A few weekends ago, we went to la Notte Bianca – “white night” – in Mantova.
“White Nights” are common in Italian towns – and possibly elsewhere, for all I know – and involve shops, bars, restaurants, galleries, and so on, staying open all night. There is a good atmosphere with street entertainment and hordes of people showing up to enjoy the city after dark.
Before heading off to Mantova’s Notte Bianca, we went out with friends to a pizza joint and ate an indecent quantity of Neapolitan-style pizza (served by the metre! – hence the immoderate consumption).
After this decadence, we all piled into our friends’ car and went to Mantova City to experience the “white night”.
It was after 10 p.m by this stage, and Mantova’s streets were full of people – well, full enough.
About 70% of the shops were open and most of them were having sales because it was the first day of the summer sales season in the Lombardy region.
Not many people seemed to be buying stuff. I didn’t see many people clutching shopping bags.
According to our friend, M, Mantovan people are not spending money because either: they haven’t got any OR they have some, but are worried it might run out. (Another factor is that some – and only some – Mantovan shopkeepers and shop assistants suffer from small-town snottiness and drive many a customer away with their anti-service attitudes.)
In short, we all have less money in our pockets and are less inclined to spend it. Meanwhile basic living costs continue to spiral upwards…
M’s wife, P, did do some shopping. She bought some Birkenstocks (comfortable German footwear). She bought a pair that were almost identical to the ones I was wearing (!). They are not a glamorous shoe but they will stop your dogs from barking.
We spent most of the evening just wandering about, watching the various street performers in the not-too-oppressive heat. This seemed to be what most other people were doing, too.
La Notte Bianca also translates as “sleepless night” and at some moments I felt a bit like an insomnolent zombie. ( It happens from time to time.)
Eventually, we sat down at an outdoor bar and tried to order non-alcoholic drinks: lemon soda, lemonade, chinotto – but the bar had sold out of all of these! The bar-lady offered us Nestlè peach iced tea but we settled for water.
La Notte Bianca was declared a success, or so I read on the internet a few days later. It certainly drew people into the city.
I like these “white nights” and think they are good for cities, good for communities and good for citizens. I also think they underscore what is going on in the troubled parts of the Eurozone: people are alive and kicking but they’re doing it in less splashy ways.