Where Have all the Tourists Gone!
Where Have All the Tourists Gone?
Benito, the younger of the two men, squatting on his haunches had never seen times as tough as these. The square outside La Scala Opera House in Milan was nearly deserted. He bit his lip reflectively and remarked to Carlo... “It’s the gasoline, Carlo. They can’t run the buses any more.”
Carlo is older. He’s seen hard times before... not only that, he has four daughters of marriageable age at home, none of them pretty enough to catch a man without a considerable dowry or the possibility of a scandal. He is a desperate man and he looks at Benito sadly. “Look at us, Benito. A year ago this street was clogged with traffic... tour buses filled with wealthy people, eager to spend, itching to buy...” he sighs deeply. “... Now we sit in the middle of it and watch the pigeons. What do you plan to do, Benito. It is already May. Another week the opera season is Kaput. Everyone goes to Venice, The Blue Grotto, Rimini. Nobody will come here.”
“They will not be there either, Carlo. It is like I say, the gasoline.It is more expensive than wine.”
“It is the Arabs. Damned Arabs! Sitting in a sea of oil! Why can’t the Pope do something?”
“I am beginning to doubt the power of the church in matters of oil, Carlo. Wait ‘til next year, the Vatican will hitch a donkey to pull the Pope-mobile.”\
“And the Pope! He’ll fly tourist class on “Alitalia,” Carlo adds. “Yes... and speaking of tourists... In Italy it always comes back to the tourists. They are our backbone.”
The two men deplore the lack of tourists. Carlo once sold prayer beads blessed by the Bishop of Milan, (or so he says). He hasn’t sold one all morning. Benito sold autographs of the famous singers and conductors of La Scala opera – a few of the lesser luminaries are real – but most are not. And now, with the collapse of the American dollar and the price of fuel, there hasn’t been a tour bus in La Scala Square all morning. A year ago Carlo’s rosaries would be gone by now and he’d be thinking about lunch in the bistro around the corner and Benito would have writer’s cramp from copying the autographs of Tulio Serafin and Maria Callas. But today both men sit in the deserted center of the square wondering if it will ever be the same again.
The philosophy of ‘what goes around comes around’ has not occurred to Carlo and Benito. They will sit in the La Scala Plaza and count the days till the buses come again.