While the entire South may seem like a foreign country to the rest of Italy, there is something familiar about it for Americans. This is the Italy the rest of the world came to know when mass emigration emptied out its rural towns at the turn of the 20th century. In many cases, it seems that little has changed since then. The hospitality is still legendary; even families that don’t have much money will spend a small fortune to accommodate visitors. Family values are still very strong, and old traditions like chivalry have never disappeared.
Unfortunately, things haven’t improved much in terms of the economy. Campania, Puglia, and Sicily have still failed to catch up with the rest of Italy, if they care to do so at all. There has been some progress in cleaning up organized crime (without which, the National Statistics Institute likes to point out, the South would be on financial par with the North). But southerners don’t seem to be in any hurry to reverse their fortunes if it means changing their pace of life. Spend just one week there, and you’ll understand why.