Naples:life,death & Miraclecontact: Jeff Matthews


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Naples Miscellany 15 (mid-July, 2008)
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Pino Daniele (photo, right) continues to amaze. He gave an outdoor concert last night (July 8) at Piazza Plebiscito and drew 30,000 fans (!), most of whom were half his age (he is 53), many of whom were one-third his age, and all of whom would in another age have been part of the "Peace, Love & Music" crowd. Daniele has become an icon of Naples, even in the sense of Totò, Eduardo de Filippo and Massimo Troisi, which is to say that there is a timeless quality about him. Many of his songs have become "classics"—for example,  Napule è, Terra mia, and 'A città 'e Pulecenna. The last one is so rhythmic and infectious that if Neapolitans from 1700 could come forward in time to listen to it, they'd dance and tap their Baroque little feet like crazy. Daniele is a fine guitarist with a pleasant singing voice who inevitably surrounds himself with fine jazz/rock fusion talent. He writes in Neapolitan dialect and is, at the moment, the most internationally acclaimed Italian cantautore—singer-songwriter.    (see R.I.P. January 2015)

Room at the the top. Illegally building on your own property is quite common in Naples, usually in the form of a small out-building, maybe a garage or shed, built without a permit. A newspaper article has commented on the great number of such structures on the roofs (!) of buildings. Surely, this must have started in the early 1900s when most of the splendid new four-story office buildings and apartments along the Corso Umberto, a product of the risanamento urban renewal project, sprouted extra floors on top. Some of them were legal and seem nicely done. Others are not so nice. The further out you move from the center of town, the more evident they are. Some are hastily thrown-together cinder-block structures and make no attempt to even look legal The police claim they will now be checking into permits and building code violations.

More illegal activity. The recent nation-wide train and bus strike left Naples paralyzed. Since the strike included all public transportation, you couldn't even get a cable-car (the best way to move around Naples if all you want to do is go up and down —which still beats going round and round). Many people just stayed home for the day. If you drove to work, the traffic was believably unbelievable. Still—there was a way; as on past such occasions, private mini-vans acting as busses made their appearance, charging 3 euros for the same run as the corresponding bus. The enterprising drivers of these vans point out that, in their considered legal opinion, they are not doing anything wrong; it's a private contract between them and a passenger—a fee for service. What's the problem? That's what I say.

"Nessun dorma."  "Let no one sleep" is the opening line and title of the best-known aria from Puccini's Turandot. (Since the last World Cup, when it was played incessantly behind TV commercials for the matches, it has also been known to cultured soccer-hooligans by its final line, Vincerò—"I Shall Win!" It was also the title of a recent newspaper article pointing out how noisy Naples is, particularly in the warm summer nights out along such waterfront areas as Bagnoli, where the many clubs and bars stay open very late and cars gather like flies on fly-paper and honk until they are set free or die. The 113 switchboard—the emergency police number—gets dozens of complaints on a weekend and even on week nights about the noise. There is not a lot you can do, especially if the condition is chronic, such as the case with the clubs. You can sue to shut them up or close them down. That has happened. The suing, that is. Not the shutting up or closing down. Civil litigation is so tedious in Italy that most plaintiffs just give up and buy ear-plugs.

Details, details. A recent version of the official website that promotes culture in the Campania region of Italy dedicated some photography to the sights to see in the historic center of Naples. It included a link to Palazzo Penne, a building from 1406. It's worth a look, except that the photo accompanying the article was of the slightly better-known Colosseum in Rome. One paper ran an amused commentary on the blunder, recalling the film Totò, Peppino e la malafemmina, precisely the scene where Totò and Peppino de Filippo, playing two hicks from the Neapolitan outback and having just arrived in Milan, remark that since they are in Milan this might finally be their big chance to see the Colosseum.

Eduardo de Filippo. The city of Naples has finally got around to establishing an official Eduardo de Filippo Foundation, the goal of which will be to promote and preserve the works of one of Italy's great twentieth-century playwrights. The foundation will be housed on the premises of San Ferdinando Theater, known to most as "Eduardo's theater," a theater that Eduardo restored at his own expense after WW2. This official recognition of someone who needs no official recognition comes 24 years (!) after the death of the great playwright. Still, it's a nice gesture.

—Garbage In, Garbage in. When the US Naval Support Activity (NSA) moved out of Agnano (a western suburb of Naples) to new digs in Gricignano d'Aversa, it left behind an enormous piece of property, not to mention some impressive buildings such as a high school and hospital. With the garbage situation being what it is in Naples, the city was hard-up for a site to build a rubbish incinerator; they decided that the property once occupied by the NSA base exchange (shopping center), miscellaneous buildings, and adjacent parking lot would do the trick. After all, it's out of town. Not really. That nearby high school is now used as an Italian school (no one knows what is to become of the hospital), the area is adjacent to a large recreational zone that includes a thermal bath and a horse racing track, and the area is seismically very iffy. The original decision to build an incinerator in Agnano was so misbegotten that city fathers, mothers and cousins are now engaged in an orgy of finger-pointing. The mayor has said, "I was responsible for that decision. I'll be the scape-goat," apparently unaware that by declaring herself a "scape-goat," she is denying any responsibility. The other two areas under immediate consideration for the incinerator are San Giovanni a Teduccio at the east end of Naples and Scampia to the north. They can put it anywhere they want as long as it is NIMBY.





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