Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

© Jeff Matthews    entry Feb 2013

Nicola Amore

From the entry on Confusing Statues

Most Neapolitans know that the square named Piazza Nicola Amore on the wide road, Corso Umberto, used to have a prominent statue of, obviously, Nicola Amore, the mayor of Naples in the 1880s and the man behind the great urban renewal of the city, the Risanamento (during which period the road and square were built). The statue was moved, says a local columnist, at the behest of Mussolini period end of sentence. Not so fast, you weasel. It was moved in 1938 so there would be sufficient space to let pass the obnoxiously large motorcade of the Duce’s wartime buddy, der Führer, Adolf Schickelgruber! (I know, I know, that name was Allied propaganda. Sue me.) It worked; the motorcade, if nothing else, went well. There are even early color films of the cheering Neapolitan throngs and of piazza Nicola Amore bedecked with swastikas. They moved poor Amore way over to the west to Piazza Vittoria. [Related item on Hitler in Naples.]
It is, yes, true that this statue of Nicola Amore (1828-1894), located in Piazza Vittoria, was recently spruced up on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy. The arrogant seagull here pictured in the act of desprucing is certainly unaware that it has landed on the head of the person widely credited with being the best mayor Naples has ever had. Even if its little bird-brain could comprehend such, it would probably and rightfully think "How could I disrespect this poor man any more than what was already done to him?" And given the reason (paragraph, above) that this statue was moved from its original position in a shiny new square named for Amore, himself, someone recently suggested that the statue be returned to its original place of honor. That will be some years in the future since Piazza Nicola Amore, itself, is still taking a beating from the agonizingly slow construction of a new underground Metro station.

Amore was from an aristocratic family in a town, Roccamonfine, in the hills above the northern part of the Campanian plain just a few miles from Naples. He was politically a liberal, which in those days in Naples meant that as the chances for the unification of Italy became more and more plausible he was at odds with his regime, the kingdom of Naples, and on the side of the risorgimento, the movement to unite Italy. When unification was declared in 1861, Amore, who had been in politics in his home town, was chosen to fill a post in the new Naples, the position of police chief. That was in 1862, a time when there were still anti-unitarian factions, including remnants of the Bourbon military, roaming around the countryside. (The deposed Bourbon monarchy even maintained a government in exile in Rome during the 1860s.) That decade, 1860-70, was an extremely violent one in southern Italy (see this entry) and Amore dealt with difficult circumstances, according to most sources, in an even-handed fashion. He was then a deputy in the Italian senate from 1865 to 1876, a period in which he also practiced law, achieving a reputation as a skilled courtroom orator.

He was the mayor of Naples from 1884 through 1889, well past the age of the post-unitarian difficulties of the 1860s, true, but a period of intense urban turmoil. The city was struck by a cholera epidemic in 1884, a story well-told in English by Axel Munthe in his Letters from a Mourning City. That epidemic (there had been earlier ones, as well) was the proximate cause of the decision to tear down large sections of the city and rebuild them, a 30-year construction project of unprecedented scale. It was called the risanamento (literally, the "making healthy again") and was responsible for the layout of much of the modern city of Naples. There were other, less drastic plans to deal with overcrowding and unhygienic conditions, but Nicola Amore was in favor of this one and was largely responsible for the plan getting final approval. Even after his mayoral term was finished, he stayed on to help coordinate the massive task. One of the icons of the new Naples was the 1.3 km east-west boulevard called Corso Umberto, running between the stock exchange and the main train station and flanked on both sides by new buildings. It was opened in 1894, the year of Amore's death. The large square along the boulevard near the train station was named for him and is still Piazza Nicola Amore. A statute of him was erected in the square in 1904. The sculptor was Francesco Jerace (1854-1937), from Calabria and one of the most prolific Italian sculptors of his day. His works in Naples include the statue of king Victor Emanuel II (1888) on the west facade of the Royal Palace and the statue of Beethoven in the music conservatory (1895). He also contributed significantly to the Vittoriano, the large memorial in Rome to Victor Emanuel II.

Jerace died in 1937 and did not live to suffer the indignity of seeing his statue of Nicola Amore uprooted and moved way out to Piazza Vittoria. Well, at least Nicola has a splendid view of the sea and the large seaside park, the Villa Comunale. Given the way they move statues around in Naples, there's no telling; he may wind up back at his square some day.

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