Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2016

aples Miscellany 62 (start mid-June 2016 )

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(Jun 9) - photo of the day 18
- This is the Sebeto fountain at Mergellina. It is one of so-called "monument fountains" of the city,
named for the ancient river that flowed in Naples. The fountain was designed by Cosimo Fanzago, the great 18th-century architect; the actual construction was completed by his son, Carlo. It was originally located in the Santa Lucia area of Naples but was moved to its current location at the port of Mergellina in 1938. This photo is from album 1 at this link. Click here for a larger image and link to an entry on the other monument fountains.

(Jun 9) - The office of Archaeological Heritage of Naples has inaugurated on Ischia a multimedia cultural center named "Navigando verso Aenaria" (Navigating towards Aenaria (the ancient Roman name for the island). At the same time, it was announced that work would begin in September to learn more about the state of the Greek settlement(s) on the island between the middle Bronze Age (1500-1400), when the island was first visited by Mycenean Greeks, up to the founding of the main settlement of Pithecusa (750 BC.) It is really a restart of work that has often been interrupted --but which has nevertheless made significant progress-- on the sites of ancient Ischia. The work will center on the 18th-century Villa Arbusto, now home to the Archaeological Museum of Pithecusa, opened in 1999, in the town of Lacco Ameno. The work will be undertaken under the auspices of the German universities of Frankfurt and Hamburg and will be financed by the Fritz Thyssen foundation. There is an extensive entry on Pithecusa at this link. (photo: In the Pithecusa Museum on Ischa)

(Jun 11) - photo of the day 19 - This is what is left of the most powerful volcanic eruption in Europe in last 40,000 years:

This is the immense Achiflegrean caldera collapse, (alias the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption), which essentially created everything in the photo between the camera and the island of Ischia in the far background). The view is to the west from the premises of the Camaldoli convent over the area known as the Campi Flegrei (The Flegrean [Fiery] Fields). In front of Ischia is Cape Miseno on the mainland, the western end of the Gulf of Naples. The Camaldoli hill, where you are standing (elev. about 500 meters a.s.l.), is of great geological interest. It is the northeastern rim of the caldera collapse. This photo is from the Hermitage album at this link. Click here for a larger image and links to further text.

(Jun 12) - photo of the day 20 - This is one of the dozens of statues in the large Villa Comunale, the long public park along the seaside in the Chiaia section of Naples between the port of Mergellina and the main part of Naples. (There is a separate general page on the Villa Comunale here.) The statues range from 18th-century copies of classical sculpture (done to ornament the premises of the grand Bourbon palace at Caserta and then moved to the villa), to 20th-century works done to be placed in the Villa Comunale directly. Some are anonymous, but most are named. This anonymous work is entitled "Winter" and is one of a group called The Four Seasons. This photo is from the album at this link dedicated to statuary in the Villa Comunale. Click here for a larger image and to click through 17 other large images. It's all part of a six-part series on the statuary in the Villa Comunale.

(Jun 13) - photo of the day 21 - This is a mosaic of a winged lion, a symbol of St. Mark (mentioned in the fourth chapter of the Book of Revelation). It is of one of the 10 mosaics in the baptistery of San Giovanni in fonte within the Naples cathedral. There is a considerable literature devoted to the baptistery since it is said to be the oldest one in Western Christendom. The actual "modern" cathedral (Duomo), when it was built at the end of the 1200s, incorporated a much older structure, the basilica of Santa Restituta, that contains the baptistery. The baptistery and mosaics have been recently restored. This photo is from the album at this link dedicated to the baptistery of San Giovanni in fonte. Click here for the history of the baptistery, itself. Click here for a larger version of this image and to click through to other such large images plus text.

(Jun 15) - A few more years and this motorcycle will acquire squatter's rights. No one remembers how long it has been parked right there, about 150 meters from my house. It has been, by my memory, at least one year. One morning out of the mist it was just there, neatly parked (maybe even beamed down), carefully secured with a huge lock and solid chain and not particularly in the way. Then decay set in and bits and pieces started to disappear. The last time it moved was a few weeks ago when workers had to open the adjacent telephone box to spy on my calls (and yours). They pushed it aside, did their nefarious deeds and then moved it back into place and even swept up around it. The only way it could really move now is if you pushed it over a cliff, which is what most people around here do when they want to abandon motor vehicles. Take the plates, file off the numbers and give'er the old heave-ho far far away but not next to a phone box and filling station. A local merchant (his shop is about 10 yards away) pointed this eye-sore out to a passing city policeman, noting that it was clearly a case of an abandoned motor vehicle and asked why the city doesn't just load it on a flatbed and tow it away. No dullard, Mr. Gendarme ruminates...

Hmmmm... Why abandon a bike where it's so easy to spot? Maybe you want someone to steal it. OK, then why put that industrial strength lock on it? Maybe it was stolen and then abandoned here -- with a lock? Maybe the owner was murdered before he could come back. Maybe the thief murdered the owner... Maybe it belongs to the phone company. Maybe it's reading my mind right now. Move away ...slowly...slowly. This smells like paper work. You know, it's not really in the way here, is it?

...and says, "OK. I'll make a note. " That was about six months ago. We think the note was abandoned.

Good news! About a month later, the bike disappeared. No one recalls seeing it removed or taken. We figure it just slipped through the cracks...or maybe through one of Walter Benjamin's "pores" of Naples.

(June 16) - More on W. Benjamin's "countless theaters with different plays all running at the same time."     
Here is yet another small example of the makeshift "quaintness" of Naples. The building on the left is now known as the Villa Maria. It was built as the Hotel Eden, one of the most delightful and photogenic examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Italy (known as "Liberty" style in Italian). It was built in 1899-1901 and was the design of Angelo Trevisan (1849-1929). In the original and recently restored configuration it was more or less as you see it on the left: broad, high facade with a lush garden in front. The garden has become increasingly important since the premises border on a congested square (Piazza Amedeo, in the Chiaia section of Naples). Aesthetically the garden provides spaciousness and simply breathes green out onto a square that needs it. On the right is a photo from the other day. The space is cluttered with lawn furniture because a shop has moved its stock out into the garden. Hundreds of items on display and for sale. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Consolation? It won't last long. Summer is about to start. It will end. The rains will come, and an umbrella shop can open up.

[This entry also appears in the entry on Walter Benjamin, here.]

(Jun 17) - photo of the day 22-

This is a recent photo of the western slope of Mt. Vesuvius taken from Naples. Clearly visible is the knoll in front with the original Vesuvius geological observatory (red building in back, opened in 1845). It became a museum in 1970 and was replaced by the modern station (white building in front). The obvious lava flow at the lower left is from the powerful eruption of 1872; it killed a number of observers on the slopes and granted heroic stature to the director, Luigi Palmieri, who refused to leave, staying alone in the station to tend to the instruments. He survived. There are a number of entries in the main index at this link having to do with Vesuvius. This photo is not in the general selections in the photo albums; those are available here.


(Jun 18) -
photo of the day 23- This is a detail of the Spire of the Immaculate Virgin, erected in 1750.
It is in the center of the square of Gesù Nuovo and is one of the three so-called "plague columns" of Naples, also called votive spires. The other two are the one at Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and the Spire of San Gennaro. Some of the finest sculptors of the 1700s worked on the spire shown here; its rich ornamentation is considered the epitome of Neapolitan Baroque sculpture. This photo is from album 2 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to further explanatory text.

(Jun 19) - After entering the Mediterranean Sea a few days ago, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight David Eisenhower has arrived in Naples for a port call. It is scheduled for a seven-month deployment to Europe and the Middle East. The Eisenhower was commissioned in 1977, has since been overhauled twice, and is the second of the ten Nimitz-class carriers currently in service in the U.S. Navy. The ship's company is 3,200 personnel and the air wing has 2,480. She carries 90 fixed-wing planes and helicopters. This is not one of your leisurely "boats of summer" and is relatively rare. A U.S. carrier was last here about three years ago. (The view here is from the Chiaia section of Naples to the south with the Sorrentine peninsula in the background.

(Jun 20) -
photo of the day 24- This is the interior of the Galleria Umberto. It was completed in 1890 and was seen as the cornerstone, the icon of the new Naples, a symbol and product of the generation-long urban renewal of the city known as the risanamento.
This photo is from album 2 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to compete explanatory text.

(Jun 21) -
photo of the day 25 -
This place is so picturesque someone should take a picture of it. It's one of the many places along the Posillipo coast that "you can't get to from here"
at least that's the way it looks. It's the small port of Riva Fiorita, well known to fans of Italian daytime TV as the setting of at least one soap opera. Tune in at this larger image in photo album 2 that will then link you to "love and betrayal in the beautiful bay of Naples" and a few hundred other large photos with text.

(Jun 22) -
photo of the day 26 -
This is the bay of Pozzuoli, looking west from the town of Pozzuoli, itself, across to the town of Baia, seen on the far right and sweeping to the left out to the end of the bay and the gulf of Naples, marked by Cape Miseno. The island of Ischia is in the background.
This photo is from album 2 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an historical entry on Pozzuoli.

Dove si placa il dolore... painting by Selene Salvi
(Jun 25) - photo of the day 27 - This is the most recent painting by Neapolitan artist Selene Salvi. (She maintains an album of works on Naples: Life, Death & Miracles at this link. She seldom does landscapes. This one was clearly inspired by a Sunday passeggiata marina ("sea stroll") along the Posillipo coast in a kayak a couple of summers ago. I mentioned it then, here. She explored the marine grottoes, stared at the cliffs, went in the water... and thus physically and intimately became one with her subject the mythology of Naples...the sea, the sirens, the legends. She wrote in a marvelous essay, The Sea of Posillipo, (partially cited here) that the reflections you see ancient forms, cut steps, baths, platforms, hollow spaces now empty, dark chambers. You behold an entire Atlantis beneath you, submerged in the slow breathing of the earth...

She then took the photo you see directly above (right) and finally went home and painted (image at top) a scene of the same stretch of coast, looking east, in her  extended view, to the isle of Gaiola and Vesuvius in the far distance. It was only a matter of time. (I waited almost two years for a landscape!) The title of the painting, Dove si placa il dolore... is an Italian translation of the original Greek place name Pausílypon and means "Where pain ceases...". I don't know if Selene is the person sitting on the rock in the painting, but I wouldn't put it past her. The painting is oil on canvas and measures 90 x 30 cm (about 12x36 inches).

(Jun 26) -
The cable-car is open again! I know there are a lot of them, but this one is special. After four years of maintenance and repairs there is once again an easy way to get up to one of the most remarkable attractions in the Campania region of Italy
—the Sanctuary of Montevergine in the province of Avellino (photo, left) leaving precisely from the bottom station (photo, right) in the town of Mercogliano. The Sanctuary is surrounded by the Partenio National Park about 50 miles inland from Naples. The cable-car started running again yesterday. It will take you for a 1670 meter ride (a bit over a mile) up to the Sanctuary in seven minutes. The top station is at 1270 meters (3800 feet).
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