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'Jersey Shore' cast takes on Italy

They're living their dreams.

It's become sport to poke fun at the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore," returning for a fourth season at 10 tonight. But exclusive interviews with two of its top stars reveal Snooki and DJ Pauly D to be thoughtful, albeit a bit orange.

MTV allowed Zap2it rare access while shooting the fifth season in Seaside Heights. On the Friday before July 4, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, DJ "Pauly D" DelVecchio and SallyAnn Salsano, executive producer, talk separately on the roof. The cast usually talks to press only while the show isn't in production.

Remnants of last night's party litter the turf. The hot tub is silent, pillows on the outdoor beds askew, ashtrays overflow and bottles lie drained.

"We don't drink as much as people think we do," Snooki says. "There is a lot of downtime, like normal time."

"At 26 I want to get married and start popping out the kids," says the 23-year-old. "I'm getting old. I can't party like I used to. I might as well enjoy it now."

She doesn't seem to be enjoying it at the moment, but she's been skewered in the press and has learned the downside of fame.

"You can't go anywhere," she says. "You can't go to the mall or to Chili's. The opportunities we get are insane. I am fixing myself up for life. I don't want to work again. Honestly, I never liked to work anyway."

Snooki, who prefers Nicole, always wanted to be famous. Granted, she has no discernible talent, but she has something that cannot be taught in a studio: People want to watch her. She intuitively gets that.

She also is more self-aware than people realize. An animal lover, she thought she would be a veterinary assistant. Now she wants to fund an animal shelter, and is famous, which happens when you're the breakout star on cable's top-rated show.

Pauly D had just signed as exclusive resident DJ for the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. He's unaware of a Connecticut DJ of the same name suing him. The show's ban on cellphones and TV has its advantages.

"It's surreal," Pauly D says.

Everything about this phenomenon is. First, they do not stand out on the Jersey shore, except for their fame. People are tanned -- whether from booths or the sun -- to burnished shades. Neon, animal prints and bling are what people wear -- to breakfast, which can be fried Oreos.

Though some Italian-Americans are angry over the group's use of "guido" and "guidette" to describe themselves, Salsano explains she wore "guidette" spelled out in diamonds on a necklace while in high school and wouldn't disparage her heritage. Salsano shoots 700 hours for each hour shown, capturing them as they are.

"My job is to tell a true story," Salsano says.

In the new season, the gang is in Italy, where Snooki had a fender bender with their police escort.

In Italy, as tourists, "we really rely on each other," says DJ Pauly D.

The group's collective mantra of GTL (gym, tan, laundry) was more difficult there. It took 45 minutes to get to the gym, and there were no tanning salons, he says.

The best part of Italy, though, Pauly D says is, "all we did was eat, eat, eat. Every restaurant tasted like your grandmother's home cooking."

Pauly D's gelled hair, which takes 25 minutes to blow-dry to standing perfection, is under a red cap turned sideways. His tank top reveals the muscles cut in those many hours in the gym and a tattoo of his late friend, DJ AM.

As Pauly D talks, the aerial tramway over the well-worn boardwalk goes right past the rooftop. Guys point and scream at him. He smiles but keeps his focus.

It's early enough that hangovers are being nursed as the boardwalk comes to life. Those in line to get into Shore Store snap photos of Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino posing, uncharacteristically, in a shirt. He's next to displays of panties emblazoned with "Fist Pump" and "Jersey Girl" and T-shirts with "I started the friggin' pouf."

He's supposed to be attending to customers, but Pauly D laughs and says, "Mike doesn't like to work."

Like Snooki, he embraces this life in a fishbowl that brings fame and wealth.

"The best thing about this is you are yourself," he says. "And you can't hide anything."

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