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Around Naples in English

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: Jeff Matthews

Dubbing (film)

This model of Oliver Hardy is on via S. Gregorio Armeno. The Italian voice of Ollie was Alberto Sordi. It was a spectacularly successful example of dubbing.

ollie statueI was watching a skit with Neapolitan comic Massimo Troisi the other night on TV. Although I should know better, I was upset that I didn't understand the uncompromisingly authentic Neapolitan dialect. There were, however, subtitles to make the dialect intelligible to viewers from elsewhere in Italy who might be watching. For a long time, I had assumed that foreigners were the only ones who had such troubles. Not so. Italian dialects can vary considerably from standard Italian, so it is common to see such films with subtitles. 

Interestingly, that is about the only time in Italy that you see subtitles in films. Foreign films—unlike Italian dialect films—are always dubbed into Italian. Films are dubbed so well and so consistently in Italy, that it is common for a single dubber to shadow the career of a foreign actor for years. For example, with your back turned to the screen, even if the film is in Italian, you know that Woody Allen is speaking, because his dubber is always Italian comic Oreste Lionello. If Marlon Brando, Robert Redford and Paul Newman all sound the same in Italian, it's because the same dubber, Giuseppe Rinaldi, does all three of the voices.  Emilio Cigoli does both John Wayne and Clark Gable, so you may actually have to turn around and look at the screen to find out if you're watching Stagecoach or Gone With the Wind

Dubbing a film is much more expensive than simply slapping subtitles at the bottom of the screen. Dubbing involves a sound studio, hiring voices for each character and doing take after take in an attempt to get the original inflecions into a voice, and then making sure that the new language synchronizes as well as possible with the lip movements on the screen. Nothing is worse than bad dubbing, where the emotions of the voice don't fit the action, and where the synchronization is so out of whack that half the time the actors look like poor souls on street corners making silent fish-like mouth movements to themselves. 

The biggest reason why Italians choose to dub films rather than subtitle them goes back to when "talkies" started in the late 1920s. In a nation dealing with drastic differences in dialects, dubbing was a way to help create a sense of a single national language. Thus, even Italian actors with easily identifiable regional accents have been dubbed into more "standard" Italian. (At the beginning of her career, Sophia Loren was dubbed, apparently because of her regional accent from Pozzuoli, near Naples.) Interestingly, after two decades of good dubbing, Italians were so used to standard Italian in films, that when the wave of post-WW II Italian films known as "Neo-Realism" came in, with their dialogues recorded live in Sicilian, Neapolitan and Roman dialects, it came as a shock to many Italians to realize that they didn't really understand many of their own countrymen. ("Precisely the point," said more than one Neo-Realist director.) 

Italian dubbing is generally so consistent that mimics regularly "do" foreign actors who have characteristic vocal styles—say, John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. Such attention is paid to quality dubbing that Greta Garbo, for example, upon hearing herself in Italian for the first time, sat down and wrote a fan letter to her Italian voice, owned by actress Tina Latenzi. And some dubbing, of course, requires the same unusual verbal dexterity as the original voice—witness the tongue-twisting pyrotechnics of Stefano Sibaldi, the Italian voice of Danny Kaye. 

Perhaps the strangest sidelight in this whole matter is that dubbed voices can become part and parcel of another culture, evoking allusions and inside jokes just as do the original voices in their own culture. The Italian voices of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are the best example of this. When talkies came in, Laurel and Hardy had already achieved world-wide fame on the basis of their short silent movies. There was such a new demand for them speaking, however, that for a time they actually reshot their scenes hurriedly  in other languages, pronouncing their lines from  scripts written in phonetic English. These scenes would then be sent abroad to be spliced into the rest of the film, which had been  remade in the target language using local actors. That soon proved impractical, especially for longer feature films. Consequently, for the Italian market the decision was made to dub the films of Laurel and Hardy in American studios using Italian-American actors, who, presumably, thought they were speaking standard Italian. Their own Italian, however, had been maimed by at least one generation of nasal semi-vowels, unrolled r's and Wrigley's Spearmint. 

When the studios in Rome reviewed the first dubbed-in-America Laurel and Hardy film to see what they had, the American English accented voices were so hilarious, that someone came up with the idea of redubbing  everyone else into normal Italian, but leaving Stan and Ollie with accents. There followed a nation-wide contest to find the voices of Laurel and Hardy in Italian. One winner was the now famous Italian comic, Alberto Sordi, whose career started as the voice of Oliver Hardy. His anglicized Italian as 'Ollie' has become so much a part of Italian popular culture that an Italian, today, can do Oliver Hardy by saying, with a broad English language accent, "stupido " (accenting the second, instead of the first, syllable, in imitation of Sordi's version of Oliver Hardy)  and have it recognized as instantly as an English-speaker would recognize, "Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten me into!"  Indeed, Italian mimics still regularly pay tribute to Laurel and Hardy, imitating the dubbed voices. (The Italian voice of Stan Laurel was Mauro Zambuto, who, after WW II, moved to the United States and became a professor of Electrical Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.) 

So, without taking anything away from the universal nature of the humor of Laurel and Hardy, it is fair to say that in Italy, much of their popularity was—and still is—due to the spectacularly successful way they are dubbed. There is no Italian comic (not even the great Totò) who, by voice alone, is as recognizable as are Laurel and Hardy in Italian. The only competition in recognizability might be the Italian voice of Donald Duck! Most of the voices in those cartoons are, indeed, dubbed into relatively normal Italian—except for Donald. He still quacks, but his Italian dubber is none other than Clarence Nash, the original English voice of Donald Duck for the Disney studios and who dubbed himself into many foreign languages—including Japanese. Apparently, Nash was one of the few persons to have truly mastered the difficult trick of compressing air in the cheek cavity and producing articulate quacks. (Phoneticians call this the "buccal voice". To the rest of us, it's known as "duckspeak".) 

Anyway, gotta run. I hear the sultry, breathless tones of Rosetta Calavetta on the tube. Marilyn Monroe, to you. 

Diplomatic Relations, US/Naples (1); Hammett, A.

Quite by accident I came across an item the other day from December, 1996. It was a press statement from the U.S. State Department commenting on the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the USA and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. In part, it said: 

This Day in Diplomacy:  Establishment of Diplomatic Relations With the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies on December 16, 1796.

Today the city of Naples will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies of which Naples was capital. The rapid expansion of American trade in the Mediterranean basin and a growing regional instability created by the French revolution and North African piracy required an expanded diplomatic and military presence in the region by the fledgling American government.  Naples, as the largest city on the Italian peninsula, was a major port of call for American merchant vessels.  Moreover, the Bourbon regime still enjoyed in the last years of the 18th century its reputation as one of the pioneering reform states of the European Enlightenment.

Until most of Italy was united in 1861 as the Kingdom of Italy, the United States maintained separate diplomatic and consular representatives at Naples. Continuous U.S. diplomatic representation at the court of the Two Sicilies only began in 1831, and then, in keeping with the cautious regard of American republicanism toward European monarchies, such representation was almost always a Charge d'Affaires rather than a full Minister.  American commerce, however, made necessary continuous consular representation at Naples from 1796. For 52 years, from 1809 until 1861, Alexander Hammett of Maryland served continuously as American consul at Naples.  During his long tenure, Hammett reported on wars, revolutions, and the expansion of U.S. trade.

I was in Naples in December 1996, and I'm sure I would recall any large-scale popular celebrations of the anniversary of the establishment of relations between the USA and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (also known as the Kingdom of Naples). There were none—not even any clandestine humming of the Bourbon Royal March. No doubt, this has to do with the fact that said kingdom went out of business in 1860. 

Alexander Hammett sounds like an interesting person, though. He represented the US in Naples for over half a century. The dates invite further investigation that I shall have to get around to sooner or later. If he started his tenure in 1809, that would be in the middle of the short reign of Murat, who ruled for Bonaparte during what is still called the  "The Decade" in Neapolitan history. When Murat was deposed in 1814, it seems that Hammett simply stayed on as US representative. That strikes me as unusual. 

The first mention of relations between the new American nation and Naples is in the National Archives in Naples. A Neapolitan businessman, one Vincenzo Cutini, made a request on March 12, 1783, to be appointed Consul in the United States. That date is interesting in that it is before the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the American Revolution, meaning there really was no United States of America, yet. The King of Naples, however, decided that the time was not yet ripe and Cutini's request was turned down. Over the next two years, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin all actively pursued the cause of Neapolitan recognition of the US. Though diplomatic recognition did not result from any of this manoeuvring, a somewhat informal period of commerce ensued. Also, in 1785 the US, concerned about danger to its merchant fleet in the Mediterranean at the hands of the Barbary pirates, requested aid, if the need should arise, from the Neapolitan fleet. 

By 1796, the position of the United States had consolidated and it was in that year that John Mathieu became the first American Consul in Naples. He was followed in 1806 (the year that Murat took over Naples) by Frederick Degan, who served until 1809, at which time Alexander Hammett became Consul and then Charge d'Affaires when full diplomatic relations were established in 1834. In November 1860, the US diplomatic legation was closed as the kingdom of Naples was officially annexed to the rest of Italy. Consular representation in Naples continued, but Hammett was dischared by the new Lincoln administration. One source I have read refers to him as "a gifted amateur" and another tells me that he died in the "almshouse". That would be a sad end. If he left a diary, I wonder if it is in the National Library downtown. As much as I hate to fight my way into that place, this one is tempting. 

Posillipo (2); Seiano Grotto (2); Vedius Pollio (villa)

I finally got the opportunity to take a tour through the Seiano Grotto). We started at the Coroglio (Bagnoli) side and traversed the 700-meter tunnel to come out on the Posillipo side and then walked up and looked at the Imperial Villa of Pausylipon. 

The information in the other entry (linked above) is essentially correct, but needs some amplification. The name "Seiano" may be a misnomer for this impressive bit of engineering. The tradition that links the construction of the tunnel to the will of Lucius Aelius Sejanus, Tiberius' ambitious right-hand man and would-be successor, is probably wrong. More recent archaeological thought on the matter connects the gallery to Vedius Pollio, the builder of the spectacular villa, itself. The tunnel was a private passage for Pollio so he wouldn't have to take the long way home. 

Pollio was an ex-slave from Benevento known for his industriousness, ambition, economic wheelings and dealings in North Africa and subsequent great wealth, and cruelty to his own servants. His villa is mentioned in a number of classical references as a worthy rival in luxuriousness to even the fabled villa of Lucullus, a few miles down the coast in what was Neapolis, itself. It was only after Pollio's death that the premises passed to Caesar Augustus, apparently in exchange for a promise by the emperor to honor Pollio's name with a public building in Benevento—a promise that Augustus reneged on. (Who knows why? Maybe Augustus just didn't like Pollio. There is one story that says that Pollio was about to put to death a servant who had just broken a dish. Houseguest Caesar Augustus was so appalled that he bought the servant and his entire family from Pollio and took them with him back to Rome—after ordering that the rest of Pollio's crockery be smashed. (Name a building after you? I don't think so.) 

When Augustus came into possession of the property, the tunnel then became part of the public network of roads that connected the important port of Pozzuoli to Naples, much like its sister tunnel that joined Fuorigrotta to Naples (near what is today the Mergellina train station), and only then that the premises became an "imperial" villa. There are signs that the estate was still an imperial residence under Hadrian (the early 2nd century) and that the tunnel itself was in use as late as the fall of the empire, itself—the late 6th century. After that, it disappears from history until 1840 when the Bourbons rediscovered the Coroglio entrance to the gallery while doing some road building of their own. The tunnel was sealed in the 1980s and then reopened in the 1990s for the restoration that finished just two years ago. 

The imperial premises start a hundred yards or so from the exit of the tunnel up a slope toward the cliff, itself. They consisted of a residence, temple, amphitheater (capacity about 2,000), an odeon (a covered theater), and a nympheum (a shrine), all spread over a considerable area directly beneath the height of Cape Posillipo. One view is to that cape and the bay of Pozzuoli beyond, including the small island of Nisida and the larger island of Ischia miles away. The western panorama is toward Naples, Vesuvius, and Capri. "Breathtaking" doesn't begin to cover it. 

What one sees today (photo at top), however, in the way of remnants of imperial splendor is shabby, indeed— and this is not just due to the ravages of time. The residence was rediscovered at about the same time as the tunnel, and, almost immediately, someone built a large private villa directly above the main amphitheater, using much of the original masonry for construction material. That villa is now abandoned and totally in ruins, and the adjacent amphitheater shows the ravages of that original depredation plus another century and a half of looting. Almost none of the looted marble and statuary has wound up in proper museums. 

It is not clear whether this Roman estate was built on the site of earlier Greek structures or not. One interesting item that says "maybe" is the fact that the rows of seats in the amphitheater are hewn out of the stone itself—in the manner of Greek amphitheaters—rather than being freestanding. All of that remains to be determined as restoration goes forward. The property, itself, is now partially in private hands, but restoration continues on that part of the property that has reverted to the cultural offices of the state. The plans are ambitious. So far, the amphitheater has been cleared of rubble and the small odeon has been restored such that a small public can enjoy performances of one sort or another during the summer months overlooking the coast of Posillipo. 


In a culture that abounds with famous place names such as "Santa Lucia" and "Vesuvius,"  "Piedigrotta" still stands out as  one of the best-known names among Neapolitans, themselves. The name, itself, means "at the foot of the grotto," referring to the nearby Roman tunnel that leads beneath the hill in back of the church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta; that grotto connects the section of  Naples known as Mergellina at the west end of the bay with Fuorigrotta —"beyond the grotto," today a thriving and large suburb of Naples. The old Roman tunnel was bypassed many decades ago by a modern traffic tunnel on the right of the church. 

[See here  and here for more about tunnels.]

Newspaper from 1885 featuring the Festival of Piedigrotta
Piedigrotta is connected in popular Neapolitan culture with the famous "Festival of Piedigrotta", a celebration on September 8, a spectacular parade led by  viceroys and Kings, passing along the entire length of the seaside road, Riviera di Chaia, and winding up at the church, itself. The parade was a yearly affair in the 1600s under the Spanish (who built the road leading to the church as they expanded the city to the west) and in the 1700s under the Bourbons. It was still held during the 19th century. 

Beginning in the 1830s, the Festival of Piedigrotta held a song-writing contest for composers of Neapolitan songs and is responsible for providing us with such songs as "Funicuì-Funiculà" (the winner from 1880) and many others. Much more recently, although there is still a celebration at the church, the parade is no longer held. 

The church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta is first mentioned in a document from 1207 and is mentioned prominently by both Boccaccio and Petrach in the 1300s. Over the centuries, the church has been redone and expanded many times. The current façade of the church is from the 1850s. There is also an adjacent monastery that now serves as a military hospital. Also, near the entrance to the grotto (above) and behind the church is a monument billed as Virgil's Tomb

Perhaps the most interesting thing, historically, has to do with the site, rather than the church. That is, the grotto led to the fabled Phlegrean Fields, the mythological entrance to Hades, and thus lent itself well to mysterious carryings-on. Pre-Christian religions almost certainly used the site near the present church as a place for their rituals. One speculation—by no less than the great Neapolitan dialect poet, Salvatore Di Giacomo (citing "scholarly sources")—is that here was the setting of Petronius' Satyricon, that great bit of pornography from the first century a.d. Di Giacomo starts to cite the passage about the three young men out for a good time going into the cave and running into a band of women. Then, he blushes to continue. As do I. 

Caracciolo, F.

Portrait of Caracciolo by an unknown artist
"Caracciolo" is an old and prominent Neapolitan surname. There are at least 50 bearers of that name in the current Naples phone book. Indeed, the name has divided into various branches over the centuries—"Caracciolo–of–here" and "Caracciolo–of–there," resulting in some very impressive listings in the directory. There is a "Prince Landolfo Amrogio Caracciolo di Melissano". That is the longest one I see, although, without a title, Francesco Alberto Caracciolo di Torchiarolo" edges him out by a few letters. (From the address in the phone book, he is my next-door neighbor, although I don't know why that should matter to me.) 

There are even four different streets named via Caracciolo in Naples: Batistella Caracciolo (renowned painter of the Neapolitan Baroque, contemporary of Ribera and Caravaggio); Bartolomeo Caracciolo, about whom I know nothing; T. Caracciolo (the T stands for Tristan, I think); and the one that all Neapolitans think of when they hear the name "Caracciolo" —Francesco. The splendid road that runs from Mergellina to Piazza Vittoria along the sea, fronting the Villa Comunale, thus, is named for Francesco Caracciolo (1752-1799), the Neapolitan admiral whose named is dramatically linked in history with the rise and fall of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799 and with the principal players in that episode: Queen Caroline, King Ferdinand, Lady Hamilton, and, especially, Horatio Nelson. (What follows may be read as an adjunct to other entries about that period: The Bourbons, part 1Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel; and Cardinal Ruffo.) 

Francesco Caracciolo was born January 18, 1752 of a noble Neapolitan family. He entered the navy at a young age and fought with distinction with the Kingdom of Naples' ally, the British, in the American Revolutionary War. He also fought the Barbary pirates and against the French at Toulon. In December of 1798, the Neapolitan monarchy fled the capital in the face of the insurgent Neapolitan republican forces backed by the French army at the gates of the city. The King and Queen fled to Sicily on Nelson's ship, the "Vanguard", escorted by Caracciolo on the Neapolitan frigate "Sannita". 

Caracciolo returned to Naples in January to take care of private matters and arrived in the city after the Republic had been declared. His behavior at that point has remained the subject of speculation. Either he resented being snubbed by King Ferdinand, who had fled aboard Nelson's vessel and not Caracciolo's, or he was appalled at the cowardly flight, itself, or he was truly taken with the newly proclaimed Neapolitan Republic. Whatever the case, he took command of the naval forces of the new Republic. In other words, he betrayed his king. 

The church of Santa Maria della Catena, the final resting place of Admiral Caracciolo.
He led the Republican navy against royalist Neapolitan and British naval forces for the brief life of the Republic, his last major engagement being an attack on the British flagship, the Minerva, inflicting damage on that vessel. The Republic, however, was doomed by the withdrawal of French forces from Naples and by the arrival of the royalist Army of the Holy Faith under Cardinal Ruffo. Caracciolo was captured. His trial is a matter of record and takes place against the whole backdrop of deceit by which the Royalist forces actually retook the city. The agreed to an armistice, promised safe passage to Republican defenders (presumably including Caracciolo), and then put the Republicans on trial, anyway. 

There was never any doubt as to Caracciolo's fate. Queen Caroline had relayed to Nelson her wish that Caracciolo should hang, no matter what. Caracciolo was tried aboard a British ship, the Foudroyant, by Neapolitan royalist officers and charged with high treason. He was not permitted to call witnesses in his defence. He was condemned to death by three votes to two. He was not given the customary twenty-four hours for personal matters of the spirit. His request to be shot was denied and he was hanged from the yardarm of the Minerva on the morning of June 30, 1799. His body was weighted and thrown into the sea. 

One of the mainstays of modern Neapolitan mythology is that the body refused to sink, floating to the surface and eerily bobbing its way towards shore. Indeed, there is even a painting showing King Ferdinand aboard his ship, aghast at the sight of the admiral's corpse floating alongside. Whatever the case, Caracciolo's body was retrieved from the sea and his remains now rest in the small church of Santa Maria della Catena in the Santa Lucia section of Naples. 

Cucceius Auctus, Lucius

There was an interesting documentary on television last night about the underwater remains of Portus Iulius, the port for the Roman Western Fleet. The coastline and sea-level have changed in two-thousand years and much of the original port is now underwater in the bay of Pozzuoli. I have been scuba diving in that area and recall some of the submerged bits and pieces of what was once the most important port for the greatest fleet in the world. Then, I head a name: "Lucio Cocceio," the architect, the builder. I had heard that name before. 

Indeed, Lucius Cucceius Auctus was apparently the architect, designer, and builder under Caesar Augustus. By his accomplishments, he is hardly to be matched in history. He built the original Pantheon in Rome in 27 b.c. He built four major tunnels in the area of Naples: the so-called "Neapolitan Crypt," the tunnel that connected the port of Pozzuoli and the adjacent area of the Phlegrean Fields with the city of Neapolis; the "Gallery of Peace," which joined Lake Averno to fleet facilities at Cuma; a tunnel that joined Lake Averno to nearby Lake Lucrino; and the ("Seiano Grotta")—all this in addition to the entire Portus Iulius, itself. Also, I was wandering around the recently excavated old city of Pozzuoli. The cathedral of Pozzuoli burned in 1964 and, lo and behold, they found that it had been built over the "Temple of Augustus" (photo). The temple was built at the behest of a rich merchant, one Lucius Calpurnius, during the age of the August One—and built by Lucius Cucceius Auctus. 

I am sure that there were other prominent feats of engineering and construction performed by Cucceius, except I don't know what they are. I was sort of hoping to find an exhaustive—or even an exhausted—biography. So far, no luck. 

Art, modern; Kapoor, Anish

The city of Naples—in its never-ending quest to bring art to the masses and especially to the masses who ride the subway to work—is not just going to spruce up the soon-to-be-finished university station at Monte Sant'Angelo with a few paintings or statues or even bronzed old jalopies disguised as installation art. They have hired British/Indian artist Anish Kapoor to turn the entire station, itself, into a work of art. The station will be among the deepest in Italy (about 40 meters) and—well, the area is in the Phlegrean Fields, not far from the mythological descent into Hades— so, says Kapoor: "We want to create the impression of a Dantean descent into the underworld." No one seems to know exactly what that means, and few are in a hurry to find out. It's hell getting to work, anyway. 

Neapolitans are most familiar with Kapoor from his gigantic site sculpture, Taratantara, originally created for the new Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts in England in 1999, but then set up in Piazza Plebiscito (photo) in Naples in December of 2000 as that year's contribution to the annual exposition of installation art of one sort or another (see here). The title is meant to be echoic of the sound made by a trumpet fanfare, as in Roman poet Quintus Ennius' line, "At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit" — ("But the trumpet sounded with its terrible taratantara", the onomatopoeia usually left untranslated). Indeed, the sculpture suggests two funnel-like trumpet bells joined and flaring out to both ends, something like those strange geometric figures that scientists use to describe what sort of transdimensional hyperspace thing (a technical term) we shall have to traverse if we ever hope to reach the stars. Taratantara was made of a shiny red membrane, glittered in the sun, was about 50 meters long, 20 high and anchored in Piazza Plebiscito by steel columns at each end. While it was up, the columns were scaled by demonstrators. They weren't out to damage the sculpture—and didn't—but the offices of the Naples Prefecture bounds the north side of the square and that's always a good place to have a demonstration. 

I am reminded of a clipping I read once in the paper:   

An English art student's work was thrown out, literally, after an official at a Birmingham art center mistook it for trash from the opening day party.  Ceri Davie's "Piece de Resistance" involved red jellies displayed on plates and was intended as a metaphor of decay. ‘Months of hard work had just gone to waste,’ the artist said. "I was quite horrified.

Very few of us realize the tough row that artists have to hoe in dealing with Philistines such as that art center official. This is probably because practical hoes weren’t even invented until the Middle Ages. As far as we know, the Philistines just got down on all fours and grubbed their rows into shape with their hands. 

Many years before the Decadent Red Jelly affair referred to above, one of the artist’s earlier works, Empty Paper Picnic Plate—which consisted of an empty paper picnic plate— was not all well received by critics, who found the title too hard to say five times real fast and who also mistook "empty paper" as a metaphor of life instead of a Minimalist description of  paper picnics, the plate itself being just a secondary, but sardonic, appliquè —which is just as well, since it too was given the old heave-ho. Fortunately (maybe), it was saved, since the art center official who tossed it, threw it into what he thought was a trash bin, but which, in fact, was also past of the art show. 

And then there was the artist’s Hamburger, those little pointillist nibbles of semi-conceptualist cholesterol-laden  ground Bœuf, a yummy but still youthful version of her later, futuristic, Quarter-Pounder With Cheese, in which patrons of the art show were required to flip burgers in the kitchen, then ask themselves in the drive-through microphone if they “would like fries with that?” and then—ah, the stochastic power of it all!—eat or not eat the work of art! How was the artist to know that they had scheduled the exhibit in the same hall as a dog show? It was to her credit as a resourceful master of Performance Art that she retitled the whole thing, Gone to the Dogs, A Metaphor. (Or Maybe It’s a Simile).

 Davies is not the only artist who has had this trouble. Fortunately, I am in the possession of a section of the diary of Michelangelo (the National Library knows nothing about this):   

January 8, 1504. Dear diary. I’m ruined. After years of work in chipping away the pieces, I have finally figured out where  beauty is, and it’s not in chubby women with smiling faces. I busted my hump on this one, too! (Alas, even in a society where males with humps are considered good omens, there is not much use for a sculptor with a busted one, I’m afraid.)

I spent three years on this! A veritable mountain of chips, shards, bits, detritus, little stone chunks lying where they fell, all at different odd angles, each one with a special metaphor to it,  deconstructing, as it were, the sordid and complex confusion of our times. And in stone! —in Carrara marble as eternal as the plots, counter-plots and intrigues that surround us. I was going to call it something like Plots, Counter-Plots and Intrigues. (Ok, I hadn’t given it that much thought, yet.) I figured it was about time someone put it all into permanent artistic form. Why paint anymore?! The colors will just fade and then someone will come along and invent cartoonists and hire one of them to touch up my Sistine Chapel with paint-by-the-numbers Day-Glo!

So I finish it and  leave it outside. Where else am I going to keep it, in my living room? This morning it’s gone. Those morons took the waste rock and put it on display! ‘It looks just like a boy with a slingshot. Cool!’ they said. And my work of art? ‘Oh, that crap? We threw it away,’ they said.

I was talking about this with Leonardo From Vinci (man, what a one-horse burg that dump is!). He has strung an invention of his, a ‘talk gizmo’ between his house and mine —two ceramic cups and a very long thread. It works all right, except that since our houses are many miles apart, communication kind of breaks down when Tuscan peasant women somewhere in between start hanging  laundry on the line. He says he’s working on a very long thread on a spool, which would actually let you converse as you walk around the street. Like I’m going to hold my breath waiting for that one. He asked me what I was doing wasting my time with rocks, anyway, when I could building things he called ‘aeroplanes’. He told me he was undecided about what to paint on the part he called the ‘fuselage’ — an eagle carrying lightning bolts in its talons or a chubby women with a smiling face. I  suggested a smiling woman holding lightning bolts. He was not amused. A weird man, Leo.  Frankly, I don’t think the old geezer is  playing with a  round boccie ball, anymore.  But time will tell.

I'll see your metafour and raise you five. 


       Garibaldi's triumphant entry into Naples

Garibaldi's entry into Naples

I had lunch today with a 95-year-old gentleman named Franco. He told me that his father passed away in the 1950s, also at a ripe old age. We did some quick figuring and determined that his father was born in 1867. That was the year that Marx published Das Kapital, the year in which The Beautiful Blue Danube was played for the first time, and the year in which the British North American Act created the Dominion of Canada. The typewriter was invented in 1867 and it was the year that Czar Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States. Rome was not yet the capital of a united Italy. I was one generation removed from all that. (Somehow, all that makes me feel very young rather than very old. That seems strange.) 

I am in the midst of a "pump the elderly for information" campaign about the situation in southern Italy following the unification of Italy—that is, in the decade following the unification in 1861, the year in which Piedmont, Lombardy, Parma, Modena, Lucca, Romagna, Tuscany, and the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (of which Naples was the capital) were united under Piedmont's Victor Emmanuel II to form the modern nation state of Italy. (Rome would become the capital in 1870). 

The reason for my campaign is the few enquiries I have received about northern mistreatment of the south following unification—or—to use the terminology of those southerners who express themselves vehemently about that period, the "rape of the south". There certainly is no shortage of material in Naples on the subject. I have even seen a book about "the Savoy concentration camps," in which the title uses the Nazi term "Lager" (from Konzentrationslager) just so you don't miss the point. I am looking now at a book entitled They Were the Real Bandits, those Brothers of Italy. The title contains an allusion to the first line of the Italian national anthem, known as The Hymn of Mameli (after the author of the text, Goffredo Mameli, 1827-49). The line starts, "Fratelli d'Italia…"  (Brothers of Italy), that phrase being the alternate title of the anthem, itself. The music is by Michele Novaro (1818-85). This particular book is a condemnation of all the figures popularly connected with the Risorgimento, the movement to unify Italy; that is, Garibaldi is little more than a thug in charge of a band of mercenaries, all in the hire of northern hyenas such as Cavour and Victor Emmanuel II. The defeat of the Kingdom of the Two Naples (The Kingdom of Naples) by the forces of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel was the beginning of mass unemployment and general misery for the south and the beginning of immigration away from the former Kingdom of Naples, thus depleting its greatest resource, people who want to work. And so on and so forth. 

I didn't get much from Franco, except something I already knew—the Risorgimento is sacrosanct in modern Italian history. You may take issue with the way it was done—that is, you may say something like "The unity of Italy (Risorgimento) was inevitable, but perhaps the invasion and conquest of the south was not. Maybe it could have been handled in another way."—but you can't argue with the premise that Italy was to be one. The term, itself—Risorgimento—rebirth, resurgence, resurrection (all that)—is the name that Cavour gave to the newspaper he founded in 1849. In the opening paragraph of the first issue, he spoke of the need for a "political and economic risorgimento". The name stuck and became the name of the movement, itself, to unify Italy. 

It would, however, be a mistake to view that movement strictly as the idea of northerners such as Garibaldi, Cavour, and Mazzini. Indeed, much of the philosophy underlying Italian unity comes from the south, from the members of the so-called Neapolitan Enlightenment such as Vincenzo Cuoco. Indeed, the first secret societies agitating for unity were the "carbonari", a southern invention. Thus, the drive to unity was broadbased. Could it have been achieved in any other way than by an invasion of the south? (The what-if school of history is always fun!) It turns out that on a least two occasions, Victor Emmanuel proposed an alliance with the Kingdom of Naples. He and the Neapolitans would divvy up the peninsula. Since this would entail taking over the Papal States (except for the city of Rome, itself), the King of Naples turned down the proposal as blasphemous. And, thus, Garibaldi did what he did—invaded Sicily and then the Italian mainland. He disobeyed Victor Emmanuel, by the way. "Don't invade the mainland," was the order. Garibaldi wrote a nice note, asking for permission to "disobey". It is not clear that he waited for the return mail. 

Thus—according to these books I am looking at—began a ten-year period of intense suffering for the south: looted treasury, industrial plants carried off, unjust imprisonment and even execution of Neapolitan citizens, etc. As I say, Franco was no help, other than to tell me that his grandfather—born in the 1840s—was a proud member of the Bourbon army of the Kingdom of Naples. I have one more gentleman on my list of those to be pumped. He is 105 years old. He is in good health, but now says he is feeling tired. Lunch next week—I hope—but I have the feeling that I may have to find a real historian. 


The woman next to me was complaining that "the ruins we saw in Libya are much better preserved than these."  We were standing in what amounts to ruins of ruins of ruins at Miseno, at the extreme western end of the Gulf of Naples, in the middle of what used to be Portus Iulius, the home port for the western Imperial fleet under Caesar Augustus. She was right, of course, but then antiquity holds up pretty well in the desert air. Libya, too, is about six times larger than all of Italy and has fewer people in it than I can see from my balcony in Naples. 

The specific ruins she was groaning about are a theater, at one time an amphitheater with the spectator seats—row upon row—set in the side of the cliff overlooking the outer harbor of the port—now called "Lake Miseno," such that the spectators had their backs to the hillside and, beyond the cliff, the water. Of course, we couldn't see any of that because the concave recess that was once the amphitheatre is full of modern houses, some of which actually incorporate Roman masonry.  We were actually in the manmade cavern beneath the theater, a passageway running the perimeter of the semicircular structure above and—two-thousand years ago—allowing entrance from the waterfront, itself. In order to get in there, we walked through someone's front yard and down some stairs by the driveway and garage. (Presumably a concession the owner has to make to the Ministry of Culture for being permitted to have his bathroom take up aisle IV, seats XII through XXVI.) 

Part of the problem—no, all of the problem—is that very little of this was discovered until the 1960s, when overbuilding went absolutely wild, what with everyone wanting to ride the Italian economic miracle to the outskirts and live high up overlooking the bay where, yea, brave Ulysses sailed, and only a few hundred yards from where some of the juiciest parts in The Aeneid are supposed to have played out. 

Archaeologists have discovered and excavated what is left of a sacello (a small shrine, see photo, above) built to Caesar Augustus, but any appreciation of that, as well, has to contend with adjacent apartments. Certainly, in an area of Italy with abundant and open displays of ancient Rome, such as Pompeii and Herculaneum, and even ancient Greece, such as Cuma and Paestum, it is strange to prop yourself up against a bus-stop so you can try to shoot around the rubbish bin for a good shot of a shrine to the emperor. 

Relatively unspoiled, however, and high at the top of the cliff over the bay is the Cento Camarelle -the One Hundred Little Rooms (photo, left)- a group of cisterns arranged on two levels oriented at right-angles to each other. Whether or not there are really one-hundred chambers, I don't know, but the entire labyrinth is impressive and cut out of the tuff of the cliff. The passageways between the individual cisterns are narrow and none of the entire affair is for the claustrophobic. The walls are still plastered with the waterproof  plaster called cocciopesto and there are graffiti on those walls from those who have visited before you. One I saw was from "1737". Besides the two accessible levels, there is evidence of another one even deeper. The great Neapolitan archaeologist, Amedeo Maiuri, suggested that much of the structure was originally a basement of sorts for a private villa, possibly that of the orator Quintus Hortensius Ortalus (114–50 b.c), public-speaking rival of Cicero, himself. That is speculative, of course, but, in any event, that would place any private villa on the spot well before the time at which the premises were eventually given over to the service of the later imperial port under Augustus. 

Aragonese Naples

The white section between the towers is called
the Aragonese Victory Arch

"I wonder how they got in! " people would say. It had worked for the Greeks against the Trojans and it had even come off once before in this very city of  Naples  back in the 6th century when the Byzantine general Belisarius sneaked his men past the city walls through an aqueduct. Now it was going to work again; Alfonso's cohorts within the city opened the passage and let the invaders in. And just as under Belisarius, the subsequent sacking and pillaging was atrocious, but Naples was now rejoined to Sicily, unifying the Kingdom of Two Siciles for the first time in two hundred years. Afterwards, Alfonso went back outside so he could enter the city officially on 26 February 1443  in a golden chariot and sheltered by a canopy held by 30 disgruntled Neapolitan noblemen. That entry is memorialized in the Aragonese victory arch over the entrance to the Maschio Angioino , the Angevin Fortress (photo, left). It was a task they did not like, for a king they did not like, at the beginning of a dynasty they would not like. Shortly thereafter, Alfonso  left his Spanish holdings to his brother and dedicated himself full-time to his own Aragonese dynasty in Italy. 

Neapolitans always considered Alfonso a foreigner, particularly because of his habit of surrounding himself with only his own countrymen and giving them the choice positions at court. Apparently, towards the end of his life he changed his mind about this and passed on to his son  a few  bits of advice: avoid the Spanish, lower the taxes and keep on good terms with the princes in Italy, especially the Popes. Alfonso was regarded as a cultured person; he founded an excellent library, and artists, poets, philosophers and scholars were an integral part of his court. In the field with his troops, he lived the same life as his men and exposed himself  to danger in battle with no regard for his own personal safety. They say he also went among the common people incognito to find out how things were going. He liked to listen rather than talk and claimed to be a simple person, once saying he would have been a hermit if he had had his choice in life. 
Alfonso of Aragon
Because of his patronage of the arts he became known as Alfonso the Magnanimous. He also started the total rebuilding of the Angevin Fortress, fallen into ruin since its completion in the late 1200s; he  paved the streets of the city, cleaned out the swamps and greatly enlarged the wool industry that had been introduced by the Angevins. In spite of his pretensions to simplicity, however, he was addicted to splendor. At a Neapolitan reception for Frederick III of Germany, the order of the day to all the artisans in the Kingdom was to give Frederick's men whatever they wanted and send Alfonso the bill. Then they all went hunting in the great crater known as the Astroni in the Phlegrean Fields and had a banquet at which wine flowed down the slopes and into the fountains for the guests. Parties, however, did not prevent Alfonso, by the time of his death in 1458, from also having developed the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies into the foremost naval power in the western Mediterranean. 

Alfonso's illegitimate son, Ferrante, succeeded him, and in spite of extreme hostility on the part of the feudal lords in the kingdom, succeeded in strengthening the monarchy at their expense. He also drove the Angevin fleet from Ischia, their last stronghold in the area. Ferrante countered baronial hostility most violently. To show the barons that feudalism was truly dead he made a lot of them dead, by doing things such as inviting them to weddings and then arresting, jailing and executing a number of them. They say that some were fed to a crocodile that prowled the dungeon. (A skeleton of one such reptile hung over the arch in the Castle until quite recently.) He even mummified some of his late enemies and kept them on display in the dungeon of the Castelnuovo (the alternate name for the Maschio Angioino, meaning, simply "New Castle", thus distinguishing it from the older Castel dell'Ovo, the Egg Castle). 

A sigh of relief went up from the landholding class when Ferrante died in 1494 after 28 years on the throne. It had been a time of intrigue that included on-again / off-again relations with the Church and even a short-lived treaty with the feared Turks who were raiding up and down the Italian coasts. The point of the treaty had been to warn the rest of Italy to the north not to take the Kingdom of Naples for granted. (The Ottoman Turks had just overrun the Byzantine Empire and were threatening Rome, itself.) 
Charles VIII
The French reappeared with designs on the throne of Naples. Under Ferrante's successor, Neapolitan resistance to the French was utterly ineffective and the French, under Charles VIII, took the city virtually unopposed; indeed,  they were welcomed by most of the nobility, who sensed a chance to recoup their losses. Their toadying didn't work. The French pillaged the city, anyway, and dispossessed a number of the nobles. Charles, however, suddenly found himself cut off: The Papal State, Milano, and Venice —which had just let Charles pass through unhindered on the way to Naples— suddenly formed an alliance behind and against him. Charles had to fight his way back home, attempting along the way, and failing, to bribe the Pope into crowning him King of Naples. The jibe by historians is that the French brought two things back from their Italian campaign: the Renaissance and syphilis, one of which history has dubbed morbus gallicus in their honor. 

France then tried something else: the proposal of an Alliance to Ferdinand of Spain against Spain's own Aragonese relatives in Naples, by virtue of which the Kingdom of Two Sicilies would cease to exist and be divided between Ferdinand and Charles. This would effectively give them both one less rival realm in the area, as well as squelch the heresy that it wasn't nice to carve up one's own cousins. Ferdinand went for it and even Machiavelli, himself, later said that Ferdinand had certainly needed no lessons from anyone in ruthless princemanship.  The pact of Granada was signed on November 11, 1500; the Kingdom was to be divided, with the capital, Naples, going to France. The French reentered Naples in July 1501. It now seemed, however, that both France and Spain  had had their fingers crossed at the signing of the original treaty, so they had a war over it and Spain won. In May 1504, Spanish troops evicted the French and entered Naples, ending the Aragonese dynasty, and the Kingdom, intact, became a colony of Spain. 

Naples was now no longer the capital of its own realm. In a few year's time, with Charles V of Spain crowned Holy Roman Emperor, heir to the Caesers and Charlemagne, it would be part of an empire,  as it had been more than a thousand years earlier. True, the East had fallen and  what was left of Christian Empire was all in the West; but after 1492, "West" meant something monumentally different in human history. The Empire had shifted,  spreading  from Europe to the Americas and on to the Pacific. The age of Empires on which "the sun never sets" had arrived. 

Gypsies (1)

I gave a few cents to a gypsy kid who was playing the accordion on the subway this evening. He wasn't all that bad. He looked to be about 15 or 16 and played a good, competent version of a Russian folk song, the name of which I don't remember. He smiled as he played and was not oppressively obnoxious about trying to wheedle money out of you. 

There didn't used to be any accordion players in Naples. Now they are a major import item and seem to be in all the trains. The real reason I gave the kid some money was to reward him for being the first gypsy squeeze-boxer I have heard who has not played that annoying "Anniversary Waltz". It seems to be the only song they know, and most of them never get past the first 16 measures— "Oh, how we danced on the night we were wed/ We vowed our true love, though a word wasn't said…" Then they diddle around, lose the rhythm, play some wrong notes and start again. 

I wonder if they are real gypsies from Romania. That song is known as The Anniversary Waltz (or Song) to English-speaking audiences and bears the names of Al Jolsen and Saul Chaplin on the music. Jolsen recorded it in 1946. It is, however, "borrowed" from the music of Josef Ivanovici, a Romanian composer (1845-1906); it is part of his Waves of the Danube waltz suite. 

Cops, undercover

Today was the beginning of Operation "High Impact". There were so many "Forces of Order" (as Italian so wishful-thinkingly dubs the various branches of law enforcement)—also known as "cops" for purposes of this brief discussion—on the streets of downtown Naples this morning that at least a few bad guys were scared off and most tourists thought they had wandered onto the set of Rambo XII. 

These weren't delicate traffic cops handing out tickets. They wore flak jackets and carried automatic weapons. The pulled over suspicious looking cars, and the word is that they confiscated all sorts of contraband by so doing; also, they turned up a lot people without driving licenses or documents and a few out driving around who should apparently have been at home since they were under house arrest for some reason. I did see one bored and heavily-armed cop stop an attractive young woman on a motorcycle because she wasn't wearing a helmet. The gist of the conversation was that he would really hate to see something terrible happen to her beautiful head just because she forgot her helmet. All smiles and friendly words. No ticket, though maybe a phone number was passed. 

The best part is the "Hawks"—undercover cops. They wear civvies, always travel in pairs and are always mounted on ridiculously overpowered motorcycles. If you are a punk purse-snatcher on a 100 cc Vespa, lots of luck. Just one "Hawk" looks like two longshoremen; they are unshaven; they scowl a lot; and in the warmest weather, they wear some sort of jacket or maybe a bush vest with lots of pockets all the better to conceal the heat they are packing. Tough customers. Tourists move away from them because they look like criminals and criminals move away from them because they look like undercover good guys. They are about as undercover as a cat-burglar in black leotards and a ski-mask. 

Nisida (1);  Poerio, Carlo

Quite by accident, I discovered a connection between two unrelated items (or so I thought) in Naples today. The tiny island off the tip of Cape Posillipo is named Nisida. The original Greek settlers of the area called this small island Nesis. The Romans called it Nisida. 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 the 1800s Nisida was the site of a Bourbon prison, then an Italian state penitentiary, and, now, a reformatory for juvenile offenders. 

Statue of Carlo Poerio in Piazza S. Pasquale
In the early 1900s Nisida suffered two indignities: one, it was joined to the mainland by a causeway, and, two, it was encroached upon by the unsightly steel industry in Bagnoli. That patch of industrial blight is (as of 2002) a thing of the past, as the Campania region and the city of Naples pursue plans to rejuvenate the entire Bagnoli area. Most of the physical plant of the ex-steel mill has already been torn down, and there is already a thriving "Science City" fair ground on the premises in Bagnoli. Currently, part of the island of Nisida is also home to the administrative headquarters of NAVSOUTH, the naval forces for NATO's Southern Command. Also, there is currently some hope of luring the next America's Cup to the area. That would require major investment in port facilities. At present, there is a small port for pleasure craft, and that is where I found myself this morning, helping my friend, Bill, get his splendid sailboat, Down East, into the water and noticing how uneasy I am with such phrases as "Avast!" "Belay that!" and "Batten down the hatches!" ("Stand by to repel boarders!" did give me a thrill just to pronounce, though. I think it even shivered my timbers.)

Later in the day, I was looking for an address on via Poerio in Naples. Now, just as you can get lost in Naples by going to the wrong via Caracciolo (see here), so, too, can you wind up on the wrong via Poerio. There is one named for Carlo Poerio (1802-67) and another for Alessandro Poerio (1802-1848). They were brothers, both intimately connected with the Risorgimento, the political movement to unify Italy. Interestingly, their father, Giuseppe Poerio (1775-1843) was a supporter of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, for which he was sentenced to life in prison. A family of trouble-makers, clearly.

On the slopes of the Nisida crater are the ruins of what is thought to be the villa of Brutus.  In the background are the town of Bagnoli, then Cape Posillipo, then Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.

nisida craterIn 1849, Carlo Poerio was sentenced by the Bourbon court of Naples to 24 years at hard labor for his part in the political turmoil in Naples of the previous year. He was sent to—here is the connection—Nisida. He and other prisoners were confined in such miserable conditions that William Gladstone, after a visit to the prison in 1851, felt compelled to write his two Letters to the Earl of Aberdeen on the State Prosecutions of the Neapolitan Government. In these letters, Gladstone coined the now famous description of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies as "the negation of God erected into a system of Government." Indignation throughout Europe was partially responsible for Poerio's release in 1858. He was exiled but returned to Italy in 1861. He died that year in Florence.  [For more on the Gladstone "Letters...," click here.]

Swiss in Naples

In the 1949 thriller, The Third Man, Orson Welles' character, Harry Lime, delivers a short monologue on Switzerland:   

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed —but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

With all due respect to Welles (he wrote that part of the script, himself), the idea that the Swiss are a peaceful race of bankers, yodellers, and clock makers is wrong. In modern-day Switzerland, every male who is upright and breathing is in the army until the age of 50. They all keep their military-issue weapons at home, and, I suspect, rank high in the world on the firearm-per-square-person index.

True, when one thinks of Swiss soldiers and Italy, the colourful Swiss guards in the Vatican in their 16th–century uniforms pop to mind (photo, left below). Yet, behind today's quaint picture of comic-opera irrelevance is a very long and violent history of Switzerland as the single greatest provider of mercenary soldiers in Europe. Between the Battle of Nancy in 1477 and 1874, when the Swiss constitution forbade the practice, regiment after regiment of Swiss soldiers fought on battlefields elsewhere in Europe. These were not individual "hired guns," but entire regular Swiss regiments contracted out by their respective cantonal governments to serve abroad in return for large sums of money, a substantial part of the income in a canton in any given year. In 400 years of mercenary service, Switzerland hired out some two million soldiers and 70,000 officers. 

swiss guard vaticanThe contracts were typically between a canton and a particular monarch, whom the Swiss were then expected to serve faithfully, no matter what. For that reason, you always have Swiss Guards on the side of established order and never on the side of revolution. One famous episode was during the defence (Aug. 10, 1792) of the Tuileries palace in Paris during the French Revolution. Louis XVI ordered the Swiss Guard not to fire on the crowd, which, at the goading of George Danton, stormed the palace and massacred 600 of them, anyway. 

The Swiss were very active in Naples from the beginning of the Bourbon rule in the 1730s right up until the final defence of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies at the siege of Gaeta in 1860. Their first contract with Naples was in 1731 with Charles III of Bourbon and by the mid-1800s there were four regiments (about 7,500 men) of Swiss on constant service in the Kingdom of Naples. 

The Swiss were important in the Kingdom of Naples in the turbulent year of 1848, when calls for reform and revolution swept virtually all of Europe. In January of that year, there was an uprising in Sicily, and a call for the restitution of their constitution of 1812. (In that year, the mainland portion of the Kingdom of Naples was in French hands, under Murat, while the Bourbon monarchy with their royalist troops and Swiss Guard were holed up on Sicily, protected by the British fleet. The Bourbons granted, with British encouragement, a constitution to their subjects on Sicily. That constitution extended to the rest of the Kingdom when it was retaken in 1814, but it was revoked by Ferdinand I after the riots of 1821.) In 1848, Sicily also declared its independence from the Kingdom of Naples. Ferdinand II of Naples—by any account an absolutist and becoming more and more so the longer this talk of a "united Italy" continued—obviously wouldn't buy the part about independence, but he did feel compelled to grant another constitution of sorts. 

That put the situation in limbo for a few months. Then, in April, Ferdinand declared war on Austria, a move—had things gone differently in the "what-if" school of history—that would have put him on the same side as the Savoys of Piedmont—a united Italian army. That was not to be. Banal events in Naples the next month involving the form of a parliamentary oath of office led to Ferdinand closing the parliament, revoking the constitution, and recalling his troops from the north. In May an uprising took place in the city of Naples, and Ferdinand relied heavily on his Swiss Guards to suppress it. The four Swiss regiments in the city lost a total of 205 troops in the single day of combat in the city and came under severe criticism for their brutality, investigations of which were conducted even by the respective cantonal governments back in Switzerland. Sicily, by that time, was in full revolt, and later in the year, the Swiss sent their Neapolitan regiments as an expeditionary force to help quell the revolt on the island. That took until early 1849. The Sicilian episode included the infamous bombardment of Messina, an act that earned Ferdinand II of Naples the nickname of "la bomba" for the rest of his life. 

Throughout the 1850s, the Swiss Guards helped to prop up the Bourbon monarchy. They stood by their contract even at the end—the hopeless defence of Gaeta in late 1860 and early 1861 in the face of the overwhelming forces of  Victor Emmanuel II. Those that survived accompanied the defeated Bourbon king, Francis II, into exile. 

Catacombs (2), Jewish catacombs

There was a very good article in the New York Times today entitled "In Italian Dust, Signs of a Past Jewish Life," by Andrée Brooks. It was about the excavation of Jewish catacombs in Venosa in Puglia, east of Naples, and also mentioned some of the early Jewish artefacts in the National Museum and National Library of Naples. 

The article reminded me that I had read a while ago about the existence of Jewish catacombs in Naples, itself. The source was Guida Insolita ai misteri, ai segreti, alle leggende e alle curiosità di Napoli Sotteterranea (Unusual Guide to the Mysteries, Secrets, Legends and Curiosities of Underground Naples) by Giovanni Liccardo. (Newton & Compton editori, Rome, 2000.) The author talks a bit about the history of the Jews in Naples in the seventh century and cites Pope Gregory the Great's admonition to Bishop Pascasio of Naples in the year 602: 

...et de suis illos solemnitatibus inquietari denuo non permittat, sed omnes festivitates feriasque suas, sicut hactenus ... tenuerunt, liberam habeant observandi celebrandique licentiam. 

[Essentially, that Pascasio should stop interfering with the Jews in the practice of their religious rites and let them freely worship the way they choose.] 

The catacombs were discovered in 1908, and another find was made in the early 1930s during excavations for a military barracks. Both finds are in the same area, along the street called via Malta, near the intersection of via Lahalle. That is in the eastern part of the city—though well outside of the ancient city of Naples as it existed in the seventh century. It is an area that has undergone intensive construction in the last century: the military barracks, mentioned above, as well as a new elevated roadway leading up from the presumed site of the catacombs to the Naples Tangenziale, the highway that skirts the northern edge of the city. Both sites are described as having been found at about nine feet below the present street level. They both had more than a single tier of tombs; some were covered by a tiled roof. Inscriptions indicate that they are from the fifth or sixth century, a.d. 

After the 1931 find, the great Neapolitan archaeologist, Amedeo Maiuri remarked that they were extremely important in terms of learning about the "early demography of Naples". The bad news is that I couldn't find a trace of them just a few hours ago—I went down there, map in hand. There is a huge barracks overarched by the elevated roadway, mentioned above. I didn't expect a site open to the public the way the Christian catacombs of Naples, but there wasn't anything, not even an historical marker. I then called up Aldo, a 90-year friend and one of the oldest members of the Jewish community in Naples. 

He said, "Do you mean the old Jewish cemetery? I know where that is." 
I said, "No. I mean catacombs from right after the fall of the Roman Empire." 
He said, "Never heard of them." 

As they say, more research is needed.