A piece in the Times today by Timothy Egan paints a depressing picture of the trial against Amanda Knox in Italy. For the uninitiated, Amanda Knox is an American exchange student who has been accused of murdering her roommate as part of a satanic ritual.

This led me to two conclusion:
1) Italians living in small towns are crazy
2) Scratch that, maybe we're all crazy

As per the first point, at the time of the murder Amanda Knox was living in a small village in central Italy. I know a thing or two about small, insular villages in Italy: it just so happens that my mother, when she was twenty, lived in one as well.

She was young and naive at the time, having moved to Italy for a man, only to have him dump her once she arrived. With no money and nowhere to go, she ended up working for his family as an aupair. Initially, she rented her own room in the village, but this didn't go down too well. A man in the village used binoculars to watch my mother as she walked around her room in her pajamas. When the man's wife found out, she called the police accusing my mother of being a prostitute bent on luring the men of the village to her bordello--a sexual pied piper of hamlin as it were. My mother was almost thrown in jail, but the family of her ex-boyfriend intervened and let her stay with them.

A year later, when my mother had picked up some Italian, she went on a vacation around northern Italy for a few weeks. During this trip, she stayed in many similarly small and insular towns. On one occasion she ended up in a particularly remote village with no hostels or boarding houses. After asking around, a farming family offered to let her stay at their place for the night. Upon entering the gates of the farm, my mother was taken aback by the sheer number of cats wandering about the grounds. There must have been a hundred or more, and when she asked about it, they assured her it was because they just really loved cats. Being very gracious hosts, they prepared a feast for her that night featuring a rich, hearty stew made from "roof rabbits". My mother noticed that they all started looking at her peculiarly when the stew came out. Not wanting to be rude, she finished her bowl and complemented the wife on her cooking. To which she was answered by a roar of laughter. "We fooled you English girl", they said, "You just ate cat. This is a cat farm." My mother--who to this day maintains that the only thing she won't eat is creamed corn--shrugged and asked for a second helping.

So what's the point? The point is that rural Italians were crazy forty years ago and they're still crazy today.

As per my second conclusion, you'll have to wait until tomorrow...