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Naples Miscellany 20 (late-February 2009)

  • The easiest way to drive to Bagnoli from anywhere on via Posillipo, the long coast road that moves up from Mergellina, has always been to drive up to the high west end of the road and over the cliff (using the convenient Coroglio road, of course). It winds down the other side of the Posillipo hill and puts you out at the site of the old steel mill near the isle of Nisida, then on the road through Bagnoli and along the coast to Pozzuoli. The Coroglio road has always been very difficult to maintain, being subject to landslides from the cliff-face above. That cliff is webbed with steel netting for much of its length. The road is closed again after a hefty landslide and there is no realistic forecast on how long it will take to reopen. (In this photo, taken from the North Pier in Bagnoli, the Coroglio road, from the bottom, starts at the buildings at sea level and goes through a series of switchbacks, running past the entrance to the old Roman Seiano grotto—visible low-left of center in photo—and finishes out of view in the upper left on top of the cliff.)

  • A letter from Giuseppe Verdi, dated May 27, 1861, addressed to Leopoldo Tarantini, the administrator of the San Carlo theater at the time, has been acquired from a private party for 4 million euros (about 5 million dollars) by the Campania region of Italy (of which Naples is the capital). The letter will be on display in the Royal Palace. In the letter, the composer expresses his regret that he will unable to conduct his Un Ballo in maschera at San Carlo after having initially accepted the invitation to do so; he speaks of the possibility of conducting the work at San Carlo at some later date. Both the date and the opera are interesting. (See this link.) The Kingdom of Naples fell in February of 1861 at the Siege of Gaeta; the new Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed immediately. The first opera in the new pan-Italian San Carlo was Verdi's Battle of Legnano (which had actually opened in January, while the siege in Gaeta was still going on. The opera program of that season had nothing to do with the Bourbons; Garibaldi had taken Naples in September, 1860. Maybe he liked the Battle of Legnano.) Verdi's Un Ballo in maschera had originally been composed for San Carlo in 1857 but was rejected by the Neapolitan censors. It was originally called Una vendetta in domino and dealt with the assination of Swedish king Gustav III in the 1790s. After being watered down with a different title, time-frame and location, the work still didn't pass censorial muster, so Verdi broke his contract, sued San Carlo and had the work performed in its censored version (now the tradtional one) in Rome in February, 1859. The letter comes only a few months after the unification of Italy and one wonders whether the letter had to do with which version of the opera was under discussion. In any event, the revised Un ballo in maschera played at San Carlo the next season (1861/61) under another conductor.

  • "Carnevale, ogni scherzo vale" is the Italian expression that indicates that you can play any prank you want on Mardi Gras, sort of like a combination of April Fool's Day and Halloween in other places. Such pranks usually have to do with throwing flower and eggs on people—hah-hah—and now inflicting even more damage with handy-dandy spray paint cans. No more. (Sure.) The mayor has just signed a law that imposes a 200 euro fine on offenders (or their legal guardians, since most offenders are minors) and 400 for repeat offenders.







How about it, punk?
Do you feel lucky?
  • Neighborhood Watch patrols in Naples are about to get the go-ahead from the city government. No one is sure if it's a good idea. Theft and vandalism have been such a problem that shop-owners along the east end of Corso Umberto, near the train station, have banded together and proposed the idea of heavily armed, "Make-my-Day"-vigilantes stringing up ne'er-do-wells ...no...no... of unarmed civilian patrols whose mere presence will deter evil-doers. There is a model for this in some towns in northern Italy. The Vatican is against it, but I don't know why.

  • The restored church of Sant'Anna dei Lombadi, also known as Santa Maria di Monteoliveto has been reopened for visitors. Even in a city full of historic churches, this one is particularly worthwhile. (See the above link.)
  • The umpteenth on-again plans for the future of Bagnoli are now off again. You can catch up on the past at Bagnoli and Bagnoli, future (1) (2). In any event, the paper reports this morning that there is no money for anything—not for building the new boat harbor (the one that never got built because Naples lost out in its bid for the 2007 Americas Cup, and certainly not for the "Napoli Studios," the film studio that was to be a "Cinecittà in the shadow of Vesuvius" (in reference to the famous film complex in Rome) built on the gigantic ex-premises of the defunct Italsider steel mill. Rest assured, says someone, that the land will be cleaned up in time to be used as a seaside venue for something called Culture Forum 2013.