Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews                            entry June 2016

Naples Miscellany 63 (start end of June 2016 )        

(June 27) -photo of the day 28 - This is Lake Matese. It is the highest karst* lake in Italy and is at the foot of Mt. Miletto (2050 m/6200 feet) and Mt. Gallinola (1923 m/6000 feet) in the local mountain group known as the Matese massif. The lake is in the Matese Regional Park in the province of Caserta in the Campania region, about 70 km (45 miles) north-east of Naples. The area is a caver's paradise. The complete story is here.



photo, Napoli Underground (NUg)              

       

(June 28) -photo of the day 29 - One of these two vessels is the Amerigo Vespucci, a 'sails training vessel' of the Italian navy. She was launched in 1931 as sister ship to the earlier Cristoforo Colombo (no longer in existence). Both inspired by early 19th-century 74-cannon ships of the line. Full-rigged 3-masted steel hull, 82.4 m (270.34 ft) long, overall length 101 m (331 ft) including bowsprit, width 15.5 m (51 ft). 26 Sails, 1,360 m 2 (14,600 ft 2 ). The other vessel here is a floating hotel. Beware! Note the hands aloft in the rigging of the Vespucci sending a message to the captain of the time-warping intruder: "...can't...stop... we're sailing ...under... a...curse!" The Vespucci is in the port of Naples for a few days and welcomes visitors. Avast and all that.

       

  (June 28) - Brandi v. Google. The pizzeria Brandi near the royal palace in Naples has a very long history. They invented the Margherita pizza! The complete story is here and here. In 2010 the establishment dropped real food and went over to pizza entirely, claiming that tourists just wanted the two basic Neapolitan food groups: pizza and tobacco. Business was doing all right until earlier this year when it plummeted. It seems that many tourists use the Google search engine to hunt for "places to eat in Naples" (which is like hunting for "places to swim in the Pacific Ocean") and were being told that Brandi had "definitively gone out of business." Not true, and I'm not sure how the rumor started or how you can necessarily pin the rap on the search engine giant. The lawyers will have to figure it out because Brandi is suing Google for more one million euros (or whatever the currency will be called in that far-off Never-Never-Land of eternal civil law suits in Naples) to make up for what it claims to have lost in business. Brandi will have a place on Mars before this thing is settled, so while I wait, can I get some extra money as a topping, please? Yes, dollars will be fine.


(June 29) -photo of the day 30 - This is a detail of the facade of the church of the Girolamini quite near the Duomo (cathedral) of Naples. The entire area comprises the church, an art gallery, and premises of an ex-monastery. The facade was redone by Ferdinando Fuga in 1780. He was more known for large functional buildings, but went out (d. 1782) in a blaze of Baroque. You don't need to get into the church to appreciate what a treasure it is. Mounted high up on the facade by the twin belfries are statues of saints Peter and Paul (image), the work of Giuseppe Sanmartino, most known for his haunting sculpture of the Veiled Christ, on display a few blocks away at the Sansevero Chapel. This photo is from album 2 at this link. Click here for a larger image and link to an extended entry on the church and monastery complex of the Girolamini. The church, by the way, is open. It was closed for decades.



(June 30) - A new exhibit at the Naples Archaeological museum displays the Eastern Religions [culti orientali] of the Roman Empire. (It is part of the “Egypt Pompeii” display already underway at the Pompeii archaeological site as well as at the Egyptian museum in Torino.) As the Roman Empire spread to the east to the Anatolian peninsula (modern Turkey) and the Middle East it found gods other than the Greek deities that had existed in Italy as part of pre-Roman Magna Grecia or, before that, of native Italic cultures. These were the gods of Phrygia (modern Turkey/the Anatolian peninsula), Arabia and around the Persian Gulf. Such gods included Cybele, the “supreme mother” of Anatolia (akin to Gaea, the Greek “earth mother” or the olden Italic Mater Matuta, the "mother of spring" or the Magna Mater, "Great Mother", of Roman mythology), her consort Attis, and Mithra, a Zoroastrian deity. In typical syncretistic fashion, some of the deities were blended with Roman and Greek deities (there is in Naples, indeed, what is left of an ancient Mithraeum). In any event, the exhibit displays, in the words of curator, Valeria Sampaolo, "a cauldron of cultures and religions that Rome tolerated as long as they did not collide with its supremacy.” The exhibit is scheduled to run through October 8, 2016.   [related item here]





(July 1) -photo of the day 31 - This is the facade of the church of Gesù Nuovo. It has given its name to the entire square, situated at the west end of the historic center of Naples and the start of the street popularly known as "Spaccanapoli" [Naples-splitter]. It is one of those churches in Naples that started out as something else. (Complete story at "larger image" link, below.) The unusual façade is called "ashlar" in architectural terminology and is one of the few examples of this characteristic 15th-century façade in Naples. This photo is  album 2 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an extended entry on the church and on the square in general, including the premises of the church of Santa Chiara.



(July 2) -
An choral and instrumental concert was held on the premises of Villa Pignatelli the evening before last to raise donations for the Sanitansamble, a youth orchestra from the Sanità section of Naples. It is one of many such projects throughout the world that give underprivileged youth a chance to learn and play classical music. They have had spectacular success and the Sanitansamble is a good example. (They have performed on the stage of the San Carlo theater and for the Pope.) This concert included music by
Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Fauré, Claudio Monteverdi, Astor Piazzolla, and Antonio Vivaldi. The program was entitled "Music for Mark and for Young Persons" in memory of Mark Weir (image, above), well-liked musician, translator and language educator from England in the Naples community who passed away last October. The concert drew 800 persons.







(July 3) -photo of the day 32 - This is the Botanical Garden of Naples, one of the unexpected "green surprises" in the city—30 acres with 25,000 samples of vegetation, covering about 10,000 plant species, all open to the public, located in one of busiest sections of the city. Once you step through the entrance... remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy opens the door of her drab ramshackle black & white house and sees Oz all in color?...yes, it's like that. This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an extended entry on the Botanical Garden.





(July 4) - It simply has to be the case that electronic and film entertainment overload has put a dent in the theatrical profession. Yet, Neapolitans are still avid theater-goers and frequent the half-dozen or so small companies in the city that provide fare in Italian as well as Neapolitan dialect. That is, to my knowledge, the case in many large cities in Italy. People like to go to the theater. Case in point: The Teatro Elicantropo, a small avant-garde company that specializes in newer political and socially relevant works by young playwrights. It was founded in 1996 and has received awards and recognition (and occasionally some money from the culture ministry of the Italian Republic). It is located in an unusual place, a long box-like room in what used to be part of the large Gerolomini monastery complex across the street from the Naples Duomo (cathedral). I was attracted by the name—Elicantropo. It's a portmanteau word formed from elica=propellor, revolving fan blades, etc. (an example of which was found on the premises when they set up shop 20 years ago) and anthropos=Greek for “man”, common in all European languages in such compounds as “anthropology”. Thus, you wind up with the theater's Magritte-like logo: a man in a tux with fan blades instead of a head, meant, in the words of the company's self-description to be an “allusion to the whirling and elegance of ideas.” "We liked it," they say. So do I.
thanks to Selene Salvi






(July 5) -photo of the day 33 - This is the thousand-year-old Arechi castle looking down on the port of Salerno. Historically the castle was one of the most important in Italy in terms of the history of the formation of the later political geography of the peninsula and was home to the warrior-princess, Sichelgaita. This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an extended entry on Sichelgaita. If you like complicated tales about larger-than-life women, this one should swash your buckle for you!





  (July 6) -photo of the day 34 - This bit of madness is only a slight optical illusion; that is, the homes above the large open grotto are not about to fall over the side and straight into Hell, at least not directly. There is really a road between them and the edge, which you can't see due to the angle at which the photo was taken. The road is along the Amalfi Drive (State Road 163) at a point 2.5 km/1.5 miles from Amalfi, to the right in this photo). It is the "high road" that you should take in order to avoid rocks falling on your head, which will happen if you wend your way along along the bonnie bonnie banks of the low road (where that white hotel is). That way, you, yourself, can fall on the heads of others. The grotto used to be all underground; part of it simply collapsed. That was a long time ago, but these days the slow calendars of geology and those of folks who build hotels and roads occasionally overlap. Then you've got problems. This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to a series of articles about the Amalfi coast.




(July 7) -photo of the day 35 - There are a few national flags in this display, in among all the sports jerseys, banners, pennants and dish towels. There’s Italy...and have you ever noticed that Belgium is the same as Germany except sideways? Say, they even have the new... Wait, what’s that? A blue St. Andrew’s cross with white trim, 13 stars arrayed within the bars of the cross, all on a field of red…a CSA flag—the Confederate States of America, right in the middle! Unlike some places in the southern US today, there is no doubt in Naples as to whether that flag stays up or comes down. It stays up—and they ain't just whistlin’ ‘O Sole Mio. This photo is from the album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to a couple of articles on the strange place of that flag in the history of southern Italy.




(July 8) -photo of the day 36 - There are countless stylized graphics of Mt. Vesuvius. This is clever one: Vesuvius as the US flag plus a helmet of the US Military Police. Clearly, the music is going to be about post-WWII Naples; that is, 1943-1947. Indeed, the title is (in Neapolitan dialect), "The Americans have arrived," and, below that, the cover song is simmo 'e napule paisa', [we are Neapolitans, my friend*], the 1944 iconic Neapolitan song by Fiorelli and Valente, celebrating the end of the war in the south and proclaiming that Neapolitans just need "the sun, the sea and a song to sing" to be happy. The song was pretty much despised in the rest of Italy due to the negative stereotype. Information is sparse. I can't identify the artist from the cover, and the recording company has disappeared. It may have been a "nostalgia cover" as late as 1960. Much of the rest of the music is not particularly well-known. This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to a series of oral history interviews about WWII in and around Naples.


*Paisà [dialect form of paesano] lit. someone from the same town as you. The term is particularly linked to WWII due to its use (or misuse) by Italian-American GI's arriving in southern Italy as part of the Allied invasion force and calling everyone paisà as a term of solidarity, as if to say, "Hey, I'm Italian, too!" Thus, Paisà ( 1946, dir. Roberto Rossellini, poster image, left ) is the title of one of the great films of postwar Italian Neorealism, an "episode" film, each one focusing on the relationship between the recently liberated Italians and their liberators.




(July 9) -photo of the day 37 - This photo is not from my photo albums. This lovely photo was taken by Fulvio De Marinis and sent to me by Selene Salvi; she sent it with the challenge to identify it; I failed miserably. I knew she had been to the Palizzi Museum of Arts & Industry recently, so that's what I guessed.  Expert in ceramics, I added, "It's ceramics." One out of two isn't bad, so she let me use the photo, anyway. Nice lady.      (cont. below)

A better answer would have been, "Why, how droll to think that you could fool me with part of a ceramic breakfast set of Neapolitan manufacture  (Biagio Giustiniani & Sons) dated to 1830-1840, based on Egyptian motifs, housed in the storeroom of the San Martino museum." The storeroom?! I didn't even know they had a storeroom. "Yes," she said. "They let some people in." Then she added - .

Even worse, I had failed to see the similarity to a photo I use in the entry on Giambattista Della Porta, perhaps Italy's last great "prescientific" (i.e., before Galileo) polymath. That image (right) shows a fresco on the premises of what is believed to be Della Porta's Academia Secretorum Naturae. I used this caption:
Recent archaeology has revealed such items within the ruins of Della Porta's "academy of secrets" as this fresco of the Egyptian God, Set, and Isis (on the left) nursing the infant Horus.
(add-July 11) On her Facebook page, Selene adds that
This image [large photo, above] shows that Naples in the 1800s was in the grips of a true Eygyptomania. Note that Egyptian motifs were already in use by the Royal Porcelain Factory as early as 1802 and were inspired by drawings and prints of archaeological sites. This example is highly reminiscent of the one at the Arenella site of Della Porta [see link, above]. That site, on private property, is today buried in rubbish of one sort of another and not accessible. That is a shame since it is one of the few examples that remain of the kind of garden that was so typical of the period and that has resisted, at least to some extent, the merciless inroads of modern construction.


(July 12 -)  Olympic pool at the Mostra d'Oltremare . For a very brief period in 1940, the Mostra d'Oltremare (the Overseas Fair Grounds) in Fuorigrotta in the western suburbs of Naples was a grand display of Italian Fascist colonialism. The complete story of the Mostra is here. WWII then changed things in Naples dramatically, and no place in the city is a better example of those changes, some for the better, some not. The same 250 acres since the war have hosted Allied occupation military hospitals, an on-again-off-again zoo (now on again), a dog track (off), a large amusement park/fun fair (currently off, but on its way back), a large exhibition hall at the main entrance (on), an outdoor amphitheater for music and drama (on), a cable-cabin lift up to the Posillipo height (off), a gigantic container-shanty town for refugees from the 1980 earthquake, and the Information Technology Department of the university (moved), etc. etc. Through the years they have had a few tries at installing a public swimming pool. This one looks good. The current version is run by a Sport Management company called Aquachiara, which also has a few smaller facilities in other areas near Naples. It features a 50-meter Olympic outdoor pool (image), has  a 25-meter covered pool and a gym, hosts water-polo matches, and pretty much has all the amenities you could ask for.





(July 13) -photo of the day 38 - Mr. Noodle Head . If you don't like spaghetti, macaroni, fettuccine, tagliatelle, penne, rigate, vermicelli, capellini, anelli, spirali, fusilli, maltagliatti, et noodle cetera, you have definitely come to the wrong place. This pasta shop has all of those types of noodles and, depending on when you pass, the proprietor may have indulged himself yet again in a noodle-version of the human head. The shop is on via Benedetto Croce, a few yards after entering the old city from the direction of Santa Chiara (approximately,where #6 is on this map of the historic center.) This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a short entry on the shop. If, on the other, you are a pasta historian, you may be interested in We Hold these Noodles to be Self-Evident.


(July 14) -photo of the day 39 - I thought I had sworn off of Boats of the Bay for a while, but this was hard to resist. Here are two of the word's largest private motor yachts moored bow to prow out in front this morning. On the left is the Octopus, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The craft is 126 meters (414 feet) long and was launched in 2003. Octopus is regularly loaned out for exploration projects, scientific research, and rescue missions. Some of the features are: a glass-bottom swimming pool, a hangar for two helicopters, and a 10-person submarine. On the right is the Topaz, currently the fifth longest yacht in the world at 147 meters (482 feet). She is owned by Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Topaz was Launched in 2012. She recently filled up the tanks for only a half-million dollars! Call sign: ZGBL4 (just in case you need a loan). If you are attracted by that smaller vessel in front, I don't blame you. That is the Blackwood of London, 39 meters/128 feet of beauty. Background: Capri.
 

This is the END of Naples Miscellany p.63.

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