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Naples Miscellany 30 (start mid-March 2010)

  •     (Mar 10) I did say I was getting tired of reading optimistic reports about the future of Bagnoli, but this one looks good. For the first time in a century, the town of Bagnoli is no longer totally separated from the sea by the steel-mill and cement factory. Those were torn down some years ago, but now even the physical wall, although only 50 yards of it—slab after slab of towering grime along via Nuova Bagnoli—has been breached as work continues on the silvery space-ship-looking Portal to the park (photo, right), a large square that should be finished soon. To be a wet blanket about it, 50 years is nothing. I have just driven around the entire old steel-mill premises and there are still miles of wall to go. The area is still a dreary wasteland of post-industrialism. I have no predictions. I read of the park, the sports fields and fountains, the gym and the museum of Industrial Archaeology, etc. They say 2013. In terms of local construction and track record for these projects, that is right around the corner. (photo credit: NewFotoSud)
(See items for Mar 13 & 30, below, and this update.)


  •   (Mar 11) Mauro Dimitri, head of the World Federation of Urology, has announced the creation of the "super-tomato," officially called the "Maxantia" (pending registration of the name). It is the work of the Biomolecular Institute at the Naples National Research Center. The announcement stresses that the Manxtia is not a genetically modified product, but rather a blend of two existing varieties: the San Marzano, well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and the Black Tomato, a purple fruit high in anti-oxidants. According to Dmitri, the Maxantia "...has nutritional characteristics ideally suited for preventing disease...[and has]...anti-oxidant activity superior to all other tomato hybrids...[making it]...suitable for defending against prostate cancer and reducing the risks of many other diseases in which oxidative stress and...free radicals play a role. These include cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Parkinson's Disease and osteoporosis..." Campania regional authorities are now encouraging local pizza makers to use the Maxantia as an alternative to regular tomatoes.
 



  •     The International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) has announced a plan to begin exploring the waters off the Campi Flegrei in the bay of Naples starting in April-May. From ICDP literature:
The role of deep drilling at this area is...crucial. It could give a fundamental, precise insight into the shallow substructure, the geometry and character of the geothermal systems and their role in the unrest episodes...as well as to explain magma chemistry and the mechanisms of magma-water interaction...Since Campi Flegrei is a typical example of collapse caldera, the inference about its substructure, thermal state, magma chamber and geothermal system will allow a considerable scientific step towards the understanding of one of the most peculiar and potentially catastrophic volcanic areas of the World.

Drilling will employ the most modern drilling equipment, the Innovarig (photo), designed by GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany and built by Herrenknecht Vertical and H. Angers’ Sons. The first work will be off the premises of the old steel mill in Bagnoli and will bore down to 500 meters. Later exploration will branch out onto the center of the Gulf of Pozzuoli and reach a depth of 4 km.



  •     (Mar 13) Displays of "industrial archaeology" exist all over the western world, converted "rust belts," now museums where we revisit the pre-plastic age when we mined minerals and made steel. In Sardinia, for example, there is the “Geo-mining Historical and Environmental Park” to "...recover and maintain the entire set of mining infrastructures for environmental, scientific, educational, cultural and tourist purposes." (See this link.) In Naples, a similar project is underway with the steel industry on the premises of what used to be the Italsider steel mill in Bagnoli (see item at the top of this page) [The area under discussion is in blue in this image.] It was an industrial plant that for a century was as solid in the west as Vesuvius was in the east; they were both big and belched smoke and, at least in human terms, Italsider, too, seemed anchored in the earth and there to stay. The archives of the former Ilva steel mill (later called Italsider) are now hosting an exhibit entitled La memoria d'acciaio [Remembering Steel] on the premises of the ex-mill. It is a photographic and industrial artifact museum, plus documentation that contains a few surprises, such as the one that has astounded everyone: When the original decision was made (at the turn of the 19th-to-20th century to build a steel mill in Naples, it was planned for the eastern part of town, in what was already the center of early industry. They changed the plan and put it in the west, thus defacing (ah, the perfect vision of hindsight!) the Bay of Pozzuoli, what was once one of the most scenic bays on the planet.

  •     (Mar 17) The Italian Merchant Marine Academy opened in November of 2005 in Genoa. Before that time, many of the officers aboard Italian merchant vessels had received training elsewhere or, themselves, were foreigners. It does seem fitting that Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus, should have been chosen to fill this enormous gap in Italian maritime activity. Now, the Academy has opened a second campus in Torre del Greco, a suburb of Naples, an area that handles 40% of Italian merchant shipping. The academy is free to students, and the new facility near Naples seemed perfect since the area has always had a strong tradition of young men "shipping out." Strange thing, however—of the 20 students who will start courses in Torre del Greco in the autumn, none comes from Naples or, indeed, anywhere in the Campania region. Most are from Sicily, with a few from Puglia, Tuscany, Sardinia, and even Liguria (the regional capital of which is Genoa). But none from Naples.


  •     (Mar 20) "Waiter, we’ve been waiting for 2,000 years! Is our table ready, yet?" Yes, finally! Vetutius Placidus’ thermopolium in Pompeii has been totally restored and will open tomorrow for a sneak preview for the 300 lucky persons who got their email reservations in the other day when the announcement was made.  In ancient Rome, a thermopolium (from thermo=heat) was a restaurant, probably more like a fast-food place, a commercial establishment where you could buy hot food, either to eat on the premises or take with you. Typically, they had a small room with a masonry counter in front for the food. Some would have decorative frescoes or shrines to Mercury and Dionysus, the gods of commerce and wine, respectively. As far as I can tell, you won’t get anything to eat at Placidus' grand reopening except for a small sweet pastry “inspired by ancient Roman cuisine." The establishment will re-reopen with expanded hours and, so they say, other menu items in a few weeks. [See related item on Roman fast-food.] (photo: Daniele Florio)


  •    (Mar 23) “Agricultural archaeology” is a relatively new term—at least to me. It means the study of crops that have been typical of an area through the ages in order (1) to better understand the history and culture of the area, and (2) to help sustain biodiversity. In the local area, for example, it is of interest to us to know what the Romans of Pompeii ate. In some cases, they ate the same things that modern residents of the area eat—the lunga di Sarno, for example, a hazel nut characteristic of the areas around Vesuvius for at least 2,000 years; also, Cato and Columella both spoke of the cabbages and onions of Pompeii. A convention has just been signed in the presence of the president of the Campania region, Bassolino, and the regional clerk for agriculture, that will protect the lunga di Sarno as well as other species of agricultural crops typical of the area. “Protect,” here, includes encouraging local farmers not to desert traditional crops.

  •    (Mar 23) Susana, Lady Walton, passed away on March 21, 2010, aged 83, at La Mortella, the garden paradise she created on the island of Ischia many years ago. She created, as she said, "a garden for an artist," and then, later, through the creation of the William Walton Foundation, dedicated the premises to the memory and music of her husband, William Walton. Lady Walton was energetic and gracious and will be remembered fondly by all who ever came in contact with her. Her ashes will rest near those of her husband in the Upper Garden, the highest point of La Mortella. Rest in peace.


  •   (Mar 30) Bizarre &/or Brief:
The youngest grandmother in Europe is a Neapolitan. She is 29 years old.
Someone in the papers is concerned about the weed garden growing on the roof of the Royal Palace. Seeds blow in and take root and every year at this time the RP starts looking like some sort of Gaelic thatched house.
In Bagnoli, money has finally been appropriated to convert whatever that ex-steel mill building was (photo, right) into the long-awaited Industrial Museum; also, there is money for an aquarium.
Rain water is leaking into the famous Catacombs of San Gennaro, putting a number of precious paleo-Christian art works at risk.    


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