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EU > Italy > Taranto

Playing in the streets

Taranto, IT (View on map)

Working, eating, sleeping and working. Such is the lifestyle imposed on European young adults. Opting out is unacceptable, both financially and socially. People first need money to save time - then they need money to keep themselves amused during the time they have just saved. Numerous are those who have forgotten a time when they did not need any money at all: relying entirely on social relations and playing away any dull moment they encountered. I hope to find some of that back by asking people in the South of Italy: what is your best childhood memory?

Valentina (25):

..liked playing on construction sites when she was young
Giuseppe (29) holds good memories from the time his father was still alive: `He died from cancer when I was 9 years old. We used to talk a lot, even though I was still very young at the time. While we walked through the centre of the city, my dad often told me about revolution. He insisted that you can`t change the outside world if the change is not first born within you. We went see the football matches of the Taranto football team, which usually played in the B-league one season, then in the C-league the next one and vice versa. My father was ill for one year and we often had to go to Milan, Rome or Turin so he could be treated. My brother and I lived with my grand mother for a while. She gave us everything we wanted within the house, but she was very scared and restrictive whenever we went out. I therefore remember her as nice, but a bit strange at the same time.`

Construction sites
Valentina (25, photo) remembers how she used to spend a lot of time playing at construction sites: `We would first climb over the fence and then go explore the building. It was a big adventure and we all found it very exciting. I think I was 7 or 8 years old by then. We climbed up and down, sometimes up until the third floor or so. I don`t think my parents knew where we were, because they would surely have disapproved. They may still not know up until today..`

Playing on construction sites was quite easy in the 1980s. Many Italians had houses built before they had obtained a license and whenever the authorities found out, construction was interrupted and the site was left abandoned until permission was granted. Before the 1980s, there was not too much construction going on, and afterwards, security measures grew more intense. `But that didn`t keep me and my friends from doing the same thing again by the time we were 15 years old`, Valentina says with a smile.

Mino (24) unintentionally lived up to the image of a typical Italian boy. `We made our own football pitch, using rocks as goal posts. The field was all rocky and uneven, so we never knew which way the ball would bounce. We played five against five. The fun lasted until highschool started. By then there was no more time for football. In the meantime, the field has disappeared as well. It is now a residential area.`

Mino explains that parts of his childhood memory still lives on today. `I am still in touch with most of the friends of that time, but many have moved to Northern Italy to study or find a job. For the football, I now volunteer as a referee for the regional competition. In this way, I am still exposed to the game, even though the old-fashioned friendly neighbourhood matches belong to the past.`

In the streets
Anton Julio (32) played the same game when he was young: `We painted goals on the wall and played five against give. The girls didn`t join, they played volleyball or basketball.` Other games they played included Campana, which was often organised in `Champions` League` version. Anton Julio explains: `We drew numbers on the street and then tried to jump from one to the other. Also, we played Ghiumo. For that game, a member of one team had to bend over, while the members of the other team one by one jumped on his back. Who could carry the most would win. I think I could stand about 6 or 7, but I would not want to try it again now. Favourite game number three had us put five small pebbles in a circle. The aim was to launch one in the air, then pick the second one from the ground and catch the first one. If you could do that with all five, you`d win the game.`

Emilia (29) also spent her youth playing in the streets of the city: `There were not so many cars, so there was still plenty of space. You will still see some of that nowadays, but only in villages, no longer in cities. Playing in the streets has simply become too dangerous. And children have Play Stations now, so they no longer need to play in the street. They dream of becoming singers or actors and becoming rich in particular. We at the time dreamed of becoming a veterinary, a doctor or an austronaut. And we simply enjoyed playing in the street, not needing much to be happy.

Emilia also enjoyed painting when she was young, but she has no more time for that now. She explains: `In Italy, you can become an artist if your parents are rich. If not, you may become famous after you die, but getting anywhere before then is highly unlikely. It`s the same for many things in Italy. You need `the key`: somebody influential who gets you places. And so I did study arts, but soon after realised that painting would never allow me to make a living. I now work in a horse betting office in Rome. I don`t like it, but it allows me to pay the bills and that`s already quite something. I regret having little time left to spend on painting. Fortunately, I still have many ideas left to work from..

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