BY PETER POPHAM IN ROME TUESDAY 22 JULY 2008
It’s another balmy weekend on the beach in Naples. By the rocks, a couple soak up the southern Italian sun. A few metres away, their feet poking from under beach towels that cover their faces and bodies, lie two drowned Roma children.
The girls, Cristina, aged 16, and Violetta, 14, were buried last night as the fallout from the circumstances of their death reverberated throughout Italy.
It is an image that has crystallised the mounting disquiet in the country over the treatment of Roma, coming after camps have been burnt and the government has embarked on a bid to fingerprint every member of the minority. Two young Roma sisters had drowned at Torregaveta beach after taking a dip in treacherous waters. Their corpses were recovered from the sea – then left on the beach for hours while holidaymakers continued to sunbathe and picnic around them.
They had come to the beach on the outskirts of Naples on Saturday with another sister, Diana, nine, and a 16-year-old cousin, Manuela, to make a little money selling coloured magnets and other trinkets to sunbathers. But it was fiercely hot all day and, about 2pm, the girls surrendered to the temptation of a cooling dip – even though they apparently did not know how to swim.