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main index   © Jeff Matthews    entry Aug 2015

Period Postcards from Naples
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postcard # 23 - Nisida.
This is rather stark since it shows what can happen
and did happento one of the most famous sites in Naples. Nisida (as you may read at that link) is the tiny island off the tip of the cape that separates the bays of Naples and Pozzuoli in the Gulf of Naples. The original postcard is helpfully labelled Napoli - Panorama seen from Cape Posillipo with Nisida. Technically, the suburb was, and still is, called Bagnoli. The island was well-known to the Greeks, who called it Nesis. It marked the entrance to the bay of Pozzuoli (moving to the right - west - in this image), home of the Campi Flegrei, Lake Averno, and sites that play such a colorful role in Greek mythology. It became Nisida under the Romans. It is here that Brutus plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar, and it is here that Cicero says apud illum multas horas in Néside—that he had a long talk with Brutus after the assassination to discuss the future of Rome. In much more recent times, the 1800s, Nisida was the site of a Bourbon prison, then, within a united Italy, an Italian state penitentiary, and, then, a reformatory for juvenile offenders, which, as of quite recent news, is closing, so the future is up in the air a bit. The side facing the photographer was the site of a considerable military naval presence from 1967 to 2013 when Nisida was the headquarters of  the Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe, part of the large NATO presence in Naples, now also removed. So that is more future up in the air.

It is easy to date this card within a few years, but not precisely. As part of the Risanamento, the grand plan of urban renewal that lasted from 1885 to 1915, this area, Bagnoli, way out here some miles from main body of Naples, was radically transformed from a bucolic beach community to a hub of new industry. One of the first things they did is evident in this photo, not a postcard, but a recent photo shot from the road on the left that you see (in the postcard image) as it starts up the hill to the Posillipo height. They joined the island to the mainland by a causeway. That is known to have happened "at the turn of the century" just before the industrialization of Bagnoli swung into high gear. Other markers are not helpful. That road on the left was built in the 1830s; photography, itself, was not developed to the quality of this postcard until the 1880s, so we can leave it at 1900.


Early industrialization in many parts of the world was seen as a boon, yet, we now know what people in 1910 could not have known. I cite my own entry at this link:

When the new Ilva (later Italsider) steel mill opened in 1910, it was the result of nine years of planning and construction. In 1901 it must have seemed a grand idea, a vision of the future; after all, industry was the future. Bagnoli was just one of many places on planet Earth eager to reap the marvels of the 19th century—steam engines, great ships, electricity, tall buildings, new railways, and new-fangled motor cars. (Some even foresaw air travel for the masses—across the oceans in total comfort! Well, they got part of that right.) You needed steel for all that. It is only through the unfair and perfect judgments of hindsight that we want to scream back through time to warn them of world wars, depressions, atomic bombs, post-industrialism and its evil twin, Urban Blight—the abandoned factories, rusted bridges and decaying inner cities.
Nisida (below) seen from the water's
edge at Bagnoli, one kilometer away.

That urban blight looks like what you see in the photo (right, second from bottom). Now that we are in the post-industrial age, they have attempted to undo all of that. Tear down the steel mill—they did that 20 years ago. Make something out of itthat has been an on-again, off-again chain of small successes and disastrous failures. There are a number of entries in the B-section of the index under "Bagnoli" if you are interested in how that is going. The entries go back to 2003. Nisida, itself, it is fair to say, has been somewhat of an onlooker to the urban blight and stuttering attempts at urban renewal. It has, for the most part, harbored state correctional facilities or naval facilities. The hope is that the area of Bagnoli leading up to the causeway and then along the causeway leading up to the island, itself, will continue to provide space for private pleasure craft and beach facilities. Nisida, itself, the actual island—that is hard to say. Ideally, in terms of its long history, it would fit into some sort of a cultural-heritage establishment and join other such sites spread across the Bay of Pozzuoli to Baia and Capo Miseno at the western end of the bay.



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