Ira Hysenllari: Life of a Cagli Teen


by Christy Ward

The cobblestone streets of Cagli, Italy, have seen generations of families with children who have made their homes in this sleepy, medieval town. As changes in technology and Western influences creep into communities such as these, young people like Ira Hysenllari wonder what will happen to the traditional Italian life.Ira Hysenllari

What will Cagli feel like for young people in 20 years?  

Ira, 19, has spent most of her life in Cagli. Her eyes offer an interesting look at the past, present and future of the young people who live in this Italian town tucked into the Apennine Mountains.

As a child, Ira says, she and her friends would scamper around the piazza –
running, playing, and having fun as the adults looked on and enjoyed each other’s company. There was a strong sense of community as everyone gathered together. “This is not something that you see as much in the streets of Cagli today,” she says.

Today’s children and teenagers interact differently. “Teens try to act like they are adults,” she says. The clothing is different from what they used to wear, and the language they use has changed. Today, many children spend their time on iPhones and iPods, listening to American music, messaging friends, and interacting through social media.  

Ira began her life in Albania, the second of two daughters. At the age of 7, her family moved to Italy in order for her father to find work. Initially the family lived in Smirra – a town a few kilometers from Cagli – but moved when her father found a better-paying job. They have remained in old Cagli since.

Ira works evenings as a waitress at a Cagli restaurant. Her sister works there, too, and helped her get the waitressing job last spring. The restaurant provides Ira with spending money to help her pay expenses so she doesn’t have to get money from her father. She says she knows that this work is not her life’s passion.

During the 12 years Ira has lived in Cagli, she has developed a strong sense of what she would like to do as she approaches college and a career. She dreams of working in the travel industry, ultimately in a managerial post where she can travel and help other people share similar experiences. “I would love to travel through Europe and to the United States,” she says. She’s particularly interested in studying languages and learning more about other cultures. 

Ira sits on the wall that lines the front of city hall in the piazza, waiting for her friends to arrive for a relaxing afternoon of conversation at the local caffé. As she passes the time, she talks about the day she will leave Cagli.  

“Lots of tourists comment about how much they love Cagli, but they don’t live here,” Ira says. The lazy days and slow pace of the city are not what she envisions for her future. Rather she looks forward to days of travel when she can experience what the world has to offer.

Many of Ira’s friends share the same excitement about traveling, but the majority say they will return to Cagli to start their own families. Many Cagliesi have lived in their homes for generations. They can return without worrying about finding housing and paying rent or a mortgage. They can retain childhood friendships, live close – or even with – their extended families and work only to pay their living expenses.

Ira and friendsIra does not share her friends’ sentiments. She looks forward to spreading her wings and moving away from the city’s slow pace and the generations who have called Cagli home. 

For now, Ira and her friends enjoy spending time together, watching movies, eating dinners at each other’s homes, and going to parties. A warm summer afternoon is perfect time for relaxing with a cool drink or sweet gelato treat at a local caffé.

Time together is also a chance to dance – a passion of hers. Music is also a passion. Ira listens exclusively to American music, she says. Her favorite artists include Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and Lady Gaga.

When summer comes to a close in September, Ira will return to her high school to complete her final year.  With each passing day, she says, she looks forward to making her dreams a reality. She plans to study languages and economics in Urbino, a university town about an hour from Cagli. She is ecstatic about her life adventures to come.



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