Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Dec 2012           

1. A Brief Letter from Ischia
            2. The Town of Ischia                                          

During the current wave of very inclement weather, I see that Ischia is having serious problems with flooding. I hope they get through it without too much damage. I also see that I took some notes on Ischia in September of 2009. They were meant to be in the form of A Brief Letter from Ischia that I never got around to finishing. So, with some delay:

We had a pleasant time on Ischia last week
. This is the cottage where my good lady wife and I rested and tended our sheep for the few days we were there. Or rather, she tended the animals while I tried to pour my angst into rhymed Heroic stalactite pentameter. That didn’t work out very well, so I went swimming. I lost a few pounds, but I’ll probably find them again.

The photo on the left is in the town of Casamicciola, one of the six towns on the island. The statue of the Virgin Mary is set as the Protector of Seafarers. Note the fishing net draped on the statue and the large anchor in back. It is directly in front of the entrance to the port. The small church in the background was rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1883. I recall reading about that one when I was doing research on the historian and philosopher, Benedetto Croce. As a child, he lost his parents in the quake and was dragged from the ruins. (The quake killed 2500 people on Ischia, about 1800 in the town of
Casamicciola alone. The current population of the island is about 60,000.)

Later in the day, I noticed a plaque in not very good repair in the next town over, Lacco Ameno, referencing the same disaster and the visit of King Humbert I, the so-called “Good King.” Southern Italy needed goodness in those days —the Ischia quake was at about the same time as the cholera outbreaks in Naples. Humbert spent some time in Naples on those occasions, as well.

Some excitement. There was a brush fire not too far from our hotel. This is the single chopper they had fighting it early in the morning. The sea is close enough so he could make a drop about every 1min. 30’’ to 2 minutes, which is a pretty good clip. Nevertheless, he called in some help from Naples in the form of a sea-plane that makes fewer drops but with a huge amount of water. Italian genericizes everything: they call any plane of this kind “a Canadair” because that was the logo they saw on the first one of these planes in Italy.

It’s the same reason that in Italian any secret agent spook type is called a “007” (pron.  “zero-zero-sette”). These firefighting pilots certainly do a great job. I heard the first chopper at about 6 am, and the sea-plane stopped at 1 pm.—time for lunch. I think the fire was out at 9 am. The pilot was either making sure or getting in some overtime.

e ran into a marching band! It was the beginning of the festival of San Giovanni Giuseppe (John Joseph), the patron saint of Ischia. It’s an unusual compound name (unlike, say, John Paul) found mostly on the island. The proprietor of our hotel is named that, and his nickname is “Gio-giu”
— (pronounced "Joe-Jew"). The band had about 25-30 pieces —too many clarinets (you can never have too few clarinets!), some saxophones, a few trumpets, one cornet, a flute, a valve-trombone (booooo!), and a few of those weirdly pitched Italian brass horns;
that is, midget
E-flat Sousaphones, euphoniums in M-sharp and what not.
Whatever they were playing was one of those minor-key hymns to the Virgin that you hear in all the Godfather movies at some point or other. And I did manage to go to the museum I wanted to see, the one with all the information on the early Greek settlement here.
2. The Town of Ischia (added Sept 2021)
The town of Ischia is held to be one of the loveliest small towns in Italy. The island, itself, is also named Ischia and is in the archipelago in on near the Gulf of Naples. Here "archipelago" means "a group of islands that are close together." It doesn't mean that they are necessarily connected by geological classification. That is, Ischia and its next-door neighbor, Procida, were both formed by volcanic eruptions. On the other side of the gulf you have Capri, geologically an extension of the Sorrentine peninsula. Nothing to do with volcanoes but rather with tectonic plates moving far below. That is all tectonic upthrust, one plate sliding over another and surfacing as a mountains. If your tour-guide tries to slip one by you, say "Yes, but isn't it also true that all of Italy is, in fact, spread on both sides of the Apennines, a mountain range called the "spine of Italy" and that all that volcano stuff is just a geological late-comer, thus secondary?" (Tour guides despise people like you! Don't forget to stiff this one on the tip.)

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