Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

                                ErN 98, entry Oct 2009

onfusing Statues

Ok, when the music stops, each statue has to...

I live on a street named for the first king of united Italy, Victor Emanuele II. There is no statue of him on the street, though. There is, however, a large VE II statue, as there is in many Italian cities, elsewhere, at Piazza Municipio, a square named for the Naples city hall, the municipio (unless there is a Mr. Municipio I am unaware of). A columnist in the local paper was whining about such egregious toponomastic mismatches in the city the other day. Statues and squares should go together, he thinks. Methinks he doth protest just about righteth.

As a matter of fact, there are two statues on my Corso Vitt. Eman. II: one is a statue of the 19th-century composer Saverio Mercadante and the other is way down at the east end of the road at Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini, a square named for the great political philosopher of Italian unification. There is a very large statue in his square, however, of someone else! —and I swear I did not know it was someone else until I went and checked after all these years. (I figured—square, statue. Has to be the same. Makes sense. But, then again, I often missed Groucho’s infamous question: Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?). The statue at Piazza Mazzini is of Paolo Emilio Imbriani (photo, above), mayor of Naples from 1870-1872. But if Imbriani is at Piazza Mazzini, where is Mazzini? There is a bust of him (photo, below) at the end of the street called, uh, via Emilio Imbriani across from the Angevin Fortress! (Not its original location. A strange story. See this update from July 2018.)

There is both a square and a statue dedicated to the great Bourbon Monarch, Charles III. They are not in the same place. The square is in front of the giant Royal Poorhouse, while the statue is one of the two that occupy center stage at Piazza Plebiscito. (Mr. Plebiscito was Mr. Municipio’s brother-in-law.)

The columnist tried to finesse his way around this next one, however, because it’s embarrassing. 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 the 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 (she was Mr. Municipio's mistress) where he still stands, not far from a statue of Giovanni Nicotera, one of Garibaldi’s famed One Thousand. He (Nicotera) also has a street, but it’s not near his statue.

Giuseppe Garibaldi obviously has a statue in Naples (and every other burg in Italy) and it is (hurray!) coterminous with the gigantic Piazza Garibaldi and even the street, Corso Garibaldi. They were taking no chances; you can go Garibaldingbats on all three right in the same place! (I’m starting to feel better.) Umberto, by the way—O he of the above-named Corso—was the second king of Italy. To honor him, there is, besides the street, also the gigantic Galleria Umberto, so surely the statue Oh. Way over on via Nazario Sauro. That’s ok. It’s a nice place to stand; he looks out over the sea.

The Neapolitan naval hero, Admiral Francesco Caracciolo, is the eponym for the long seaside road along the Villa Comunale. The prominent statue on that road, however, is of someone else—WW I general, Armando Diaz. He, of course, is nowhere near his street, but his spot on via Caracciolo is also a pleasant place to stand. It looks out at the sea, away from the confusion. He can stand there forever and puzzle over the fact that after he signed the armistice for Italy in the Great War as “firmato, Diaz” [“signed, Diaz”] a great many newborn Italians that year wound up being named “Firmato” by parents who figured it must have been the general’s given name. There is a gigantic monument to "Firmato" —a tall pedestal topped by Diaz astride a horse— on the sea front along via Caracciolo. The design of the monument is by Gino Cancelotti, and the bronze statue, itself, is by Francesco Nagni. The monument was erected in 1934; it is nowhere near the street, via Armando Diaz, which runs by the main post-office at Piazza Matteotti (named for the Italian Socialist murdered by Fascists in 1924). Although there are other tributes to both Caracciolo and Matteotti in Naples I don’t think there is a statue of either one. But you never know.

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