever more frustration now with the legal Roma immigrants from Eastern Europe who have come in mass to Italyâ€¦
And as for the future? One fellow explained to me â€śwere still getting used to the whole idea of having immigrants here in Italy.
Unlike say, France or Great Britain, this is still something new for us. Itâ€™s still quite unimaginable for the average Italian to think of an African immigrant being, say, a policeman or a politicianâ€¦.â€ť
Of course, Italy, with one of the lowest birthrates in the world, is going to have to sort this out one way or another. Unless they start having more babies, theyâ€™re going to have to welcome in a lot more immigrants if they want their country to remain functional. The question is, will these immigrants be eventually accepted as â€śItaliansâ€ť integral role in society or will they be a â€śsub-casteâ€ť in the Italy of the future? Only time will tellâ€¦
These are some things I ponder as I wander the ancient streets of Cesena.
Right behind the market, thereâ€™s a gateway to a hilltop park with the ruins of a vast castle on the topâ€¦ I hike all the way around the castle but all the gates are closedâ€¦
And that was my tour or Cesenaâ€¦