I am not a "morning" sort of person in the best of seasons so I was not a happy Sicilian Easter bunny when my doorbell rang at 06.30 today. Whoever it was had already rung the bells on other floors, for I had heard them:"Who is at this hour? " I asked crossly over the intercom.
Stranger: "I'm here to work. Open the door." [We have a system whereby we can "buzz" people into the building.]Me: "It's not even 7 am, signore. I am not opening the door."
Stranger: "Open the door! Open the door!" I could also hear that the man had a companion. I repeated that I had no intention of opening the door as I didn't know who he was and slammed the citofono back onto its holder. The man went back to ringing all the other bells and eventually rang mine again. Much the same sort of conversation ensued. Then he and his companion started bashing the main entrance door loudly. Yes, I was frightened by this time but still more angry at having my beauty sleep disturbed!
Not until 7 am did the pair go away. It would not have been possible to peep through the window without the men seeing me as they would have heard the shutters opening. I stayed up then, thinking that perhaps the men would come back. At 7.30 I figured that by now, law-abiding citizens would be about so ventured out onto the balcony to see if the men were lurking somewhere, but couldn't see anybody.
At 9 I spoke to the police, who said that because it is coming up to Easter there are a lot of people going from door to door asking for money. Some are selling flowers, palms or blessings cards and are authorised to do so, but not all. It is true that I have seen more beggars than usual in Modica this week. When they wander into shops, the shopkeepers usually give them a few centesimi to get rid of them whilst the bar owners tend to shoo them away. Most Italians speak quite kindly to them, explaining that they have no change to give them or offering some other reason why they cannot help them. All I can say is, if you are dependent on the compassion of others, attempting to batter their front doors down at 6.30 am would seem to be a strange way to elicit it.