June 21 - The Theater/Temple Archeological Complex of Mt. St. Nicola of Pietravairano
Had it not been for a brush fire that burned away some overgrowth in 2001 and for the fact that Prof. Nicolino Lombardi, local historian for Pietravairano, is also an enthusiastic pilot of ultralight aircraft, this thing would still be undiscovered. At least now you can walk up the trail and see what the fuss is about. This is not just another medieval church or even just another of the many stone-aged slabs set in place by unknown Italic forbears. (Italy is full of both.)These are the ruins of a theater and temple from the late Roman Republic (II-I century BC; that is, around the year 100 BC.) Lombardi waxed a little Twilight-Zoney as he recalled turning back for some reason to take another pass over what he had just seen: "It was as if I could see the temple with the columns still standing and the seats full of spectators." Whatever.
Pietravairano is a small town (pop. 3000) on the eastern slope of Mt. Caivele (588 meters /1800 ft) in the province of Caserta, about 60 kilometers (37 mi) north of Naples and about 35 kilometres (22 mi) northwest of Caserta. What you see in the image is a reconstruction done after 17 years of painstaking work by archeologists and "infographic" experts (drone photography (image, left), 3-D reconstructions (temple, top image), videos, etc. from the university of Salento (formerly the U. of Lecce) in Lecce, in the region of Puglia. The trail leads you directly up to the stepped section of the theater. Above that is the now vacant flat space where the Temple (or sanctuary) used to stand (at 410 meters/1250 ft).
It is not even certain if the builders were Roman or another indigenous Italic tribe such as the Samnites, ferocious enemies of Rome. (The site has drawn comparisons to the Samnite theater at Pietrabbondante.) The discovery of some tombs indicate that the theater-temple was no longer used beyond the 2nd century AD. If the dating is accurate (approx. 100 BC) then Rome had already polished off some serious enemies such as Carthage. The Samnites would be next and then mighty Rome would enter into serious Social War with remaining local enemies on the peninsula. Augustus Caesar was still way in the future, but this temple and theater complex must have been a great symbol early on, watching over major approaches leading north, as much as to say, "Those who pass by, look up. We are now in charge."
source: Il teatro ritrovato. Il complesso archeologico del Monte S. Nicola di Pietravairano
by Luigi Cinque e Dario Panariti 2012 ISBN: 978-88-906564-1-5
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Lake BarreaJune 26 - National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise (Italian: Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise) is often simply called the Abruzzo National Park (hereafter in this entry, ANP), which was the original name when it was founded in 1923. That makes it the second oldest national park in Italy, in the entire Apennine chain; that is, the Gran Paradiso park up in the Italian Alps is one year older. (Most of the others didn't get going until as late as the 1990s.) The ANP was abolished by Mussolini in 1933 and was then reopened after WW2 in 1950. It then went through a rough period in the 1950s when everyone in Italy needed timber (lumber) for overbuilding. The ANP was reorganized in the 1960s and today is easily the most spectacularly varied piece of nature in Italy.
The current park headquarters are in Pescasseroli (105 km / 70 mi) north of Naples) in the Province of L'Aquila. It contains everything you might wish for in nature except desert, oceans, and icebergs, plus some things you might not wish for, such as earthquakes and entire villages being snowbound and cut off for weeks at a time in winter -- that sort of thing. You can hike, swim, ski, go caving, watch birds, ride horses -- all that. You can live on a farm or pitch your tent. I think you can rough it, too, but there are still bears and wolves running around. Choose wisely. Go to a hotel, you wimp.
The Grotto of the Cavallone -- added July 1
One of the marvels of the Abruzzo region is this thing, the Cavallone Cave (tough to translate! The Great
Billowing Cave!? It is the highest natural cave in Europe actually open to the public. You mean higher than anything in the grand Dolomites up north? Yes. The Abruzzo is not called "Italy's Little Tibet" for nothing! The entrance is at 1475 meters (4800 feet). Maybe there are eagles or dragons up there! Within the cave there are stalagmites, stalactites and other krazy karst dubbed "Monsters", "Enchanted Forest", "Chamber of the Spirits", etc. The grotto is 3 km long and parts of it leading off from the main path have not yet been fully explored. The opening overlooks the Taranta Valley, 140 km/90 mi (as the eagle soars) north of Naples. Organized exploration started in 1704 although there is an earlier inscription of 1666 on the inside walls. It was opened in the late 1890s for public viewing. Refugees from the bombings in WWII sought shelter there. The recent cabin lift to get you to the convenient stairway that you see zig-zagging up the side leaves from the nearby town of Taranta Peligna, but the cabin lift is currently being repaired and their sign says they will reopen in the summer of 2018. Start hiking.
Speaking of WW2, the ANP is closely associated with the vicious fighting up "Death Valley" (the Liri valley) in the drive to take Monte Cassino in late 1943 and early 1944). The park overlooks terrain that was tenaciously defended by the German army and just as tenaciously advanced upon by Allied forces.
Land Area (in hectares) of the entire park: 50, 500/c. 195 sq. mi);Fauna include: Marsican Brown Bear, Apennine Wolf, Abruzzi Chamois, Lynx, Deer, Roe Deer, Pine Marten, Wild Cat, Golden Eagle.
Protected flora: 3 species; Protected wildlife: 63 species; Habitats: 22 types;
Regions: primarily in the Abruzzi but also Lazio and Molise; Provinces in the Abruzzi region: Frosinone, Isernia, L'Aquila;
Rivers: Sangro, Giovenco, Volturno, Malfa;
Lakes: Barrea, Vivo, Pantaniello, Scanno, Montagna Spaccata, Castel San Vincenzo, Grottacampanaro, Selva di Cardito;
Summits: Petroso (2,249 mtr/c. 6800 ft), Marsicano (2,245 mtr/c.6800 ft), Meta (2,242 mtr/ c. 6800 ft), Tartaro (2,191 mtrs/c. 6600 ft.), Jamiccio (2,074 mtr/c. 6100), Cavallo (2,039 mtr/ c. 6100 ft.), Palombo (2,013 meters/c. 6100 ft.).
Flora include: European Beech tree (now part of this UNESCO project), Black poplar, Birch, Yew, Mountain Maple, Ash tree.
The ANP is but one of three national parks in the larger region of Abruzzi. If that sounds confusing, it is. (It is common in Italian to use the plural, gli Abruzzi, to refer to entire region.) There are two other national parks in the region that share features with the ANP: rugged mountain terrain and incredible biodiversity. One is the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga national park with an area of 2,014 square kilometres (778 sq mi). Gran Sasso is actually a massif, the highest peak of which is Corno Grande (the Big Horn) at 2,912 meters/c. 9500 feet, the highest elevation in the 1200 km Apennine mountain chain that runs the length of Italy. (Gran Sasso was also the site of a bizarre commando operation WW2!) The second "other" park is the Majella (also Maiella) National Park, 500 km of hiking, cave paintings and Grotta del Cavallone,one of the deepest caves in Europe open to the public.
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June 28 -
National Parks in Southern Italy (by region)
A "region" is the highest subnational adminIstrative unit in Italy. 'Region' corresponds approximately to 'county' in Great Britain, 'state' in the USA, 'province' in Canada, and 'state' in Australia. The regions of Italy traditionally regarded as southern are Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania, Molise, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily. There is wiggle room on whether Abruzzo and Lazio are central or southern. Many in Naples think of much of Abruzzo as southern because the regions of Abruzzo and Molise, right below it, used to be one region (they divided in 1970), with the southern part dipping way down into Campania. Lazio, on the other hand, is central because Rome is the capital, thus the center, of the region and the entire nation. And ask them if they are southern!) These national parks are not listed in alphabetical order, but rather by the year of establishment. That gives a better picture of when the idea of preserving nature in the form of protected national parks really took hold. The links on items in the PARK column go to sections in Naples: Life, Death & Miracles that contain information on the park or, at least, the area.
1. Abruzzo (item #2, directly above)
2. Pollino Basilicata & Calabria 1988
4. Cilento, Vallo di Diano & Alburni
5. Gargano Puglia
6. Maiella (item #2, directly above) Abruzzo
7. Gran Sasso-Monti della Laga
8. Vesuvius Campania
9. Archipelago of La Maddalena
10. Asinara Sardinia
1997 11. Sila
1997 12. Gennargentu Sardinia 1998 13. Alta Murgia
2004 14. Appennino Lucano -
Val d'Agri- Lagonegrese
Basilicata 2007 15. Island of Pantelleria Sicily 2016
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July 3 - Edward Lear & Southern Italy
Until about 15 years ago, I think all I knew about Edward Lear (1812 – 1888) was that he was an English writer of very enjoyable nonsense such as The Owl and the Pussycat ("...went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat...). The verse ends with the line "...and danced by the light of the moon." (Way before "Buffalo gals"!) It also has the phrase "a runcible spoon," which became famous but I don't know why. I didn't know that Lear was an artist, musician, noted bird illustrator, draftsman, and travel writer/illustrator. He illustrated some of Tennyson's poetry and set it to his own musical settings. He loved Italy enough to move to Rome in 1841 and start drawing. In all, he would make 36 such trips in his life and leave thousands of drawings behind. In 1846, he published Illustrated Excursions in Italy, 2 volumes. London. S. & I. Bentley, Wilson & Fley for Thomas McLean. He then decided to go south, starting with the rugged Abruzzo region. He went all the way to and through Calabria and published “Journals of a landscape painter in Southern Calabria” in 1852, pub. by Richard Bentley. Those drawings were based on travels he had undertaken in the summer of 1847. (There is a separate entry on the 1846 work here.)
Lear was an amazingly prolific illustrator. Stephen Duckworth, in a recent edition (August 2017) of the on-line journal of the Edward Lear Society, cites from other scholars that
No reliable estimate has previously been made of Lear’s work output as a topographical artist. Hope Mayo of the Houghton Library, Harvard, acknowledges this in her paper The Edward Lear Collection at Harvard University, published in the Harvard Library Bulletin, Summer-Fall 2011, Volume 22: Number 2-3 (p.95).Further,
The total of all drawings ... where Lear appears to have consistently numbered drawings is a minimum of 7,081. An unknown number of these may no longer exist.
Thus, if I show only two illustrations and mention only two of his collections, I am cutting a few corners, I know. In any event, his illustrations you see here are (left) the Montevergine monastery near Naples from the 1846 work and (top, right) the city of Scylla in Calabria from the later 1852 work.
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Good News for Prehistoric
C onnoisseurs of F ine B everagesWinos
back to previous Miscellany page (#69) to next Miscellany page (#71) to top of this pageJuly 4 - This first paragraph is absolutely true. Using such high-tech wizardry as gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance, a team from the University of South Florida has moved the beginnings of wine growing and production in Italy from the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1100 B.C.) back to the Copper Age (early 4th millennium BC)! The team analyzed residue on unglazed pottery found at the Copper Age site of Monte Kronio in Agrigento (image), off the southwest coast of Sicily. They found that the residue contains tartaric acid and its sodium salt, which occur naturally in grapes and in the wine making process.
A pottery fragment bearing a hitherto unknown script (now called Linear Circular) found near the wine jugs has been provisionally translated as "...with an aggressive but not presumptuous bouquet, which we think will amuse you..."
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July 6 - The Palazzo Zevallos di Stigliano (at via Toledo 185, near the Royal Palace in Naples) occasionally hosts what it calls "L'ospite illustre" (roughly, "Honored Guest") and displays a high-profile work of art. This year's edition opened yesterday and will run through September 2. On display: La Scapiliata by Lenoardo da Vinci. It dates from c. 1508 and is from Leonardo's mature period. It's on loan from the National Gallery of Parma, where it has been held since 1839. It is oil on wood and measures 24.7 cm x 21 cm (9.7 in x 8.3 in). The painting came about as the result of Fredrick II Gonzaga's wife, Margaret Palaiologos, requesting from Leonardo a Madonna for her private studio. It is mentioned for the first time as part of the Gonzaga collection in 1629. The painting is making the rounds of Italy as part of the national run-up to commemorate in 2019 the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death.- - - - - - - - - -
Leonardo delivered the painting with the title Testa di una Donna (Head of a Woman). The nickname, now the commonly used title for the work, la Scapiliata, means "dishevelled" (modern Italian is scapigliato/a). Over the years critics have by no means been unanimous in declaring this to be a mature Leonardo or even in attributing it to the Titan of Tuscany and not to a pupil of his. It is, however, now the consensus that the work is, indeed, late Leonardo da Vinci. I don't know if Margaret Palaiologos ever expressed her opinion on getting a Madonna with Wind-Blown Hair. It is a striking, sensual work of art.
In his Treastise on Painting, Leonardo speaks of the importance of representing accurately what the wind does to a cloud, a column of smoke -- and to a woman's hair. He wrote: "Fa tu adonque alle tue teste gli capegli scherzare insieme col finto vento intorno alli giovanili volti e con diverso revoltare graziosamente ornargli." Selene, my info-Godess (warning me that even she is not perfect when it comes to Leonardo's upside-down boustrophedon ambidextrous mirror writing in Renaissance Tuscan), tells me that means, "When you draw faces, play with the hair and let the breezes that move on the visages of the young muss their locks, adorning them with delight" and adds, "Hey, that's exactly what I tell my hair dresser.... hair that is mussed up is better than smooth hair. (But I know that she has just had a hair-cut! I'm confused.) Another correspondent rejected my "windblown" with "HAH! That is a classic case of bed head, similar to hat hair except this comes from getting up in the middle of the night to change an infant, or even The Infant! We all look like that." And Art historian, Alexander Nagel, of New York University's Institute of Fine Arts has said of la Scapiliata:
"The eyes do not focus on any outward object, and they give the impression that they will remain where they are: they see through the filter of an inner state, rather than receive immediate impressions from the outside world. It is the attitude of being suspended in a state of mind beyond specific thought—unaware, even, of its own body...here an inner life is suggested by a new order of pictorial effects, without recourse to action or narrative."
July 7 - The Lumière brothers, Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948) are primarily remembered as having patented the first "movie" camera and projector, which started screenings for as many as 200 persons at a time in 1895 in Paris. They did, however, have another "movie-like" invention -- the ungainly monsters you see here (both images): the giant camera (right) was called the Périphote and the giant screen (below) was the Photorama.* It was panoramic photography, allowing the complete reproduction of the horizon, 360° on a single shot and the full projection of this shot onto a cylindrical screen. The 360° panorama then revolved around the audience. The system was patented in 1900. The camera produced a negative, a 360° panorama of a scene via 12 lenses, and the Panorama projected it as a positive picture onto the cylindrical 6-meter-high screen (18 feet). (There were no aberrations or distortions of perspective; the 12 shots were seamlessly stitched together.
Really, the whole idea was a photographic extension of a creation of the Irish painter Robert Barker (1739-1806) who presented, starting in 1787, what he called "Nature at a glance" in which the spectators were placed on a platform in the middle of a landscape painted on a canvas stretched all around them in a rotunda. It enjoyed some popularity in the 1800s. Photography seemed to promise a natural extension of that, and it might have happened -- if real motion pictures had not come along. But with the Photorama nothing really moved -- just the giant 360° panorama projected onto the screen within a rotunda-like theater. Large and seamless or not, it was not to be. The original projections in Paris started in 1902 and ended in 1903. Other European cities followed suit. They opened and closed. By then people were expecting "movies" to move and tell stories.
After the initial failure of the large circular screen with a revolving panorama, the process enjoyed a brief spell of "secondary" success in different formats: *(1) a smaller version (seen here above) was used to print large landscape backdrops for films; and (2) a tiny format was used to produce flat "strip" postcards of the entire panorama. Here is a YouTube clip of a Photorama projection in the Santa Lucia section of Naples.
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July 11 - There is a cultural exchange between China and Italy (specifically, Naples) going on at the moment. The ties go back at least to the missionary activities of the Catholic missionary, Matteo Ripa, from the kingdom of Naples, who worked at the Manchu court of the emperor Kangxi between 1711 and 1724. Currently running at five prestigious museums in the People's Republic of China is the exhibit, Pompeii. The Infinite Life, including terracotta, bronze and gold, statues, as well as frescoes and furnishings from the area of Vesuvius dating back to the Roman era. In exchange, the city of Naples has extended (at least through the summer) the current exhibit of The Terracotta Army. The reference, of course, is to the famous collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. The vast array of funerary art was buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC to protect him in his afterlife. The figures were discovered in 1974 and have been a UNESCO Heritage site since 1987. The exhibit in Naples is in the basilica of the Spirito Santo near the northwest corner of the old historic city on via Roma (alias via Toledo).
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Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele in Palermo
July 12 - Quick, culture vultures, what's the largest theater in Italy? (Spoiler alert - look at the image!) Well, did you know anyway? (I will know if you're lying!) Indeed, The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is the opera house and company in Palermo, Sicily. It was dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II, the first king of united Italy. Capacity is 1,387 in its current configuration, although the auditorium was originally designed for 3,000 people. There are 7 tiers of boxes rising up around an inclined stage and shaped in the typical horseshoe style. It opened in 1897 and is the work of two architects: Giovanni Battista Filippo Basile (1874–1880) and his son Ernesto Basile (1891–1897). It resulted from a competition in 1864 for the creation of a new opera house to mark the recent unification of Italy (1861). The builders had a profound knowledge of Ancient Greek/Roman architecture and used natural thick stone hoisted into place by a specially built steam tower crane. The overall appearance indeed recalls ancient Greek temples in Sicily in places such as Selinunte and Agrigento. The style is termed "late-Renaissance." Construction started on January 12, 1874, stopped for eight years from 1882 until 1890 and finally opened on May 16, 1897 with a performance of Verdi's Falstaff. It is all very impressive; busts of famous composers were sculpted for the theater by Italian sculptor, Giusto Liva, and several of his sons. In 1974, it was closed for renovations and to upgrade safety features. It remained closed for 23 years! (Something happened to the money -- or so they say.) If you can't get to Palermo, watch The Godfather Part III. The theater in the final scenes is the real thing -- this theater. (Don't bother with the rest of the film.)
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July 13 - Paraskevidekatriaphobes rejoice! Today, Friday the 13th is not unlucky in Italy. It is not the case that the day is "universally" considered unlucky, not even in all of Western culture. I've just asked 7 Neapolitans, a Pole, and a Ukrainian whether they think today is lucky or unlucky. Six Neapolitans said 'lucky' (!), the other Neapolitan said both (!) — what a weasel. The Pole said "unlucky" and the Ukranian said she wasn't superstitious right before she stepped off the curb into a passing bus. In Italy, today is the day of good luck. Friday the 17th, on the other hand, is unlucky. Friday, possibly because executions in ancient Rome were on a Friday and if you write 17 with Roman numerals as XVII, you can rearrange those letters to spell out 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." 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 —that is, an accident or disaster. Thus, in Naples, if you dream of such, bet on 17 as one of your numbers. Of course, if you win a lot of money betting on an unlucky number, you're really lucky.
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July 14 - The best known ancient ruins from the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD are, of course, Pompeii and Herculaneum. The eruption, however, wreaked havoc elsewhere, as well, spreading over the Sorrentine penisular mountain range to the other side and burying sections along the Amalfi coast. Some of that has been uncovered. The town of Positano announces that it expects the recently excavated and restored Roman Villa of Positano to open to the public next week (probably on the 18th). The structure remained hidden and was first discovered in 2004. Preliminary descriptions and photos show that the villa contains archaeological finds of great value including frescoes from the first century AD. The villa is beneath the church of Santa Maria Assunta, at water's edge. Ten meters down you find the restored villa, replete with frescoes, renderings of hippocampi (image: mythological sea creatures with the head and forequarters of a horse and the tail of a dolphin or fish),* golden columns, griffons and a winged pegasus. The villa is certainly one of most important archaeological discoveries on the Amalfi Coast in recent decades. A lighting system and walkway have been installed; the path is accessible by wheelchair.
*Unbelievably, the frescoes offer no insight into the neural structure in the medial temporal lobe of the brain also called the hippocampus.
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July 15 - Boats of the Bay 2018 - This one is special.The name of the boat is Lo Spirito di Stella, that is, The Spirit of Stella, a pun on the owner and builder's name, Andrea Stella (in Italian, Andrea is a male name -- Andrew. Stella is Italian for 'star'). The boat is a catamaran and is the centerpiece of an organization called WoW, for Wheels on Waves. Their aim, in their words:
...promote the rights of disabled people in the world by sailing the Mediterranean on board Lo Spirito di Stella, the first boat of its kind in the world to be fully accessible to the disabled, carrying a universal message of equality and accessibility along the Mediterranean coast.The headquarter of WoW is in the town of Thiene in the province of Vicenza, about 75 km (47 mi) west of Venice and 200 km (120 mi) east of Milan. Andrew was born in nearby Sandrigo in 1976, studied law, took his degree and then decided to celebrate with a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. There he was involved in a shooting, which left him paralyzed below the waist. He has dedicated the rest of his life to combining his love for the open sea with building and operating the world's first sailing vessel "without architectural barriers." WoW is officially a non-profit organization engaged in sports and cultural projects for the disabled; it has ties with similar groups, such as Planet Mobility, that sell and hire specialist mobility equipment. He acts as a consultant to identify solutions that unite accessibility, functionality and design. He has been a Knight of the Italian Republic since 2007. As a sailor, Andrew, has two Atlantic crossings under his belt and has written an autobiography, Due ruote sull'oceano (Two wheels across the ocean).
They are in Naples this week on the 10th leg of a 12-port cruise that has included Venice, Rimini, Bari, and Catania.
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July 16 - Maybe this is "installation art" or "conceptual art". In any event, it comes with the blessings of UNHCR (the United Nations High Commission of Refugees) and is taking place this week in Palermo, Sicily and no doubt will be held over or set up again at a later date and somewhere else. "It" is "Flags - Malmediterraneo" (note the "mal" before Mediterranean — as in malady, malaise, malcontent — it's all bad. You get the idea.) The display is the work of Nino Raso (image below), a resident of the island of Pantelleria, the Italian island in the Strait of Sicily, 100 km (62 mi) SW of Sicily and 60 km (37 miles) east of the Tunisian coast. Yes, closer to Africa than to Italy.
The island is volcanic, rugged, and inhospitable to the shoddy wooden rafts and so-called boats that many migrants use to make the Great Escape to Europe. Many of these boats have broken apart on the sharp rocks of Pantelleria and you can see the bits and pieces just by walking along at water's edge (image, above, right). These really are "pictures worth a thousand words." Nino Raso has seen them and retrieved some and used his skills to craft together 24 national flags made from the wooden remains, fragments big and small. He has strung them out in a row for his exhibit. Do we know what happened to all those people? Probably not. Is there anything that we can do... that the nations represented by these flags can/will do? We'd better hope so.
*note: the photo at the upper right is clearly not a fragment of a boat. It is one of the flags produced by the artist and put in the water as publicity for the exhibit. It appears to be the flag of Jordan.
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July 17 - The Iron Age. Usually when they go digging around the grounds of the Capodimonte Wood and Museum, they come up with items from relatively recent times, maybe the Bourbon dynasty, possibly some medieval ruins; then, not so recent, maybe something Roman or Greek, but this one is special. They have just found fifteen burials of which five are simple pit graves and ten are tufa (alias tuff/limestone) sarcophagi from the 8th-7th century BC. That puts it in the "Iron Age," says the news clipping. The items retrieved include ceramic and bronze vases, pitchers with intertwining handles, about a hundred oil jars of various sizes, plus sundry cups and containers; as well, they found spears, javelins and bronze brooches. The material has been removed for further study and will eventually be put on display. To put this in further context, the 8th-7th century BC is shortly before the Greeks of Magna Grecia started arriving in southern Italy. The term "iron age" (and the earlier Bronze Age and even earlier Stone Age) are a convenient way to keep track chronologically of history (and prehistory) by specifying what kind of technology was used. This "three-age system," however, is not the same from one part of the world to another, and such a term as "Iron Age" does not necessarily tell us much about what the people were like, culturally, so one needs to apply it with caution. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology reminds us:
[...The three ages]...are the broadest of technological stages. They are purely arbitrary technological labels, which do not coincide with any levels of social evolution...[or]... universal stages of human development up which all human climbed... [There is now]...evidence of great biological and cultural diversity in the past... They are more labels of convenience than precision.
It's still a great find, though. I look forward to the exhibit. [Again, thanks to Jeff Miller for this.]
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July 19 - Summer Posters. I live on a street that has one bill-board after another. In summer that usually means that all the many theaters in town will have their ads up. They're not too easy to read from the street because there are trees blocking your line of sight, and you shouldn't be reading bill-boards while you drive, anyway. They're easy to read if you're walking along the sidewalk (pavement to my Brit friends!) and looking up at them, but you shouldn't do that, either, for three reasons: (1) you might bump into some texting idiot who is busy with his/her "friends" (HAH!), knock the phone out his/her hands and then out of pure lack of Christian compassion be forced to jump up and down on the phone and smash it to smithereens, (2) You might slip and fall on the gobs of poster glue that the poster putter-uppers slop all over the place and just leave there (you can always sue the city (HAH!)2, (3) You might slip and fall on/in the Sirius Stuff.
So, here are two from this morning. At the upper right, you will see that we are getting the St .Petersburg Ballet Company doing Tschaikowsky's (alias Tchaikovsy, Tchaikowsy, Chaikovsky, Caikowsky and Peter) Swan Lake. They will swim forth at the lovely outdoor Arena Flegrea on the premises of the Mostra d'Oltremare on the western side of Naples. That's near the Zoo (nice segue, Jeff), which has put up the poster on the left. It contains the classiest bit of Vesuvius photomorphing I have ever seen. Forget the cutesy chimp in the middle of the first O and the big cat in the second one. Look at Vesuvius (alias the Somma-Vesuvius volcanic comples) and note that Somma (on the left) and Vesuvius (on the right) retain their natural profiles until they morph up and out into the neck and head of a Bactrian camel (that's the one with two humps, as opposed to the one-humped dromedary -- as if you didn't know). I don't like zoos, but I might drop by and find whatever cage they keep the graphic geeks in and say, "Nice going!"
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July 21 - The Good Ship Anything You Want.
Boats of the Bay 2018 - Most ships around islands in the Gulf get you where you want to go. This ship does that, but also lets you hang around inside for a while, especially if you have curious kids. If you yourself are curious, so much the better. The ship is internally a brilliantly illustrated life of the sea creatures of the local area, real and imagined, some of your "favorite things": Sperm whales and starfish,/ jellyfish and mermaids,/ dolphins and Typhon/ the monstrous serpent,/ (C'mon, sing, I know you hear it!) -- all of those things that you saw or hoped to see between Pozzuoli and the island of Ischia.
The new ship that connects Casamicciola on Ischia to the mainland is the Giulia. She is 86 meters long, 17 meters at the beam, can carry 786 passengers, over 100 cars, has 4 engines and does about 9 knots (look it up, landlubber!). It also has minimal barriers that might interfere with passengers with restricted mobility. With this new unit, the Medmar line hopes for 10,000 trips a year to and from Ischia, ensuring maritime mobility throughout the year. The illustrations of the myths and legends of the Gulf of Naples are the work of Ada Natale, Neapolitan illustrator linked to the young publishing house "Barometz". (photos from la Repubblica)
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July 22 - Edenlandia to reopen! I don't know how many times I have written that phrase about this most popular amusement park/Fun Fair in the city. The original page for Edenlandia is here and it might be worthwhile to review the history a bit. This particular item is new and is now linked as an update on the original page.
The new grand opening is set for next Wednesday. DON'T GO WEDNESDAY! In typical fashion for places like Naples (you mean there's more than one?) the inauguration opens the place for photo ops and back-patting. Then they all go home. The next day the public gets in. The new company is called Grc Outsider and for at least a while the most featured rides will be those that are particularly for young children. So the Dare-Devil Drop of Death is not yet on. And, importantly, the food shops should be open, which is why most people go. Put the kids on a slow swing, keep an eye on them, and go get some food. That isn't as easy as it sounds. Watch the kids.
Eventually, the more exciting rides should come on line -- a climbing wall, some horse or pony rides, period cars, bumper-cars (here that comes right off the street. It's second nature. Of course you try to hit the other car! What's not to like? Although --true story-- I saw an identical ride at a German Volksfest where they assumed the fun part was avoiding the other cars! I saw a fist-fight break out over a collision. United Europe?) There will be a few featured castles and the Pirate Ship from past incarnations of Edenlandia.
[This was reported in La Repubblica of 22 July 2018 by Tiziana Cozzo. Photo by Ricardo Siano.]
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July 26 - I noted above that learning to drive bumper cars is not an acquired skill in Naples, since all cars in Naples are made to bump and the people are born to bump. It is what one does. I compared that to an episode I witnessed in Germany where the point was not to bump. I immediately heard from Prof. Warren J. of Augsburg, Germany:
Prof. J has told me the choice phrase he used on the poor German "rowdy" -- a much overused word, in my view -- but Prof. J.'s citing of Al Capone is telling. He (Johnson) is from Chicago, and he is a professor, so it was an elegant combination:
You are quite right about German bumper-cars driving etiquette.
There were only two bumper-cars running around the rink. Michael, who was just 3-years-old, and I drove ours in a civilized fashion. The other one was driven by a rowdy. The first time he slammed us Michael's glasses flew off his face. Hurling a nasty look at the rowdy, I caught Michael's glasses just in time and he pulled them back in place tucking the big bows behind his little ears.
The second time, the rowdy slammed us, Michael's glasses flew off again. This time I warned the rowdy he'd better stop it. The third time was too much. The rowdy's car got stuck against ours providing me the opportunity to stand up and put my foot in his cockpit. Leaning very close, I quietly asked him a simple question. Al Capone would have been proud of my choice of words. Fear was written all over the rowdy's face. The manager of the rink saw everything but heard nothing. I demanded my money back and got it. We left before our friends and helpers in blue arrived. It's against the law to pose a question of the sort I asked.
Listen very closely to my question. Have you wearied of living a long life?
We have decided that there will never be real peace in Europe until the Bumper Car Question is dealt with. How nations throughout the civilized universe(s) drive bumper cars may determine the fate of us all. It won't be easy. For all we know it may even involve quantum entanglement, or worse -- long division! Thus, we have called for a rarely convened meeting of the UNHCBC (United Nations High Commission on Bumper Cars). I'm for it, but I also live in Naples and I say, "Bump on, Macduff! And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'"
"Not so fast, you rowdy," said Johnson and noted some important points for the UNHCBC: "You can look up Brownian Motion, Random Walk, or Self-avoiding Walk and see that in each case, the square-root of something creeps into the calculations. For Einstein it was the square-root of time, for others it is the square-root of steps. Since steps take time, the several solutions boil down to the same thing. For Bumper Cars, take the square-root of N-1. If there are two bumper cars on the rink, one of them will hit you. If there are 17 bumper cars on the rink, 4 of them will rub your bumper. If there are 101 BCs rolling, ten of them will be on you in no time flat. Not by accident, the same model applies to driving in Naples." Hmmm. I don't think we need the UN after all. Peace will prevail. (Sigh. Yet one us -- me -- admits to a sense of exciting prenostalgia at the not yet announcement by Elon Musk of his Self-Bumping Car!)
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July 28 -
Nice view of yesterday's total lunar eclipse for Italy's great philosopher of Italian national unity, Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72), from his perch just across from the Angevin fortress.
This photo appeared in today's on-line edition of la Repubblica. The photographer is Riccardo Siano.
Mazzini is thinking, "OK, it's a great view, but I wonder why I'm not up at Piazza Mazzini instead of down here." The bust is one of the infamous confusing statues of Naples.The bust is the work of Neapolitan realist sculptor, Achille D'Orsi (1845-1929). It was originally near the National Museum and bears the inscription, Mazzini / Napoli/ 1920. It was moved to the new location during the current reconfiguration of Piazza Municipio.
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July 29 -
The National Archaeological Museum of Naples is now commonly referred to by its Italian acronym, MANN (I'm sure you can figure that one out!). It houses a significant numismatic collection. It goes without saying that many of the important sites in the area such as Pompeii or Herculaneum have their own coin collections, but for one-stop & shoplift numismatics the MANN collection is one of the best in Italy, even in the world. It's either the mother or the grand-daddy of all collections (depending on how you feel about your gender this morning).
In Italian the term for a coin collection is medaliere, literally a "medal collection" because it also deals with items that, strictly speaking, are not coins but also commemorative medals. The MANN Medal Collection comprises about 150,000 items that span a very long period of history from the ancient Greeks to the last days of the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples. The collection, as it formed over the centuries, picked up such things, for example, as the Farnese Renaissance collection (considered the nucleus of the MANN collection), the collections of Carafa di Noja, the Borgia collection, that of Francis I of Bourbon, and others, including those from the surrounding archaeological sites of ancient Rome, including Pompeii. They even have a section of "genuine" fakes; back when the Bourbons rediscovered ancient Rome in the 1700s, they had not yet dug up enough real Roman coins to supply the Grand Tourists, so ye old Bourbon mint went into a little harmless counterfeiting. Those fakes now have their own numismatic value -- as almost the real thing. The item displayed here is a Vespasian gold coin from the mint of ancient Rome, dated to 75-79 AD. It is in hall 1, showcase 2, labelled as n.4. If you like money -- and who doesn't? -- this is for you. Hurry before they install the spider-web laser array that foils even the ablest contortionists.
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There were many British volunteers who went to join the cause of Italian unity, specifically in the Second War of Italian Independence, fighting for the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1859 and 1860. One stood out remarkably in that he bore a striking resemblance to Garibaldi himself! His name was John Whitehead Peard, born in 1811 in Fowey, a beach town on the Fowey estuary on the southeast coast of Cornwall. Peard trained for the bar but quickly became taken with the cause of Italian unity and with the person of Italy's patriotic hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1859, the young Englishman travelled to Italy to join Garibaldi and offered to serve with no rank and for free. He joined Garibaldi in 1860 at Marsala (Sicily) at the beginning of the march to Naples. He distinguished himself and was made a colonel and put in charge of his own group of soldiers. Throughout, he was known as "Garibaldi's Englishman." The resemblance was so striking (although he was taller than Garibaldi and kept his beard longer) that Garibaldi's own men often confused him with their leader and hailed him when he passed. Garibaldi's forces used this to their advantage by issuing false messages (that they knew would be intercepted) reporting Garibaldi to be in locations he wasn't. Peard, himself, sent off the false messages and they are believed to have influenced Bourbon defensive postures as they shifted here and there to meet the real Garibaldi who was quite likely somewhere else. These tactics are said to have been instrumental in causing the Bourbon forces to retreat from Salerno and later from Naples.
Peard led the 600-man group of the British legion when they entered the city of Naples on 15 October 1860. He was decorated by Victor Emanuel II (the first king of united Italy), which met with great acclaim in England. With the war over, Garibaldi went back home to his tiny island, Caprera, off of northern Sardinia. When he later visited England in April of 1864, he went to see his old "double" on the banks of the Fowey river. Peard died in November of 1880 and is buried in the Fowey cemetery. In the Janiculum park in Rome there is a bust of him dedicated to the garibaldino inglese (the English 'Garibaldino').
The photograph at the top is by Henry Hering (1814-1893) and is in the National Portrait Gallery, London. Hering was a prominent "society photographer" but is best remembered for his "asylum photography," specifically a ground-breaking series in which he took scores of photos between 1856-60 of patients in Bethlem (from whence the term "bedlam") Royal Hospital at Beckenham in south London, in order to examine their faces for evidence of their mental health conditions. It is not clear when or where this photo of Peard was taken. Most likely it was after the Garibaldi campaign and in England when Peard had achieved celebrity status.
The watercolor is by Thomas Nast (1840-1902), the most influential American political cartoonist of the 1800s.
As artist for The Illustrated London News, he joined Garibaldi in Italy in 1860. Nast's cartoons (including this one of Peard) and articles about Garibaldi's military campaign to unify Italy captured the popular imagination in the U.S.