Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews

Naples Miscellany 19 (mid-January 2009)
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  • There is, indeed, a street in Naples named for Antonio de Curtis (name in art of Totò), the best-loved comic in the history of Italian film. There is also a theater named for him, and his birthplace in the Vergini section is marked by a commemorative plaque. BUT—the Totò Museum is still not open, though it appears they are making progress. The museum will be on two floors of the Palazzo dello Spagnolo, the best-known building in the Vergini. The person in charge of the restoration of the entire building tells me that it's probably a matter of a few months. He denies any fault at the delay (I believe him) and blames it on city-hall bureaucracy (and that...I really believe).  

  • It seems to me that if you can afford 2000 euros (!) a night for a hotel, you can probably afford a few more for a cab (or private helicopter) to find one well away from the main train station and the grimy industrial section of the city. That may be the problem of the Hotel Romeo on via Cristoforo Colombo in Naples. Guests find five full stars' worth of suites, pool, sushi restaurant, works of art, etc. etc., but most of it running at a mere 20% occupancy since the hotel opened on Dec. 11, 2008. In fairness, only the exclusive Japanese suite costs the Two Large; others go as low as a very competitive (for 5 stars!) 330 euros (currently about 450 dollars) a night. (If this entry does not apply to you, see this one on the Youth Hostel.)
  • Via Partenope is the eastern extension of via Caracciolo, the panoramic road along the seafront. Specifically, it is the curved portion that swings in front of the Castel dell'Ovo. If you are a restaurant owner along that stretch, you may have set up a "gazebo," a sheltered section in front of the restaurant, covered by an awning and surrounded by some sort of a barrier that detours pedestrians around the tables. That's the problem; such structures jut out onto—indeed, occupy much of—public sidewalks and have no right to be there, at least according to the coppers who showed up on via Partenope the other morning and closed five of them down. Elsewhere in Naples, similar episodes are taking place to combat the large number of such illegal structures. The term gazebo is used in both Italian and English; the other Italian term is "tendone" (big tent), a canvas and plastic affair (sometimes glass) mounted on metal supports that have been anchored in place right where you want to walk.

  • The papers are painting a generally bleak picture of the coming year for tourism in Naples. (Current winter tourism at sites such as Pompeii is off almost 20%, for example.) 2009 might even be worse than 2008, when the garbage crisis and the strong euro kept many away. Now, due to a financial dispute between the Campania region (of which Naples is the capital) and Gesac (Gestione Servizi Aeroporti Campani—Campania Airport Services Administration) the private firm that handles all passenger services at Capodichino airport, the Info-point has been closed. This was the friendly little information counter staffed by real, live, competent, multilingual people whose job was to find you a hotel, provide general information, and point you in the right direction in Naples. So, I have 20% off...do I hear 30%...thank you, sir...35?...yes, thank you...

  • You may not be aware of an organisation called New7Wonders of Nature. It is running an "official" campaign to designate seven locations as the seven natural sites in the world most worthy of preserving. (To my knowledge, the organization has nothing to do with UNESCO in case this reminds you of that organization's World Heritage List). There were 441 original nominations; 100 million people from around the world have voted and narrowed the list to 261. The list will be cut to 21 in July and the winners announced sometime in 2011. So far, Mt. Vesuvius has made the cut, along with such sites as the Grand Canyon, the Black Forest, Niagara Falls, and the Loch Ness. Go Vesuvius! You can vote at this website. Mt. Etna on Sicily is steaming because she didn't make the cut.

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