Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

This is Miscellany page 71, started in mid-August 2018
links to all Miscellany pages

Aug 15 - Friend Warren reminded me of my earlier item (at this link) about Thomas Nast, American political cartoonist who personally travelled to Garibaldi's 1860 campaign and sent back material that helped to galvanize US public opinion in the support of Italian unity. Warren then referred me to a fascinating book entitled, Domesticating Foreign Struggles: The Italian Risorgimento and Antebellum American Identity (paperback, 216 pages, publisher: University of Georgia Press (2012), ISBN-10: 0820343412). It is by Paola Gemme, assistant professor of American studies and English at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Arkansas. The author went to the Nast archives at Princeton and searched his letters and articles from the period to talk about some of the things that Nast did not like about the new revolutionary Naples:

[Nast] ...also employed images of sexual irregularity to express his censure of the revolution. When his sketch "Street Scenes in Naples the Day after the Arrival of Garibaldi," representing a parade of supporters of the revolutionary cause, was published in The Illustrated London News on 29 September 1860, it was accompanied by a brief article that disparagingly described the enthusiasm of the Neapolitans as the "political carnival" of an "insane multitude... prey to a Bacchanalian fury." Indeed, it is as a society in disarray that Nast chose to represent Naples in the aftermath of its liberation from the Bourbon's tyranny. The young woman at the center of the sketch walks arm in arm with one of Garibaldi's volunteers. And she is guilty of more than a public display of sexual intimacy. In fact, her military hat and the dagger she rather threateningly holds are a form of cross-dressing, a usurpation of masculine attire and attitudes in complete opposition to the code of regulating female behavior. She has, moreover, covered her gown with patriotic ribbons, thus transforming her dress into a declaration of her political stance. The same is true of the older woman leading the procession, whose apron, normally a piece of clothing worn within the house and for the performance of household duties, is now embroidered with the countenance of General Garibaldi and thus serves a public rather than domestic function. The banner of the king of Italy that she carries is a symbol of order ironically waving over a society turned upside down, where women have moved from the private world of domesticity to the public world of war and politics. And in the case of the latter woman, the ugliness of her features is a clear indication of the artist's censure of her conduct.
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Aug 15 - This photo is by Raffaele Delle Cave. He shared it on Instagram and it already has boatloads (HAH!) of tourists saying, "Hey, I'm a tourist, I have been to the island of Procida, I walk a lot. How come I don't know about this? This natural pool near the Chiaiozza beach on Procida is likely to remain a "secret" even to those of you who like to think you know where you're going. It's very hard to walk down to, so unless you stumble on it in a kayak or tumble over a cliff, forget it.

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Aug 15 - Oh, today is August 15, the holiday known as Ferragosto, which comes from Ferro (Iron) + agosto (August). Yessiree!  Iron August! That is what my friends and I all call it because we're not Italian. That etymology is absolutely specious and possibly even wrong. The holiday goes back to the summer festivities instituted by Caesar Augustus and called (Feriae Augusti / holidays of Caesar Augustus,). The day is a public holiday in Italy. It's the deadest day of the year, unless you pick today to actually leave, in which case you wind up in a nation-wide traffic jam that will last until you are whimpering (and seeing) Autumn Leaves as you beat your head against the steering wheel. Go yesterday or last week. Some make the whole month a vacation. Only TV reporters stay at their posts to report on people who are on vacation and are enjoying the hell out of their ulcers worrying about the large gas explosion in their home town they just heard about. ("Honey, did you remember to turn off the gas?"  "Dear, did you remember to euthanize the dog?" (Is that any worse that dropping faithful Fido off to its grisly fate by the side of the road and then speeding away? -- which is what a lot of people do!)
And don't get sick or have an accident today; yesterday was the last day for that. Oh, no one really knows who put in that extra r in  feriae to get ferro. Some scholars think that Augustus Caeser was from the island of Sardinia, where they speak a dialect that consistently doubles its consonants, but that is surely adiaphorus. Or maybe not.

add Aug 22 - Lady of Info, Selene Salvi, says: "You know, we have a strange custom here at Ferragosto. They prepare hot broth! Every Ferragosto a friend of mine used to invite us over for the bowl of hot broth. Luckily he forgot about us this year. He does it because he says summer is over and winter is starting. I've heard he is not the only one who feels that way."  Indeed not. There is a Neapolitan proverb that says: Aùsto cap’ ‘e vierno [August is the beginning of winter].

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Aug 17 - Today is Friday the 17th! Unlike many cultures that view Friday the 13th as unlucky, in Italy today is the day of bad luck. The Friday part may be traceable to the fact that Christ was crucified on a Friday. In ancient Rome, Friday was the day on which executions were carried out and also the day when Romans paid their taxes. The number 17 is unlucky apparently because if you write 17 with Roman numerals as XVII, you can rearrange those numerals as letters to read VIXI; in Latin that means "I have lived" and is in the past perfect tense/aspect (i.e. it describes a finished action); thus, "I have lived (and am done living). My life is over." [This just in from one of our Baker St. Irregulars, Suzanne Toll: "That's the perfect tense, by the way, not the past perfect. VIXIT or VIXERUNT (plural) was announced in Ancient Rome after an execution to indicate that the person or persons were no longer alive, as Cicero did when he announced that the Catilianarian conspirators were no longer living after they were strangled in the Tullianum prison.  Supposedly, announcing it in this way avoided using the word "dead," which would bring bad luck, if used."] Yes, she really said, "By the way".
     So, put Friday and 17 together and you have a very unlucky day! In the smorfia, the Neapolitan tradition of interpreting dreams as numbers to bet on in the lottery, the number 17 is associated with disgrazia — an accident or disaster. Thus, in Naples, if you dream of such, bet on 17 as one of your numbers. If you win and are thus lucky by betting on an unlucky number, I think they all get together and beat you up. I'm not sure if the word for "fear of Friday the 17th" is friggaheptakaidekaphobia or friggadekaheptaphobia. Frigga was the Norse goddess Friday is named for. I should stop now. It would be just my Frigga-luck if my computer started to act  x^ci**%tz.....

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Aug 19 -
f you need a refresher course on EUR / E42 and the first image (right), it's here, but all you really to need to know is that there is more to this poster than you might think. Assume you already know that this big Fascist arch meant for the Universal Exposition of 1942 in Rome was never built (the Exposition never took place because of WWII). The design was by Adelberto Libera, well-known architect of the 1930s in Italy. The design, however, was later "borrowed" by Eero Sarinnen for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. At least some local architects didn't like the euphemism "borrow". Hey, you lost the war, the winners take your stuff. Live with it.

But, there is some very arc(h)-trivia to this thing.

The earlier Overseas Exposition in Naples, built to trumpet Mussolini's empire in Africa, opened on time in 1939, and had planned to include, way back at the west end, where Edenlandia now stands, an amusement park / Fun Fair for the kiddies. It was never finished. But someone remembered. Look at the image (on the left) of the arches that were installed at the front of Edenlandia when it reopened in 2017! It is out of the question that they just built those things. They pulled them out of storage where they had lain for decades like malevolent toys in a goofy horror film, just waiting to spring into action... just biding their time ...some day ...some day. But there's more. The third image (right) is of Benito Mussolini's signature. Look a the first letter. Yes, the arch into the M. You mean there was an architect so fawning and obsequious, that he was inspired by the very shape of The Leader's handwriting?

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Waiting for Parthenope

Aug 23 - Last year's first exhibit of the new art collective in Naples, Opus Continuum, was very successful, as you may judge here for yourselves. I thought they just finished, but that was a few months ago, I see. Well, they went home, bathed, painted, and did whatever else artists do for a few days and then came right back to prepare for 2019. These folks are not messing around! They moved all the paintings out of the way and cleaned and painted the entire building! Then they put everything back in place. Looks nice (image, right). Today, I got this note from Selene Salvi, one of the founders of the organization:
Today we set up our exhibit in the Casina Pompeiana again. Here is a preview of our upcoming exhibit :

"IMMAGINARIA 2019" - Under the auspices of the Opus Continuum  cultural association.: "In the footsteps of Parthenope".  We shall guide you on a trip to the distant past, into the collective imagination of the Parthenopean people, a people that has built its identity on the ashes of a goddess from afar and made a trademark of the virtue of hospitality. We shall ask and answer: Who was Parthenope? What does her name mean? What did she normally sing? What did she look like? Was she human or animal? Do she bring good fortune or bad? Where did she live? Above all, where was she buried?

All coming soon to the Casina Pompeiana, Villa Comunale in Naples! We are going to prepare a short film, as well. And we are about to hold auditions to choose the actress who will play Parthenope. I know, I know... not much left to do!

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Cultural Routes
Aug 24 -
The Council of Europe offers over 30 "Cultural Routes" -- itineraries that include different spheres
of activity, from The Vikings to The Phoenicians to Prehistoric Rock Art to Mozart to the Route of Jewish Heritage and Route of Historic Thermals (the image from that route is seen on the right). All of them have been chosen for what they have meant in defining "Europe" since the time of Charlemagne. In spite of periodic differences with terrible consequences, these routes are what Europeans would like to feel still binds them through a shared and living cultural heritage. Where are the olive groves, the forests, the vineyards, the paths for religious pilgrims, etc.? How do you get there? How do you follow a trail you have chosen? There is informative text with each, plus photos, of course. It's an ambitious project. This is undoubtedly one of those websites that offers too much, but once you're hooked... well, see for yourselves.

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Via degli Abruzzi

Aug 29 - The Via degli Abruzzi (the Abuzzi Road) was a medieval route that connected Florence with Naples (Firenze and Napoli on the map) by way of the area known as the Abuzzi, the mountainous area in the Apeninne mountains (where L'Aquila is located on the map). There is documented use of this route in the High Middle Ages (c. 1000 - 1250 AD), the "Golden Age" being from the 1200s through the 1400s. It was a fundamental part of the commercial wool market as well as that of the prized spice of saffron and other products native to the area of L'Aquila. The road thus contributed to the economic growth of that part of the Abuzzi.

The road joined the two great capitals of Florence and Naples, passing through Perugia, L'Aquila, Sulmona, Isernia, and Capua, as noted by the Tuscan merchant Franceso Balducci Pergolotti (1315-1340) in his monumental La pratica della mercatura (The Merchant Trade) from 1343, who said that the whole route could be traversed in around 12 days even without "putting the paddle to the saddle" (it's about 450 km / 300 mi by today's roads, a good drive). Rather than a single unified stretch, it was more of a network of roads (some of them ancient Roman roads) stitched together and referred to by the single name, the Abruzzi Road. It passed through what were, at the time, three separate nations (the Republic of Florence, the Church or Papal States, and the Kingdom of Naples, thus connecting northern and central Italy, but keeping clear of the ancient imperial by-ways (the old "consular roads" all of which all "led to Rome." You see from the map that Rome (the red circle on the map) is completely by-passed. The ancient capital wasn't even that important in the period in question. Rome as the capital of a single nation, Italy, is still a few centuries in the future. [There is an entry here on the Rebirth of Rome in the Renaissance.]

The first stretch went from Florence to Perugia and Spoleto and was also called the Via Umbra (the Umbrian Road), for short stretches overlapping the ancient Roman roads, the Via Flaminia and the via Salaria. It then passed into Sannio (called Samnium in ancient times) and practically coincided totally with what is today's State Road 17. Then the route turned down in the direction of Naples. In the north, the road had various connections to Milan and Venice.

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Sept. 19 — Today is the Roman Catholic Feast Day of San Gennaro (St. Januarius), the patron saint of the city of Naples and the day on which believers await the "Miracle of San Gennaro" (the "miracle" refers to the liquefaction of the clotted blood of the saint. See the above link for more than you want to know). If it happens, it is considered a good omen for the city in the coming year. If it doesn't...? Well, that has happened, too. Spoiler alert: it happened this morning. It's strange that even atheists feel better when the miracle happens; after all, as the great mathematician, but awful philosopher, Blaise Pascal, hedged in his non-blazing, lily-livered "wager", "Golly, you never can tell, so you might as well believe." What guts!) Those who refuse to believe in miracles may scoff at the affair, but even nominal Roman Catholics wait for it. This is not taken lightly even in the nation at large. The event was carried live on national TV. The vial was held aloft by cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, for all to see. The affair was bizarre on TV because of the great number of smartphones also being held aloft to capture the moment (which is different from being in the moment). I can't think of an opposite of Yeats' " drops of frozen rainbow light"  but that's what it was: maybe alien tentacles waving about holding up a quivering sea of appendages powered by lithium ion batteries that are always just a prayer away from catching on fire anyway, so all you saw were hundred of these thing waving about. (And a Voice spake, saying, "For Me's sake, people, will you please put those damned things down!)  Anyway, doctors who have seen "miracles" but are required by science to use the term "spontaneous remission" more or less say what Pope Francis said when asked who could get into Heaven: "How do I know?" So, take it or leave it, but there it is.

Silver bust of San Gennaro donated by Charles II of Anjou in 1305, in the Naples cathedral

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