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© 2004 Jeff Matthews & napoli.com

Around Naples in English

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: Jeff Matthews

Io speriamo che me la cavo

One of the most popular books in Italy in recent years was written by an elementary school teacher, Marcello D'Orta, in the small town of Arzano near Naples. It was published in 1990 by Arnoldo Mondadori and is entitled Io speriamo che me la cavo. The title is, one, ungrammatical Italian and, two, is the heartfelt wish of the schoolchild who wrote the essay from which the title of the book is taken. It says: "I hope I pass". The entire book, in fact, is a collection of 60 such essays written by Mr. D'Orta's charges in the 10 years he was a teacher at the school.

In presenting the children's essays about, among other things, their favorite films, their dreams (real and metaphorical), where they would go if they could travel, their home lives, and what they would do if they were millionaires, D'Orta says, in the introduction, that he tried to avoid falling into the trap of "Eduardoism" (in reference to Eduardo de Filippo)that is, to avoid an overly staged presentation of every poor schoolchild from Naples as if that child were a scugnizzo, a street urchin, trying out for a film. They're not, he says. They're just kids who write with the simple honesty and insight that children bring to their observations. The teacher left the ungrammatical title in its original form and, by and large, left most of the errors in the short essays intact. (In a translation, of course, that element is almost impossible to render, and, in what follows, I have not tried to do so.)

One sample:

Your teacher talked about Switzerland. Can you summarize the most important points?

Switzerland is a small country in Europe that borders on Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. There are a lot of lakes and mountains, but there isn't any ocean, especially in Bern.

Switzerland sells arms to the whole world so they can kill each other, but Switzerland doesn't ever have even a small war. They build banks with all their money. But not good banks. The banks are for bad persons, especially drug addicts. Criminals from Sicily and China put their money in these banks. The police go and ask, Whose money is this? and they say I don't know, I'm not going to tell you, it's none of your damn business, the bank is closed. But the bank is really open!!

In Naples, if you get cancer, you die, but in Switzerland you die later or maybe you live. Because the hospitals are beautiful. They have carpets, flowers, the stairs are clean and there are no rats. But you pay a lot of money. Unless you sell stuff on the black market, you can't afford to go.

Is this long enough?

In 1992, Italian film director, Lina Wertmüller, made the book into a film with the same title as the book. The English rendering of the title is as good as possible, which is not very: "Ciao, Professore." Actually, the term "ciao" is informal and wouldn't be used by pupils to a teacher, which fact might make the title not bad since it is inappropriate language, just like the title of the book. Unfortunately, most English-speakers who view the film don't know about that subtlety of Italian and think that "ciao" means, simply, "Hello," which it doesn't. The film stars the great comic Paolo Villaggio as the teacher and centers on his character, a teacher from the north of Italy who winds up, through a computer error, assigned to just such a small school in the Neapolitan outback. Of course, he can barely understand the native Neapolitan dialect of his pupils. His learning to understand them and their problems at home (descriptions of which are taken direcly from the book), is the charm of the film.

Donizetti, Gaetano (1797-1848)

donizetti image

With Rossini and Bellini, Donizetti is one of the important names in early 19th-century Italian opera and a founder of Italian Romanticism. He was born in Bergamo. After initial musical studies, he was commissioned to write two short works that were performed in Venice in 1818. He also wrote sacred music and several string quartets. One work, Zoraid di Granata, composed in 1821 and performed in Rome caught the ear of Domenico Barbaja, Neapolitan impresario, who invited him to compose for Naples, a city where Rossini was already active and thriving and where Bellini was just starting out.

Donizetti moved to Naples in 1822 and stayed for 16 years. Today, a plaque on his home in Naples quite ignores his operas and reminds us that he was the composer of Ti voglio bene assaje, the winner in 1835 of the first Festival of Piedigrotta for the Neapolitan popular song. The piece is still a mainstay of that repertoire. It is typical of his approach to his work, in general, that he would write music at the drop of a hat early comic operas, later serious melodrama, and, here, even popular songs. (Interestingly, as the illustration shows, he was often in such a hurry to write music that he availed himself of his rather unusual form of ambidexterity --writing with both hands at the same time!)

He composed La zingara in 1822 and at least 5 other operas before 1830, including works for La Scala in Milan. He spent a year in Palermo in 1826 and then returned to Naples where he became the director of the Teatro Nuovo. He became the director of the Royal Theaters in Naples in 1828 and held that post for 10 years. 

Donizetti was a prolific and fast composer, turning out 30 operas before he can be said to have "made it" with Anna Bolena in 1830. A partial list of his more well-known works, still very much part of the operatic repertoire, includes Elisir d'Amore (1832); Lucrezia Borgia (1833); Lucia di Lammermoor (1835); La figlia del regimento (1840); and Don Pasquale (1843). Much of his work in Naples in the 1830s was subject to typical censorship by the absolutist Bourbon monarchy, particularly allergic to undue violence or allusions to royalty and unhappy endingsparticularly restrictive in an art form that was well on its way to a reputation for thriving on tragedy. Lucrezia Borgia was, in fact, banned in Naples. He left Naples in 1838, at least partly due to the restrictive atmosphere he was forced to work in. He moved to Paris and then to Vienna where he became court composer to the Austrian emperor. By the early 1840s, Donizetti was seriously ill with syphilis. He moved back to his hometown of Bergamo in 1848 and died there. 

Musically, like other composers of his generation, he was a product of the influence of the Neapolitan comic opera. Yet, Romanticism had arrived and there is no doubt that Donizetti is one of its founders, particularly when the hallmarks of Romanticism human passion and strugglewere freed from the confines of censorship. He had what would become the Romantic flair for slow, plaintive melody, typified, say, by "Una furtiva lacrima" from Elisir d'Amore (still one of the best-loved of all operatic arias), yet, untypically, never at the expense of the text. He was known for bickering with his librettists over their choice of words. He had somewhat of a professional rivalry with his contemporary, Bellini, and, perhaps, in historical terms, can also be said to have overshadowed the great Italian influence of the early 1800s, Rossini, who became less and less active as the century became more and more Romantic. 

With historical hindsight, it is interesting to read music reviews from, say, 1850, that wondered whether the young upstart, Verdi, would ever amount to another Donizetti. The year of Donizetti's death, 1848, was also the year of the great wave of revolutions that swept Europe, demanding a corresponding artistic expression more emotional and turbulent than even Donizetti could ever have imagined.

Capri (4)

I called up Herman the other day to see if had attended last week’s ceremony commemorating the Anglo-American invasion at Salerno. It took place 60 years ago and Herman, who is now 87 years old, was part of it. He told me that he hadn’t attended, though he had spoken with some members of the US 36th infantry who had stopped by to say hello to him in Sorrento. The ceremony in Salerno was marked by some counter-demonstrations by those who feel that remembering anything at all to do with war and violence is a bad thing, even when it’s on behalf of the good guys.

September 1943 was turbulent and confusing for Italians. The nation surrendered to the Allies on September 8, at which point Pietro Badoglio, who had succeeded the deposed Mussolini as head-of-state in July 1943 (newspaper headline photo), declared that the war would now continue on the side of the Allies and against the Germans and Italian Fascists. That plunged Italy into a civil war. 

The armistice of September 8 provided a strange episode—amusing in hindsight—having to do with the Isle of Capri. There were about 2500 members of the Italian Armed Forces on Capri at the time of the armistice. Obviously, they were now all part of the Allied command at war with their old allies, the Germans. 

Part of the terms of the armistice required the Italian naval contingent on Capri to move to Palermo, in Sicily. The Italian commander was unable to comply with the order because there simply wasn’t enough fuel left to run the ships that far. He sent a motorboat over to the Gulf of Salerno to advise the Allied commander of the situation; that is, the Italian forces on Capri weren’t making any sort of a Fascist last stand on Capri, nor were they refusing to surrender. They just had no fuel for the ships.

Accordingly, on September 12, an Allied ship showed up at Capri to check out the situation. The Allied commander then—for reasons that are as obscure as they are silly—demanded a separate “unconditional surrender… [from] the Commanding Officer of the Axis Armed Forces on the Islands [sic] of Capri.” (The Allied commander may have been counting the Faraglioni, those two beautiful rocks 100 yards off shore as separate islands.)

In a true Laurel and Hardy finish to the episode, the surrender document—written in both English and Italian—was signed improperly. The Allied officer signed on the wrong side of the page, leaving the Italian no choice but to sign in the name of General Eisenhower.

Soccer (5)

Since I last mentioned the topic (here), someone has managed to patch up the disastrous situation in the Italian soccer leagues. Naples was on the verge of being relegated to the C-League on the basis of a legal decision about the validity of a signature on a document. That decision was appealed and overturned, which left some people happy, others unhappy, and almost everyone confused. No one seemed to know which teams would go down to the C League and which would be promoted to the B League. As a result of that confusion, several of the B League teams refused to play their opening matches two weeks ago. 

The situation was resolved by trying to make everyone happy; that is, no one would go down to the C Leaguethe B League would just be expanded to include all the would-have-been demotees. So far, so good. Alas, the teams that didn't play the first week have started out somewhat in the hole in the league standings. The scoring rules give a team 3 points for a victory, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. The fine print also reads "loss of a point for a forfeit"that is, refusing to play in the first place. Thus, some teams started out this season with a minus 1. So maybe not everyone was happy, but I did say, "patch up".

Pizza (3)

The scene was the Mostra d'Oltremare, the Overseas Fair Grounds in Naples. Since last I wrote about it, at least the arena, the spacious outdoor theater, has been renovated and is once again ready to host large-scale productions, maybe even Aida, just like in the good old days.

The event in question last week was a bit less ambitious, but still worthy of mention. It was Pizzafest 2003, a pizza cook-off to choose—and what better judges than Neapolitans? —the world’s greatest pizzaiolo, or pizza chef.

Without further ado, may I have the envelope, please. Ahem. The third-place winner is Luigi Picariello from Naples. (Ho-hum.) The second-place winner is Antonio Langella from Naples. (Please hold your applause and ho-hums.) And the world’s greatest pizza chef is—Makato Inishi from Japan! (I told you to hold the ho-hums.)

That’s right. In a fair cook-off, the 23-year-old Japanese young man beat all comers. He came to Naples two years ago for the express purpose of learning the art of pizza cooking, and seems to have done rather well. I don’t know if he is the gentleman I mentioned elsewhere, one sent here with an interpreter to learn the pizza trade. It wouldn’t surprise me, but on the other hand, I have heard that there are at least a few such visitors from Japan in Naples. In any event, there were no sour grapes (not an authentic topping, anyway) on the part of the Neapolitans. They seemed happy that they had taught Makato so well.

This is perverse, I know, but somehow I am reminded of the scene in Doctor Strangelove where Sterling Haden, as deranged general Jack D. Ripper, asks RAF officer Mandrake (played by Peter Sellers) if he had been tortured by the Japanese when he was their prisoner in World War II.

“Yes,” says Mandrake. “I don’t understand. They make such bloody good cameras.”

San Gennaro (3)

Silver bust of S. Gennaro donated by Charles II of Anjou in 1305, in the Naples cathedral.
Yesterday, of course, was San Gennaro, the feast day of the patron saint of Naples. On this day, the faithful anxiously await the miraculous liquefaction of a vial of the saint’s clotted blood. This “Miracle of San Gennaro,” if it comes to pass, is regarded as a good omen for the city of Naples in the year to come. Yesterday, the faithful who waited in the Cathedral of Naples, where the ceremony surrounding the event takes place, were rewarded early in the day. At 9.57 a.m. Cardinal Michele Giordano held up the vial and announced that the miracle had, indeed, transpired. 

One newspaper headline reported “A lightning miracle in a fortified cathedral,” referring to the security measures in place to avoid potential disruption by a nearby demonstration of the unemployed, all of whom would have liked to get in and bend the ear of the mayor of Naples, Rosa Russo Iervolino, or the president of the Campania Region of Italy, Antonio Bassolino, both of whom were in attendance.

A special section of the daily, il Mattino, dedicated a series of short articles to various aspects of the phenomenon of San Gennaro, including items perhaps not generally known to Neapolitans, themselves. For example, San Gennaro was made the patron saint of Naples in 472 a.d. during an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius as powerful as the one that had destroyed Pompeii 400 years earlier. Naples had always had a history—even before the advent of Christianity—of making appeals to the gods. Naples had so many temples to Greek and Roman gods that Quintilia, a figure in the Satyricon (written in 60 a.d.) says: “We have so many gods that they’re easier to find than people.” San Gennaro, himself, was preceded as patron saint of Naples by, among others, Saint Agrippino, but when the eruption hit and thousands of Neapolitans crowded into the catacombs where San Gennaro was entombed, and beseeched him to save them from the impending disaster, he—well, he apparently did. The eruption stopped and Gennaro has been the patron saint ever since.

With one exception. He expressed approval of the Neapolitan Republic in 1799 by performing his miracle at the behest of the French commander of the forces supporting the Republican cause. In retaliation, the Army of the Holy Faith, the Royalist Neapolitans, later retook the kingdom under the banner of Saint Anthony. But that was a temporary lapse.

The first mention of the miracle of blood liquefaction is from 1389. The paper reports on attempts of skeptics to fabricate (using 1389 technology) a liquid that looks like solid blood and will liquefy when shaken (yes, it can be done). Also, there is an account of the adventures of Giuseppe Navarra, the so-called King of Poggioreale, a hustling junk merchant, who in 1947 took it upon himself to go to Rome and bring back the treasures of San Gennaro from the Vatican, where they had been moved for safekeeping during World War II.

These treasures, by the way, include a collection of gold, silver, and diamond artifacts of incalculable value. The will all be on display shortly in a brand new museum of The Treasures of San Gennaro to be inaugurated later this year by the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Elsewhere, in a book entitled Napoli Antica by Vincenzo Regina (pub. Newton and Compton, Rome, 1994), I came across a strange tale of San Gennaro. It used to be the custom for a “relic” of the saint (in this case, part of the skull) to be transported from the Cathedral to a local seggio, a seat of local government within the city—a small town hall, as it were—on one of the days when the miracle was supposed to occur (there are a few other days besides September 19.) At day’s end, the relic would be duly transported back to its place in the cathedral. Representatives of the local seggio always provided transportation. They would show up at the Cathedral, pick up the relic, take it away and bring it back. In 1646, however, the good folks in the Cathedral refused to hand over the relic and insisted on doing the moving, themselves. During the procession, they were assaulted by the locals and a good-sized fistfight broke out over who had the authority to escort San Gennaro’s skull. 

Normans, the

Roger the Norman imageThe Other Norman Conquest

By the year 1000 Italy south of Rome was a hodge-podge of Lombard duchies plus a number of small city-states such as Naples as well as various Byzantine provinces; there was also a massive Arab presence on Sicily and the southern mainland. Into this already complicated setting rode the Normans, only a few generations after wading ashore in France as the justifiably feared warrior-race, the Vikings. 

Now, the nicest thing ever said about the Vikings was that, yes, they were ferocious, cunning and absolutely ruthlesscompletely given to pillaging and plunderingbut not because they liked it! It was because they realized that ruthless pillaging and plundering was the most efficient way to get what they wanted: namely, the property and possessions of others. 

If the Vikings were only half as nasty as their reputation, it is little wonder that within 150 years of their first raids on Britain and the continent they had maneuvered the French king, Charles the Simple into the wise move of ceding to them in 911 the land in the north of France which would become known as Normandy, named for them, the Northmen or Normans. The real wonder of it all is that they decided to settle down, and even more wondrous was that in a few generations' time, all their fire and rage would be diluted by southern climes, and their empire in southern Italy would be known for its tolerance, culture and laid-back way of life. But that is precisely what happened. 

If you stand in front of the royal palace in Naples and look at the statues of the rulers of the city, Roger II, the Norman, is the first one (photo, above). He is the monarch who represents the beginning of modern history in Naples. He was the beginning of what might be called a European dimension in southern Italy. 

The feudal redistribution of land in Normandy had meant that a number of young Norman knights wound up with nothing, so they sought their fortunes elsewhere. By the early eleventh century, bands of them were already wandering around this area, fighting for anyone who would pay them --Lombards, Byzantines, the Papacy, the Dukes of Salerno, Capua or Naples. In return for helping the Neapolitan Duke, Sergio IV, in 1029, they were given the hill-fortress in Aversa with its dependencies, and that area soon became a jumping off point for Norman adventurers who wished to take part in the struggles going on for control of the south. In the middle of the eleventh century they were fighting for and against everyone, managing to take over piecemeal much of what had been Lombard land. By 1090 they had taken Sicily from the Arabs. 

Robert of Hauteville arrived in 1047. He was described as very tall with eyes that all but emitted sparks and a voice that put his enemies to flight. His ambition and lust for adventure are said to have been an inspiration to William ("the Conqueror") back home and so, at least second hand, he may have played a part in the invasion of Britain in 1066. [The Naples Web Log entry about Robert's wife, Sichelgaita, is also relevant.] 

The Papacy, originally glad to have Norman help against the Byzantines and Lombards, realized that the Norman tail was now wagging the Papal dog. Normans were raiding monasteries in Italy with as much abandon as had their Viking grandfathers a few generations before in Britain and France. The Normans consolidated their gains in a victory over the combined Papal forces of Lombards, Italians (from the Papal States) and German mercenaries at Benevento in 1054. The Pope as well as the Western Empire were forced to ratify Norman gains. It was a brilliant move by the Normans: they now pledged allegiance to the Church, in return for which, of course, the Papacy consecrated the Norman Empire in the South, now virtually all in Norman hands, anyway. 

By 1060 there were three separate Norman holdings: Aversa, Capua and Apulia, the last of which was the most important, because it was from there that the Normans, under Roger I, (Robert's brother) went on to take over Sicily and, by default, all Norman holdings in the South. 

Shortly after William the Conqueror had successfully invaded Britain, Robert, who saw himself as eventual lord of the whole Mediterranean went on to try and mop up the entire Byzantine Empire in Greece, and failed. His less ambitious sibling, Roger, stayed on in Sicily. Roger's third son became Roger II, and was crowned King of Sicily in 1130. 

Roger II marched north in a campaign to unify Sicily with the southern Italian mainland. He entered Naples in September 1140. Story has it that he got on the good side of his Neapolitan subjects immediately by calling them together and asking them how long the city wall was. No one knew, so he personally marched it off at 2,373 paces and announced that he was going to enlarge it for the good of Naples and it citizens. 

The city thus lost its independence, but gained a king who called himself Rex Siciliae et Italiae, and membership in an ambitious empire, one with designs on North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. The capital was Palermo, one of the richest and most opulent cities of the day, efficiently and benevolently ruled by a mixed aristo-burocracy of Greeks, Sicilians and Arabs. It was a place where your god, language and race took a back seat to whether or not you could get the job done. For a brief period, the overused phrase "Golden Age" truly applied to this empire, as the collective voices of centuries of Mediterranean cultures joined together almost as if to announce the coming of the Renaissance 

Roger died in Palermo in 1154, and a few years later the Norman Kingdom of the South fizzled out because of lack of male issue. One of Roger's granddaughters had married the son of the German emperor Barbarossa. Their child would become Frederick the II and, thus, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies would pass to German rule. 

It was a strange end for the Normans. In the South they were victimsfortunate ones, perhapsof their own flexibility. They started out as almost caricatures of themselves: ferocious, aggressive, asking no quarter and certainly giving none. They wound up as a blend of cultures, languages and faiths, a society apparently ruled by "an aristocracy of talent" (to use Thomas Jefferson's choice phrase) In hindsight, coming as it did on the eve of that atrocity known as The Crusades, their rule here seems to have been one of the last great periods of understanding and tolerance in European history, one in which there was a fortunate and rare reversal of the roles described by Yeats: This time it was not "the worst," but "the best," who were "full of passionate intensity". 

America's Cup (2), urbanology (7)

The plans to “deindustrialize” the Bay of Pozzuoli are ambitious. The area includes the town of Bagnoli and extends west along the coast through Pozzuoli, itself, and on to the end of the bay at Cape Miseno. The long-term plan, one assumes, is to try to resurrect the natural beauty of the area with an eye for attracting some of the considerable money generated by the tourist trade elsewhere in the Gulf of Naples—that is, Naples, the Sorrentine peninsula, and the islands of Capri and Ischia.

It’s a tall order, but they have started. This week, they started the end-stage demolition of the remains of the old Italsider steel mill, for many decades a thriving enterprise as well as an unsightly blob of industrial blight in Bagnoli. As well, the Sofer plant in Pozzuoli has been closed. It was one of the oldest industrial concerns in the Naples area, having been built 120 years ago, not too long after the unification of Italy. For over a century it turned out railway coaches and engines. 

These few steps into the post-industrial age are independent of—but somehow connected psychologically with—another ambitious project: attracting the next America’s Cup regatta to the waters of Bagnoli, off the tiny island of Nisida. Scarcely a day goes by without an update in the papers. Within the next few months, the Swiss defenders of the Cup will make their decision as to where they wish to defend their title, and Naples, it seems, stands a reasonable chance of being selected. Money has been found, marine architects hired, plans for the new harbor are on the boards. The design presents what the papers have been calling a “canal harbor”; that is, using the large area that used to contain the facilities of the Italsider steel mill, a long rectangle will be cut in from the sea, one end of which is, obviously, the outlet to the bay, with the perimeter of the other three sides providing mooring for boats.

It will be a shot in the arm for the area if the Swiss choose these waters and that kind of ambitious boat harbor is built. Even if Naples loses out in the America’s Cup lottery, however, the other plans—the ones to turn the area into the kind of place that people will actually want to visit and enjoy—will continue.

Metropolitana (4)

There is a famous postcard of the Bay of Naples seen from the Posillipo hill above Mergellina. It’s the classic view: the waters in front of the Villa Comunale and the seaside road, via Caracciolo, the Castel dell’Ovo, and the double peaks of Mt. Vesuvius and its companion, Mt. Somma, in the background with the beginnings of the Sorrentine peninsula spreading to the south. The photo is usually taken such that there is a famous, solitary Mediterranean pine tree in the foreground. 

We used to joke that the reason they used that same tree all the time was that it was the only one left in Naples. That is, of course, an exaggeration, since, as I have pointed out elsewhere, there are a number of large parks in Naples: the Villa Comunale, the Floridiana, the grounds of the Capodimonte museum, and the vineyards of San Martino. Those parks don’t change the fact, however, that your average neighborhood trees, the ones that line the street in front of your house, little by little, over the years, can’t help but lose the battle with encroaching, egregious overbuilding. We need a garage—those trees go. An extra parking space or two?—chop, chop. (Forget the downright forests sacrificed to illegally built, entire blocks of flats.)

Thus, I am unhappy and suspicious when I read that 60 (!) trees have been chopped down in Fuori Grotta to accommodate construction sites for the new underground train line coming in from the area of the new university and San Paolo football stadium. “New underground train line” is, of course, ridiculous. That is the train that was supposed to be up and running in 1990 for the World Cup soccer matches (see here). Now that incompetence and bribery have been relegated to the rubbish heap of history, the train line (officially to be known as Line #6) will be finished and joined to the main lines of the metropolitana in Naples. This has meant performing quintuple by-pass surgery on the one main road, viale Augusto, that leads through that section of town, creating a labyrinth of one-way detours to get from one end of the road to the other, one mile away. Of the 30 palm trees that were there a few days ago, 8 are still there; the other 22 have been moved, but shall be returned. Sixty pines, however got the axe. The city promises that they will replaced by 94 new ones when the construction is finished. City promises—well, they are what they are.

Bellini (Piazza) (2)

Persons described in the morning paper as “Neapolitan intellectuals” have written an open letter to the city administration protesting the proposed renovation of Piazza Bellini ( also see separate entry). 

I am always amused by the definition of people as “intellectuals,” as opposed to just plain “intelligent” or even “very intelligent”. It makes you wonder if “intellectual” is a profession or, at least, an official position. Maybe they have a guild, union or club you can join where you get an ID card or decoder ring and learn a secret handshake—all contingent upon your oath that when others go bowling with the boys on Wednesdays, you go deconstruct Kierkegaard and smoke French cigarettes.

Whatever the case, this time they are right. The charm of Piazza Bellini is that it is cockeyed and a bit seedy. Is it dirty? Yes, it can be, but that condition, says the letter, won’t be helped by getting rid of the irregular, bleacher-type irregularities that make you step up once or twice and then down again as you cross the square. If you level the square and turn it into the planned black-and-white checkerboard design with a shallow platter-shaped fountain in the middle (with no water!), put in a single central palm tree (after getting rid of all the other trees), and even out the staggered entrances to the “literary” cafes that open onto one side of the square—if you do all that, you will then have a useless and inappropriate bit of urban surgery that will have cost the city 700 thousand euros—and it will still get dirty. 

Why not leave the square the way it is and just clean it regularly? Also, clean the statue of the square’s eponym, Vincenzo Bellini. The statue is the target of graffiti vandals and has been so abused over the years, that the four secondary busts of women from the composer’s operas have had to be removed from the niches that surround the base of the central figure of Bellini, himself. (In the course of the removal and transfer to God knows where, one of the busts disappeared.

Modernization is not the answer to everything, says the letter. The city modernized the Villa Comunale and no one likes it (what happened to all the trees?); the city modernized Piazza Dante after the recent subway construction and turned it into wide-open flat space with no shade and very few places to sit. And so forth and so on.  Spend the money on regular maintenance and Piazza Bellini will be just fine.

Street life (descriptions)

In another entry  I refer to the “cascade of chaos” in the pages of Harper’s Weekly in a description of Neapolitan street life from the mid-1800s. (A short excerpt, as a reminder):

…water-sellers bawling iced water; pious minstrels playing doleful bagpipes under a statue of the virgin; Sicilian girls dancing the tarantella with uncommon vigor; friars roaring that they only want a gran more to save a soul from hell; boys fighting for watermelons; exchange tables loaded with copper; lemonade-stands mounted by triumphal arches, bedizened with gold paper and wreathes of flowers; macaroni-dealers ladling huge masses of the smoking delicacy out of cauldrons, and beseeching the crowd not to let it cool; more monks tinkling little bells, and knocking Punch and the conjuror over as they hurry past with a dead man…

I enjoy comparing that with similar passages from other sources—famous ones—from around the same time. Here is a short passage from Pictures of Italy by Charles Dickens:  (Click here for the entire excerpt.)  

…for all Naples would seem to be out of doors, and tearing to and fro in carriages. Some of these, the common Vetturino vehicles, are drawn by three horses abreast, decked with smart trappings and great abundance of brazen ornament, and always going very fast. Not that their loads are light; for the smallest of them has at least six people inside, four in front, four or five more hanging on behind, and two or three more, in a net or bag below the axle-tree, where they lie half-suffocated with mud and dust. Exhibitors of Punch, buffo singers with guitars, reciters of poetry, reciters of stories, a row of cheap exhibitions with clowns and showmen, drums, and trumpets, painted cloths representing the wonders within, and admiring crowds assembled without, assist the whirl and bustle. Ragged lazzaroni lie asleep in doorways, archways, and kennels; the gentry, gaily dressed, are dashing up and down in carriages on the Chiaji, or walking in the Public Gardens; and quiet letter-writers, perched behind their little desks and inkstands under the Portico of the Great Theatre of San Carlo, in the public street, are waiting for clients...

And one from The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain: (Click here for the entire excerpt.)  

…I will observe here, in passing, that the contrasts between opulence and poverty, and magnificence and misery, are more frequent and more striking in Naples than in Paris even. One must go to the Bois de Boulogne to see fashionable dressing, splendid equipages, and stunning liveries, and to the Faubourg St. An-toine to see vice, misery, hunger, rags, dirt -- but in the thoroughfares of Naples these things are all mixed together. Naked boys of nine years and the fancy-dressed children of luxury; shreds and tatters, and brilliant uniforms; jackass carts and state carriages; beggars, princes, and bishops, jostle each other in every street. 

At six o’clock every evening, all Naples turns out to drive on the Riviera di Chiaja (whatever that may mean); and for two hours one may stand there and see the motliest and the worst-mixed procession go by that ever eyes beheld. Princes (there are more princes than policemen in Naples - the city is infested with them) - princes who live up seven flights of stairs and don’t own any principalities, will keep a carriage and go hungry; and clerks, mechanics, milliners, and strumpets will go without their dinners and squander the money on a hack-ride in the Chiaja; the rag-tag and rubbish of the city stack themselves up, to the number of twenty or thirty, on a rickety little go-cart hauled by a donkey not much bigger than a cat, and they drive in the Chiaja; dukes and bankers, in sumptuous carriages and with gorgeous drivers and footmen, turn out, also, and so the furious procession goes. For two hours rank and wealth, and obscurity and poverty, clatter along side by side in the wild procession, and then go home serene, happy, covered with glory!…

Today, it is still possible to catch a carriage ride if you are a tourist and want to pay whatever exorbitant fare they charge for clip-clopping along the seaside on via Caracciolo—a street that did not exist in the mid-1800s; however, some of the romance goes out of the experience amid the din of cars, motor-scooters, and all-around roar of technology. It’s a tough call, but on a bad day in modern Naples, those descriptions from the 1800s sometimes seem almost bucolic.

Anticaglia, via

One of most fascinating things about a palimpsest would be to use some of that new-fangled multispectral imaging and be able to see what was actually written on the layers below the surface. Who knows, you might wind up in ancient Greece. (I understand that is precisely what has happened at a museum in Baltimore, where they have found Archimedes’ Theory of Floating Bodies floating well below the surface of some medieval scribbling.

Archaeologically in Naples, there is no doubt a palimpsest phenomenon at work. All you have to do is dig a station for the metro almost anywhere near sea level in the city and you uncover, first, some Spanish walls and, sooner or later, bits and pieces of ancient Rome and Greece. It happens all the time.

Those without personal steam shovels may have to settle, however, for a kind of “horizontal palimpsest” effect. That is, wander around town and look for bits of Rome still stuck somewhere in a façade, arch, wall or tower. Such bits are easy to overlook, and most people never notice them for the simple reason that much of this ancient masonry is in a part of the old city that almost no one frequents; that is, the upper decumanus, via Anticaglia.

There were three main decumani in Greco-Roman Naples; that is, three main east-west streets. The bottom two are well known to anyone who has spent any time at all in Naples, or, indeed, even to those who may visit just for a day or two. They are the two streets that everyone “just has to see”: the bottom one is called, colloquially, Spaccanpoli, and starts (at the west end) at the great Church of Santa Chiara; the second one (the central decumanus) is via dei Tribunali and starts (at the west end) at the music conservatory and adjacent Church of San Pietro a Maiella. The upper decumanus—the one no one ever strolls along—is known as via Anticaglia (though it changes names a few times as it runs through the old city). 

Via Anticaglia is so little known because the entire area where it used to start at the west end of the old city was razed in 1900 and rebuilt to accommodate the vast premises of the Naples medical school and Polyclinic hospital now situated between the central decumanus, via dei Tribunali  the upper decumanus, via Anticaglia. An entire medieval convent belonging to the order of Carmelite Sisters was removed as the hospital grounds built their way up the steep hill between the central and upper decumanus. Additionally, the area to the west along the old Greek and Roman wall, approximately the line followed by today’s via Costantinopoli contained a number of buildings such as the church and convent of Santa Maria della Sapienza. Those, too, were removed. Finding the western entrance to the upper decumanus, then, entails hiking up the cross street from the central decumanus as if you were on your way to the medical school. At a certain point, you turn right (east) and wander down again into the old city.

The first thing that you notice is that there are no tourists. It is almost eerily lonely at times. In a way, you feel as if you have gone back at least a century in time. Then, as you approach the halfway point—the main north-south street (called a cardine), via San Gregorio Armeno, coming up from the right (south) as it runs along the side of the church of San Paolo Maggiore— you notice the “horizontal palimpsest” effect, Roman masonry, indeed, an entire Roman arch still in place and helping to hold someone’s house up (photo). This is the area of the ancient Roman open theater.

The theater, they say, was still discernible until the 1400s, when most of it was razed or buried in order to build the great church of San Paolo Maggiore. The theater was, in every respect, comparable to those that you can still see today in Pompeii and Herculaneum—100 meters long and seating for thousands. More so than those towns, Neapolis was the theatrical big-time in this part of Italy, playing satire, tragedy, even a comedy written by Claudius and—if they had neon signs, this would have lit them up!—Nero, himself! Yes, the emperor fancied himself quite a nimble finder on the lyre and fancied that he had a fine voice. (He also fancied that he was a good emperor). Anyway, he would sing and play in Naples while luminaries such as Seneca were in the audience, presumably trying very hard not to laugh (“Please, Jupiter, let me keep a straight face!”) 

Via Anticaglia has other interesting points of history as you follow it out to the east to via Duomo. At the corner of via Gigante, is the site where a Jesuit college was founded in 1552 by disciples of Loyola, himself, the founder of the order. Tarquato Tasso, the Sorrentine poet lived in this part of Naples for a while and attended the college. Giambattista Vico, too, lived in the same area. The entire street, end to end, is off the beaten track, but worth the time to wander along.

Bourbons (3)

 The Coming of Garibaldi
[Parts 1 and 2 are  here and here, respectively.]

garibaldi imageThe fall of the House of Bourbon and the Kingdom of Naples in 1860 is part of the success of the risorgimento, the movement to unite Italy into a single nation. This success is due primarily to three persons: a theoretician, a politician, and a soldier. 

The theoretician, the  ideologue, the one who preached national unity, was Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72). He was not a particularly practical man, and he spent much of his life in exile, proclaiming from abroad the idea of Italian unity as a fulfillment of destiny, one which he apparently saw as a nebulous combination of ancient Italian glory and reasonable aspirations to modern nation-statehood. 

The politician of the risorgimento, a person as shrewd as Metternich and Bismark, was Camillo Benzo Conte di Cavour (1810-61) the prime minister of the Kingdom of Piedmont. Northern Italy in the mid-1800s was a patchwork. There was Piedmont, Lombardy, Modena, Venezia, the Papal States, etc. etc., each a sovereign state. It was Cavour who had the political acumen to handle the problem of northern unity before turning to the greater one of unifying north and south. He was, however, a conservative and calculating man, one who favoured a gradual process of unification over revolution.

The politician Cavour might have had his way if the soldier, Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-82), as a young man in the 1830s, had not wandered into a tavern where the theoretician, Mazzini, was holding forth to fellow members of the revolutionary group, Young Italy.

"What do you mean by Italy?" asked one. "The Kingdom of Naples? The Kingdom of Piedmont? The Duchy of Modena?"

"I mean the new Italy… the united Italy of all the Italians," said Mazzini. 

"At that point," recalled Garibaldi in later years, "I felt as Columbus must have felt when he first sighted land."

As a pirate, patriot, soldier of fortune, lover and guerilla fighter from Italy to South America, Garibaldi had a patent on the swashbuckle. He survived imprisonment, torture, severe wounds and exile. As a general, he was fearless, commanding respect and  loyalty from his men by fighting right alongside them in hand-to-hand combat. He was a man of action with an acute sense of justice and a childlike belief that good would  triumph over immorality and corruption. He didn't want to win battles for politicians —he  distrusted them. He was simply and truly out to smite evil. He was what most twelve-year-old boys want to be when they grow up, and if you ever have a strange dream in which you are  beset by enemies and plagued by wrongdoers, and your dreammeister lets you choose whomever you want for help, take Garibaldi. Ask Cavour and Mazzini. They took him, and they didn't even like him. He was that good. 

Thus, in May of 1860, Francis II, King of the Two Sicilies had excellent reason to worry. Garibaldi, over the objections of the ultra-cautious Cavour, had just smuggled a small and almost unarmed (!) group of men out of the port of Genoa  aboard two leaky tubs and set off to liberate the Italian south. He would start in Sicily, in support of a local uprising, and work his way over to the mainland and on up to the capital, the city of Naples. He cajoled and threatened weapons and ammunition out of the commanders of a few armories along the way as he plodded south toward Sicily, where his famous "Thousand redshirts"  (1,089, to be exact) would take on a regular army twenty times that number.

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had a sizable army and the largest navy in the Mediterranean. Socially and politically, however, it had been standing still since the post-Napoleonic Restoration in 1815, surviving the Carbonari revolution of 1820 and successfully resisting calls for reform only by being propped up by the Austrian army and Swiss mercenaries. Many of the kingdom's liberals and intellectuals had left, and by 1860 even King Francis could sense what was coming. In June of that year (after Garibaldi had already taken Sicily!) he revived the constitution of 1848 and relinquished his absolute powers. There was even talk of an alliance between a liberalized Naples and the Piedmont kingdom of northern Italy—an Italian federation, of sorts. This, indeed, would have been a watered-down risorgimento,  but it would have thwarted Garibaldi. 

Even northern politicians, primarily Cavour, while theoretically in favor of Italian unification, were aghast at the thought of a popular revolutionary army led by a thousand redshirted lunatics storming up the peninsula, spreading a  message of instant universal brotherhood. Garibaldi, after all, in his youth had had to do with a mystic band of Christian communards, the St. Simonians, who, years before Karl Marx,  had preached: From each according to his capacity: to each according to his works; the end of the exploitation of man by man; and The abolition of all privileges of birth. 

Garibaldi landed at Marsala and a few days later engaged a superior force near Calatafimi. He threw caution to the winds (he didn't have very much of it, to begin with), said, "Here we either make Italy or die", and led a ferocious bayonet charge uphill, literally overrunning the enemy. 

And that was more or less that. Sicilian irregulars in rebellion against the royal forces had been watching the engagement from nearby hillsides. They liked what they saw. Soon Garibaldi's forces were swelled by a ragtag collection of rebels armed with guns, axes, clubs and whatever else could kill a Bourbon. Together they marched on Palermo and by ceaseless guerilla street fighting drove the Bourbon commander into asking for an armistice, the only condition being that royalist forces be allowed to leave the island for the mainland. 

With 3,500 men under him, Garibaldi then crossed to the mainland and started the 300-mile slog in the heat of summer up towards Naples, his reputation preceding him by leaps and bounds. Peasants were already calling him the "Father of Italy," mothers  brought their babies out to be blessed by him, and there was an air of natural invincibility about him as he moved north. 

Garibaldi at his home on the island of Caprera in Sardinia
There is much discussion even today about exactly how a relatively small band of Garibaldini, augmented at most by a few thousand irregulars picked up along the way, managed to make their way up the peninsula against what, at least on paper, appeared to be an overwhelmingly superior force. It is probably best to view Garibaldi's victory as resulting from a combination of factors. First, Garibaldi, himself, was a master of the hit-and-run harassing tactics that would one day become known as "guerilla warfare." He was also a firm believer in Napoleon's dictum that "morale is to material as ten is to one"—and his Redshirts had morale to burn. They were the righteous bringers of a new nation, and there is little doubt that large numbers of the long-suffering peasantry in Calabria and Puglia (perhaps less so as he moved further north towards Naples) genuinely viewed them as liberators. 

The confused situation in the Bourbon military also worked to Garibaldi's advantage. There was massive desertion among royalist troops, many of whom felt that they were now bound up in defending a lost cause. Additionally, the officer corps had been bitterly split for at least a decade between old-guard royalists and those who felt that the time for a united Italy had come at last. 

All this, and more, combined to produce the unlikely sight, on September 7, 1860, of Giuseppe Garibaldi and a small group of companions entering Naples unopposed, by train (!) from Salerno and then in an open carriage from the station to the Royal Palace. They were miles ahead of  the army. The king had fled to Gaeta the day before and the city and remaining troops welcomed the Risorgimento by giving Garibaldi a hero's welcome. 

A Bourbon force of about 20,000 troops had remained loyal to the king and gone north with him. Initially, the king had intended his retreat as somewhat of a strategic withdrawal. He had no intention of surrendering his kingdom without a fight. His army, near Gaeta, was, however, also being pressed from the north by the advancing army of King Victor Emanuel of Piedmont, who had finally decided to get on the bandwagon of unification before Garibaldi got all the credit. Thus hemmed in, the Bourbons made a desperate effort in early October to break out and retake their kingdom by storming south at the Volturno River. Garibaldi was called upon for one of the few times in his life to fight a pitched battle instead of one of his guerilla actions, and to defend instead of attack. He commanded troops along a twenty-kilometer front against a superior attacking force and held. 

On October 25th, near Capua, Garibaldi greeted Victor Emanuel of Piedmont's Royal House of Savoy with the words, "Greetings to the first King of Italy" and surrendered his conquests—Sicily, half the Italian peninsula and the vast Neapolitan Royal Navy (considerably superior to northern Italian fleets of the time)—without the slightest hesitation or thought of reward for himself—simply because it was the right thing to do. 

For their efforts, Garibaldi and his superb men were completely and utterly snubbed by the new rulers of Italy. The egalitarian initiatives such as free education and land reform that Garibaldi had set up during his brief reign as "Dictator of Naples" were  revoked, provoking for another decade in much of the south what almost amounted to a civil war as recently liberated subjects of the Bourbons took to the hills to escape their liberators from the north. 

Garibaldi didn't like the way things had turned out, but figured it was just more injustice he would have to straighten out when he got around to it.  He spent the last twenty years of his life actively trying to do just that in one way or another, in one place or another. He would fight more battles, be arrested and imprisoned (he escaped) and even be elected to parliament. He didn't have a political bone in his body, and he continued to be saddened and confounded by the politics of those who refused to do the right thing. The Kingdom of Naples, which Garibaldi had handed to Victor Emanuel on a silver platter, was officially dissolved on Oct. 22, 1860, when Neapolitans voted by plebiscite to become part of Mazzini's "new Italy…united for all Italians". 

The last military action by the Bourbons against the armies of united Italy was as heroic as it was useless. After the battle of Volturno, Francis II and his faithful men and officers retreated to Gaeta, circled the wagons and prepared to go down fighting. From November 1860, to February 1861, the city was subjected to a ferocious bombardment. Without the slightest chance of withstanding a siege, much less ever getting their kingdom back, and with no ulterior strategic goal, the Bourbons of Naples resisted and fought the way brave men do who have nothing to lose. Napoleon III of France implored them to give up, as did even the attacking Italian commander, Bersaglieri commander Cialdini, who said that he would be honored to fight against such valiant troops if it weren't a case of Italian against Italian. 

After 8,000 of his men had fallen in the siege, the King told those who wanted to leave to do so. Almost no one left. Histories of the siege are replete with truly moving accounts of the young queen Maria Sophia on the ramparts, herself, encouraging the defenders and refusing to eat so that her food could be given to the wounded. Apparently, when honour had been satisfied, for one can think of no other reason, Francis agreed to surrender. He and his wife went to Rome as guests of the Pope. When the Papal State fell in 1870, they settled in Paris. He died in 1894, his wife in 1925. 

The Bourbon dynasty was the high point as well as the end of the existence of southern Italy as a separate nation. Today, 140 years after the irresistible Risorgimento (bearing in mind, of course, that judgements about "irresistible" are always easier after the fact) forcibly incorporated The Kingdom of Naples into greater Italy, it is still difficult to draw dispassionate conclusions that balance the former existence of the South as a separate and respected European state against the subsequent advantages as part of a single greater nation. 

There is a good 19th-century political cartoon plus accompanying article from Harper's Weekly about Garibaldi's conquering of the Kingdom of Naples at


Immigration (4)

The terms “multicultural” and “multiethnic” present a certain paradox when thinking about Naples. At times, looking at the long history of the city, it seems that it must have always been a grand mixture of different peoples. When the Spanish first got here in the 1500s, for example, Spanish soldiers, officers, diplomats, and merchants suddenly occupied most of the area near the Royal Palace. That is the area still known as “The Spanish Quarter”. Of course, there are no Spanish there, any more. Whatever was separately and distinctly Spanish about the area is now totally Neapolitan. Taking that which is foreign and making it your own is very characteristic of Naples. The Spanish experience has surely been repeated many times over the centuries. Naples seems to be a giant blender that homogenizes whatever might start out to be separate and distinct elements in society. Thus, it is, yes, multicultural, but then very quickly Neapolitan.

The Naples daily, il Mattino, uses the term “multicolor” to describe the relatively new phenomenon of immigrant children in Naples attending local public schools. Naples has never been a racist culture, so the journalist uses such terms quite innocently. She is merely describing what for her is new and fascinating when she writes about a little girl as “three–and–a–half years old, a tiny thing with grand eyes, wearing a rose-colored checkered school blouse that contrasts with her coal–black skin.”

The Neapolitan public school system is now dealing with the fact that Naples, for whatever reason, is home to thousands of immigrants. They may be newly arrived refugees from eastern Europe, au pair from almost anywhere in the world, African street vendors, or Rom—gypsies. 

Children of these persons are required to attend school. Last year, 2,825 immigrant children registered for elementary schools in the Campania province, of which Naples is the capital. The trend seems to be about a 20% increase per year. More than half, 1650, were registered for elementary schools in the city of Naples, itself. Caserta had 750 and Salerno 200. One particular school in Naples actually qualifies for a special state subsidy since more than 10% of the student body is immigrant. “So far,” says the principal, “we haven’t seen a cent.”

The consensus among teachers is that there are no problems having to do with a pupil being of a different race. (That is gratifying, but I would have predicted that.) There are the same language problems, especially with older students (say, above the age of 12) that you find almost anywhere in the world in schools where children are suddenly required to learn a new language. Socially, there is some problem in getting parents in particularly intransigent immigrant groups such as gypsies to send their children to local schools in the first place. Volunteers regularly go out into the community to try to convince these parents to do what is best for their children.

Blackout, rainfall

Of natural and manmade catastrophe

About two weeks ago, Naples had its worst rainfall in living memory. The report was of a downpour at the rate of four inches an hour. That didn’t keep up for an hour, but for the 15 or 20 minutes that rain fell like that, it was impressive, indeed. The rain then eased off to a solid one inch an hour for much of the day. 

Rain like that—or anything even remotely like that—always causes problems in Naples. There are two main concerns: one is that the city sewers can’t handle the run-off. As a result, streets are flooded. Indeed, down at sea level at the small port of Mergellina, streets were turned into lakes as a result of rain water flowing downhill from the Posillipo hill directly above the harbor. The second concern is for the structural integrity of the subsoil. The large hill that much of the city rests on is honeycombed with natural and manmade caverns (mostly manmade, from centuries of quarrying). Every time it rains heavily, some piece of the city, somewhere, is almost guaranteed to cave in.

The rain caused some damage to the San Carlo Theater. The drainpipes that are supposed to get water off the roof of the theater—even when they are in perfect, unclogged condition (apparently they weren’t)—couldn’t begin to cope with that amount of water. The damage seems to be minor, limited at first appraisal to some minor staining of the fresco by Cammarano on the great ceiling of the theater. The water had to flow somewhere, so it seeped into the cracks on the roof and found its way through to the ceiling.

The big disaster, of course—and this happened just yesterday—is totally manmade. Well, it was apparently caused by someone or something in Switzerland. Maybe a cow backed into an Automatic Teller and Milking Machine (conveniently situated in every pasture in the country for all your financial and dairy needs) and set off some sort of a Rube Goldberg chain-reaction. In any event, all of Italy was blacked out for almost an entire day. Much worse than the great loss to the economy was the general feeling of disappointment on the part of many Italians at no longer being able to laugh up their sleeves at the electrotechnologically backward United States for that blackout a few weeks ago in the northeast.

The only place in Italy that was unaffected was the delightfully self-sufficient island of Sardinia, where I happen to be at the moment. I am very happy not to have been in Naples during a major blackout. It happened at 3 o’clock in the morning, so there weren’t that many people trapped in elevators. (What were they doing up at that hour?) Fortunately, the metropolitana—the subway train line—doesn’t run all night. 

I have never been trapped in the elevator in my apartment house. Now, if my wife or any other Neapolitan actually knew that I had just written that sentence, they would go through a series of ritual movements and oaths to pacify the power that I have just challenged. I have evoked the possibility—nay, the certainty—just by mentioning it. I don’t believe in all that, so I say, go ahead, Elevator God, take your best shot. 

Santa Chiara, church (2)

A ceremony was held in the city hall the other day in memory of (1) the destruction of the church of Santa Chiara in 1943 and (2) the rebuilding of that church, completed over ten years later. That rebuilding is responsible for the odd feeling you get when you stand in the courtyard and stare at the plain masonry and stark, Gothic architecture of the church: Santa Chiara seems at once as old as it is and, yet, much newer. It is both. 

On August 4, 1943, after 95 previous air raids on the city of Naples aimed primarily at military installations near the port and train station, the next attack accidentally hit the church and, as they say here, “destroyed six centuries in ten seconds.” (Robert of Anjou built the original church in 1310.) The fire burned for 10 days; 159 persons were killed and 228 were wounded. The church was left a burned-out shell. The belfry on the grounds (photo, left) is the only part that escaped destruction. A plaque (photo, below) on the front of the church, itself, commemorates the reconstruction, finished in 1953.

The mayor of Naples attended the ceremony in the presence of young Franciscan monks, born many years after the event. The ceremony was a tribute to the reconstruction and, as well, to Brother Gaudenzio Dell’Aia, the monk who planned and supervised the work. The church was restored to its original Gothic state, undoing the architectural additions of those who came after the Angevins in the history of Naples. Luigi Ortaglio, the Franciscan who succeeded Dell’Aia as the head of the order in Naples, spoke at the ceremony and called the reconstruction a symbol of the “victory of peace over war” and compared it to resurrection, the rebirth that follows death.

The plaque (photo) reads: After centuries of glory this temple destroyed by war rises as an altar of peace in the heart of ancient Naples and welcomes the names and memory of those who shed blood in the hope of love among nations.
August 4, 1943 August 4, 1953  

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