Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

Naples Miscellany 1

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Over the past few weeks (as of May 2007), a number of items have caught my interest. Among them:

The UNESCO World Heritage List (which so far includes 830 natural and cultural properties
in the world having “outstanding universal value”) is considering adding the Campi Flegrei and adjacent area of the Bay of Pozzuoli to the list. The area is significant geologically because of ongoing bradiseismic phenomena and archaeologically because of the presence of large-scale Roman ruins (submerged and on the surface), including those of the ancient Portus Julius, the homeport of the Western Imperial Fleet. Other areas in the  Campania region of Italy already on the list are the 18th-century Royal Palace at Caserta with the park, Carolino aqueduct (built by Vanvitelli), and San Leucio Complex; the Herculaneum and Pompeii archaeological sites; the Amalfi coast; and the Cilento national park (including Paestum and the Padula monastery).

[See this 2013 update: UNESCO sites in Campania.]

The Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy has purchased the large and abandoned building on via Arenaccia that used to house SIP (the old phone company and one of those that merged to form Telecom Italia in the 1990s). The building is to become a mosque. There are two schools of thought: (1) We don’t want more “creeping Islam” in Italy; (2) The new structure will help rejuvenate one of the most decrepit areas in the city. It would; I am betting on number two. Economics trumps ideology every time  (See also  "Islam in Naples""Early Islam in Italy" and From Fish Market to Mosque.)

What is now called “Chinatown” has mushroomed up behind the main train station and runs along the industrial port of Naples into the adjacent communities of San Giuseppe Vesuviano, Terzigno, Ottaviano, San Gennaro, Poggiomarino and Boscoreale. There are now about 800 small enterprises: wholesale stores, restaurants, grocers, small warehouses, and manufacturers of textiles, shoes, and general leather goods, etc. The Chinese community numbers about 6,000 and is represented by Si.Ci.Na (Sindacato Cinese Nazionale—Chinese National Labor Union). To some extent, the Chinese-run enterprises in Naples employ local Neapolitan labor—a big plus in a city with rampant unemployment. The bad news is that they have to pay off “the mob” to stay open.
[Update from July 2014]   (See also "Immigration" items in the index); (also March 2020: Chinese aid)

In Naples, there are more than 3000 school children whose native language is either Arabic or Chinese. In Caserta, there are 2000 and in Salerno 1500. The Campania region has commissioned the printing of textbooks on Italian geography and history in those two languages in order to accommodate members of these linguistic minorities who might require them. Parents of children requiring the texts may request them by email;

The Great Naples Copper Caper. I had never heard copper referred to as “red gold” until a number of items started appearing in the papers about copper theft at industrial sites. In Naples, there now appears to be a small band of grave robbers dedicated to stealing copper from local cemeteries. So far, about 40 copper funerary vases have disappeared. They are generally mounted on wall crypts and used to hold flowers;

The number of “child brides” (by definition, below the age of 18) continues to fall in Italy (from 1,562 in 1993 to 456 in 2002). Of that number, however, half (233) were in the Campania region, of which Naples is the capital.

(mid-June, 2007)

The International Horse Jumping Competition at Piazza Plebiscito (photo, right), the third edition of which is currently underway. It’s beautiful to watch and is well attended. It’s a four-day affair. The entire square, the largest open square in Naples, is converted into a suitable venue by the abundant spreading of pseudo-earth (a high-tech mixture of chemical non-slip material) over the otherwise unsuitable and treacherous paving stones. Get a horse? Hay is not five dollars a gallon, so maybe it’s the way to go.

At first, they thought it was the fault of recent rain, but apparently leaky plumbing has caused a considerable amount of water to burst into one of the most historical houses of worship in Naples, the church of Gesù Nuovo, located in the square of the same. Some damage —the extent as yet undetermined— has been done to works of two of the great names in Neapolitan (and Italian) Baroque art, Luca Giordano and Cosimo Fanzago.

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