Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews


Naples Miscellany 27 (start mid-Dec 2009)

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  • (Dec 18) Entries on the tradition of the Neapolitan manger displays known as the presepe, or crib, may be found at these links: (1) (2)  (3) (4). There is also a nation-wide organization, A.I.A.P, Associazione italiana amici del Presepio (the alternate spelling of presepe) [Italian Association of Friends of the Presepio] that has existed since 1953 and has chapters throughout Italy and in Spain and Malta. The Naples chapter has displays, of course, every year as Christmas nears. This year, the chapter presents its XXIV Display of Presepe Art on the premises of the church of San Severo al Pendino on via Duomo. Almost 50 artists currently working in the presepe tradition will present examples of their work. The display runs through Jan 10, but A.I.A.P. is also sponsoring a ceremony on Feb 27 to present awards to pupils taking part in a presepe-building competition in schools throughout the city. (And, incidentally, if you have not had the chance to see the Maltese language in print, have a look at their presepe site.)

  • (Dec 19) This is why it takes so long to build train lines around here (as if imperial Roman villas at the construction site at the whenever-to-be-opened Via Duomo station weren't enough!) As you may see elsewhere in these pages (here & here, for example), the number 6 underground choo-choo is making progress along the seaside and the Villa Comunale. Down below, the giant mechanical “mole” is eating the earth, and workers are up on top preparing the stations of the future. Yesterday they dug up a skeleton. It ranks apparently as an archaeological find, maybe a fisherman from long ago, maybe even Roman. But they had to stop digging and call the cops. It's probably nothing suspicious or criminal; on the other hand, maybe this is a job for Kathy Reichs, the real "Bones."
  • (Dec 20) I don’t know if I can digest any more news about the splendid future of Bagnoli, a place that makes the phrase “a totally degraded pit” seem like precious understatement. In any event, the announcement has just come through that, thanks to 76 million euros from European funds, the grand Bagnoli Green Park is on its way to being realized. It’s true that they said more or less the same thing 15 years ago, but this time...just you watch. We’re talking about 120 hectares (almost 300 acres), an area as large as the grounds of the great royal palace of Caserta, much of it on land that used to contain the Italsider steel mill in Bagnoli, all full of trees, flowers, lakes and fountains. Stay tuned. Fifteen years from now, I may have a similar notice for you.   
This item is also included on the Consolidated Bagnoli page.

  • (Dec 21) The city is at the beginning of a five-month Baroque binge. There will be exhibits and tours going on at five of the major museums in the city: Capodimonte, San Martino, the Villa Floridiana, the Villa Pignatelli and the Royal Palace. From the brochure describing it all: "Back to the Baroque will focus on the many deeply rooted attitudes and practices that characterized Naples in the Baroque era...[from 1600 to 1750, when]...the city was riven by constant contrasts of vice and virtue, poverty and excess, criminality and nobility...[and...]...was perceived and experienced as a vast stage where the human condition was played out...The Baroque thus becomes both a metaphor and a concrete manifestation of the condition of Naples and Neapolitans."

  • (Dec 21) A calendar for the homeless. A remarkable photographic exhibit is underway at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore alla Pietrasanta on via dei Tribunali in the historic center of Naples.  Twelve well-known Neapolitans, including Olympic swimmer Massimiliano Rosolino and singer Peppino di Capri have lent their services and images to photographer Salvatore Sparavigna, who has produced a calendar for the coming year. Each month displays a stark image of one of the twelve posed as a homeless person, whatever that pose may entail in dress and surroundings. The exhibit bears the name "Se mia strada fosse stata un'altra" [lit. "If my path had been different"—or perhaps better in English as the expression "There but for the grace of God go I." The exhibit runs through Jan 7. All proceeds from the sale of the calendars go to charities for the homeless.

  • (Dec 31) The Milanese fashion designers, Relish, are coming under criticism in Naples for an ad featuring this photo (right) of a guard frisking a young woman. It has appeared at various spots in the city, and voices in city hall, including that of mayor Iervolino (a woman), are calling for a ban on ads that “offend the dignity of women.” I have seen many ads that are worse than this, and this is the first time I’ve heard protests. (Also see this link.)

  • (Dec 31) New Year’s Eve. We’re waiting to see if the predictions pan out or not. Naples usually leads the list of Italian cities for incidents in which people are injured by fireworks. Over the past few weeks, people have been hoarding illegal fireworks (too explosive, too shoddily made, etc. etc.) and cops have been confiscating them at an alarming rate. Many of the devices hardly classify as “firecrackers”; they are small bombs packed in paper. Many of them are imported illegally from Asia. Authorities and hospital ER’s around the city expect the worst.

  • (Jan 1) It could have been worse. There were 28 injuries in the city of Naples and 41 others in the rest of the province of Naples. Of the 69 total, 10 were children. Elsewhere in the Campania region, Caserta reported 14 injuries; Salerno, 15. Those numbers are fewer than last year, and almost all of the injuries were minor burns on the hands. Fire fighters were busy, as usual.

  • (Jan 2) Oops, that was an early optimistic count. With all precincts now reporting, 509 people in Italy showed up at hospitals with fireworks-related injuries. Of that number, 120 were in the Campania region and, of those, 73 were in Naples, the capital of the region. There were a few arrests, including one joker who was firing an automatic rifle from his balcony. Coppers went up and found another automatic weapon with the serial number filed off and €125,000 in cash. Said joker is now "assisting the authorities" in their investigation.

  • (Jan 6) The “Federico II” University of Naples has just put on-line a remarkable library on the camorra (the Neapolitan version of the Mafia). There are two centuries of history, including access to old documents, newer essays on such things as the language and slang of the camorra, a bibliography of books that have dealt with the subject, films, poetry and music. The site, at least so far, is only in Italian, but if you can handle it, here is the link.

  • (Jan 7) The national Lotteria Italia has been drawn, as it is every Jan. 6. The lottery awards 91 winners with sums ranging from €500,000 (2 winners) down to  €20,000 (75 winners). Interestingly, there was a 37% drop in the number of tickets bought in Italy compared to last year's lottery; that is strange for a people obsessed with lotteries and systems and schemes. None of the big winners was in Naples, but three of the paltry €20,000 winners were. I was not one of them. I take no pleasure in such consistency in the universe.

END of Misc. p.#27

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