Which reminds me—I have
no dog, but the Storia Patria Nostra
library has long been one of my best friends in
Naples. Whether I want an item about the recent
history of Naples or the front page of the March 13,
1918 Mattino (which chronicled a WWI
German Zeppelin attack on
Naples), they put up with me. Even cheerfully. They
look at my scribbled request slip, wonder why I don’t
cross my 7’s, smile, disappear for a moment and
reappear with the goods.
The origins of the Storia Patria Nostra library can be traced to the Neapolitan Historical Society founded in 1843, well before the unification of Italy. Under the current name, however, the society and library were founded in 1875. The library now occupies sections of two floors of the Maschio Angioino, the great fortress at the port of Naples.
The holdings of the library consist of about 350,000 volumes and monographs plus an enormous number of newspapers and other periodicals. It is the largest such institution in southern Italy and, indeed, is one of many such regional societies in Italy, each dedicated to its own local history. For the foreigner, it is important to remember that “Patria nostra” does not mean simply the city of Naples, and not even just the province. It should be understood in the sense of “southern Italy.” The society that governs the library also publishes the periodical Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, an important scholarly journal that was, between 1899 and 1932, in the diligent hands of Benedetto Croce, one of the great historians and scholars in European history. The library hosts numerous conferences and discussions, as well.