Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

           entry July 2016

Naples Miscellany 65 (start late July, 2016)

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(July 31 - Photo of the Day 57) - This mosaic of the siren Parthenope - "Virgo" - the symbol of Naples, is at the center of the main concourse of the Galleria Umberto, forming part of the floor display of all the signs of the Zodiac. This photo is from album 3 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to the article "Land of the Sirens."

(Aug 1 - Photo of the Day 58) - Caption for this: "Don't ask!" But if you insist, this unhappy little fellow is one of the thousands of exquisite details on the façade of the basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) in the city of Lecce in the region of Apulia, almost at the bottom of the heel of the Italian boot. The structure is the best example of the Lecce Baroque, of which the UNESCO World Heritage description says, "...every alley, every street, every square not only in Lecce but also in Nardò, Gallipoli, Martina Franca, Ostuni...and many others, testifies to the wide range of expressive feats achieved by the 'Barocco leccese'. This link is to the entry on "The Lecce Baroque," plus ample additional photography. (Spoiler alert: He's a Turkish prisioner from the Battle of Lepanto.)

        alternate caption: "Golly, all I said was, 'OK, tough guy, bring it on. Show me what you got'."

Aug 2 - Photo of the Day 59 - This is the Antonio Cardarelli hospital in the Vomero section of Naples, the area that hosts a number of important health care facilities. It opened in 1934 and has had a storied history, even serving as a German and then US military facility during World War II. I learned about that, indeed, through an inquiry from a WWII vet who asked me if I knew anything about the "17th US Army General Hospital." This photo is from album 4 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an entry on this hospital and the fascinating life of the architect, as well as on the history of Neapolitan hospitals in general.

Aug 3 - Photo of the Day 60 -
This is Christ Church, the home of the British Anglican and the US Episcopalian communities in Naples. It was built shortly after the unification of Italy (1861). This photo is from album 4 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an entry on the church.

Aug 4 - Photo of the Day 61 - The view here is north across the lovely harbor of Otranto from the promenade over to the lighthouse (about 700 meters). Otranto is near the tip of the heel of the "boot" of Italy; it is the easternmost city in the nation, a scant 72 km/45 miles from the Albanian coast across waters where the Adriatic and Ionian seas come together. The photo is taken from near the Aragonese castle and the cathedral of Otranto, which houses The Tree of Life (L'Albero della vita) mosaic, one of the most interesting creations in European cultural history in the last one thousand years, and, no, I'm not exaggerating. This link has the complete story plus additional photography. (This photo is not in my regular albums, which are here.)
map insert: Wikipedia

Aug 5 - Photo of the Day 62 -
This spindly Tin Man-looking contraption is the most visible symbol of Edenlandia, the amusement park/fun fair
in the western suburb of Fuorigrotta. It has been closed for some time, and the bad news is that the reopening is now set for May 2017 in spite of earlier predictions that saw a partial reopening this month. Given the difficult history of the park and adjacent Naples zoo (still open!), none of this should be surprising.
This photo is from album 4 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to the complete entry on Edenlandia.

Aug 6 - Photo of the Day 63 -
The Neapolitan with the English name, Lamont Young (1851-1929), was a visionary urban planner and architect, in spite of a few examples to the contrary, jocularly termed "Dracula Victorian", such as his castle home, villa Ebe, on the Pizzofalcone height (pictured), built before the city put new blocks of high-rise hotels between him and the sea. His plan to rebuild Naples in the 1880s was rejected in favor of the draconian "gutting" known as the risanamento. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Click here for a larger image and a link to an extensive entry on his life and work, including an update on attempts to preserve this building.

Aug 7 - Photo of the Day 64 - Friend Peter H. saw the large photo (below) and said, "There has to be a place in heaven that looks just like this." Of course, he's a geologist and drools at the site of karst—that is, soft porous limestone with underground water (even lakes and rivers), caves, stalactites, stalagmites and some things certainly not from heaven (photo, right); in short, anything that looks like the Dolomites. THE Dolomites, of course, are waaay up north; this photo is our local version, the NW flank of the Alburni massif, a 20 x 10 km loaf-looking thing set down near Paestum in the province of Salerno. (There is a photo of the SE flank, just around the bend, at this link, where you will also find a history of the area, called the Cilento. There is a Cilento portal to numerous entries here.) The peaks in the photo are at about 1700 meters/5500 feet.

Aug 8 - Photo of the Day 65 -
This is palazzo Sessa in the Chiaia section of Naples at Piazza dei Martiri. It was the residence of Sir William Hamilton (1730-1803), British diplomat and gentleman archaeologist and vulcanologist who took part actively in early excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. His wife, Emma, also took part actively in a love affair with Admiral Horatio Nelson, much to the delight of generations of novelists and scandal lovers. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and an extensive entry on at least some of the juicy details.

Aug 9 - Photo of the Day 66 - This is a view due east on the Amalfi coast over the church of Santa Maria Annunziata from the premises of the Villa Rufolo in Ravello. The church was dedicated in 1281. The subsequent history of the structure parallels that of the dynastic changes in southern Italy over the centuries; the church enjoyed periods of patronage from a long string of feudal lords as well as leaner periods. It grew to be rich in internal ornamentation, much of  which, however, eventually went missing. In 1721 the church was redesigned to conform to Baroque aesthetics of architecture. In the 1980s it was restored to its original Romanesque design. It no longer serves as a house of worship but rather as a site for congresses and conventions. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and general entries on Ravello and the yearly Ravello culture festival.

Aug 10 - Photo of the Day 67 - This is the Villa Lucia, facing south to overlook the bay and located on the same large tract of wooded land acquired by King Ferdinand I of Naples in 1816. That tract is now the public park, the Floridiana, and once contained, besides this villa, the Villa Floridiana (now the National Ceramics museum). The villa Maria is now in private hands, but the rest of the property is intact. Both villas were gifts by the king to his "morganatic" wife, Lucia Migliaccio Partanna. The present-day Floridiana—was acquired by the state in 1919. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and a link to the entry on the Floridiana, the ceramics museum and morganatic wives.

Aug 11 - Photo of the Day 68 - As unlikely as it may sound and look, this structure, called the Fèscina, is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Italy. It is, in fact, a kind of mausoleum, dated to the 1st c. BC, and is located in the necropolis of via Brindisi in the town of Quarto, near Naples. It is freestanding and has an underground section, as well. The part above ground is 7 meters high. The site was excavated in the 1970s and 80s. The architecture is peculiar and is the only example of its kind in the Campania region of Italy and possibly, in all of Italy. It was, however, widespread in the Hellenic Age in the eastern Mediterranean, which has led to speculation that the family that built this one was from Asia Minor. Link here to the entry on this item and, in general, funerary practices in the ancient world. (Anywhere else in Italy but in the Neapolitan outback, they would have built a museum around this thing, but at least some good-hearted volunteers have cleaned up the site and made it more accessible than is seen in this particular photo.)

Aug 12 -
"...Etna, that wicked witch, resting her thick white snow under heaven, and slowly, slowly rolling her orange-coloured smoke. They called her the Pillar of Heaven, the Greeks. (D.H. Lawrence)
Mighty Mt. Etna on Sicily (separate entry on Etna, including a longer Lawrence description, is here) is having a few bureaucratic problems to go with the geological ones. It is important to know that many people live on the slopes and have willingly done so for thousands of years and have developed "...a “centuries-old physical and emotional relationship with the volcano.” (Indeed, they approach slow lava fronts for fireside chats and try to bargain.) The cited phrase is from a report of the ETNA-Libera Committee, formed with the goal of modifying the restrictions that limit access to the summit of Italy's highest volcano. The committee wants to change a 2013 Civil Defense decree that forbids access to the higher elevations by anyone not accompanied by trained personnel or unless there is no volcanic activity, whatsoever. That is almost never the case on Etna. It has largely been an effusive volcano with slow lava overflow that can last for months; explosive activity, however, can and does occur at higher elevations. The current summit is at 3,329 m (c. 11,000 feet). Both types, effusive and explosive, can cause, and recently have caused, damage to man-made structures, but all that, I suppose, is part of the locals' "physical and emotional relationship with the volcano." They can live with it and maybe even like it. The decree, according to the committee, is in violation of UNESCO's policy on World Heritage Sites (of which Mt. Etna is one) that declares that such sites should be as available as possible. The decree is also killing the many local activities that live from the tourist trade. That, too, is a physical and emotional relationship.

Aug 13 - Photo of the Day 69 -
The east entrance to the Villa Comunale, the long public park along the Chiaia seafront, is 'guarded' by a series of eight classical statues. Pictured (right) is Hercules with Telefo by Andrea Violani (d.1803). All of the statues are 18th-century copies of Greek or Roman originals and were originally meant to be installed at the Royal Palace in Caserta. They were moved to their present location in the early 1800s. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and links to entries on (i) the Villa Comunale, (ii) a photo album of the statuary on the grounds, and (iii) a 6-part series devoted to the statues and other structures on the premises.

Aug 14 - I hope this is a good thing, but we may have to wait and see. Many internet sources report that Next Geosolutions, “an independent geoscience and engineering service provider,” has secured a €1.25million (£1million) mapping and survey contract with Naples Port Authority for the Archaeological Sites Mapping Project, based in the Port of Naples. The project started in July and is due for completion by December 2016. From Next Geosolutions' published self-description of activities:
Application of geophysical survey techniques is the best practice for detailed mapping of archaeological features on known archaeological sites, and within the Port of Naples, previous underwater and aerial surveys have shown numerous submerged archaeological remains.
The company was formed in 2014 and offers a wide range of underwater engineering services. They have already completed projects in the Mediterranean and North Sea. They have two operational offices, one in London and the other in Naples.

Aug 15 - Photo of the Day 70)- This is as foolishly optimistic as it looks. With typical Neapolitan inshallah-titude these people have chosen to live on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, a volcano that is still active and one that has a long history of explosive eruptions. This photo is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and links to the main entry on Vesuvius in the article on Geology plus links to a dozen other entries on Vesuvius in the main index.
   Oh, today is August 15, Ferragosto, the deadest day of the year. It goes back to the summer festivities instituted by Caesar Augustus (Feriae Augusti). The day is a public holiday in Italy. Some make the whole month a vacation. Only TV reporters stay at their posts to report on people who are on vacation. Don't get sick or have an accident today; yesterday was the last day for that. On the other hand, with volcanoes you never know. Inshallah.

Aug 16 - Photo of the Day 71)-
Totò (Antonio De Curtis) was the most popular and best-loved Italian film comic of the 20th century and that is what every other Italian film comic of the 20th century would say without the slightest bit of hesitation or envy. That's just how good he was. Occasionally, reporters will say to a young up-and-coming comic, "You're the next Totò." When one reporter pulled that on local comic Massimo Troisi (1953-1994), extremely popular and a truly gifted comic as well as actor, he smiled weakly at the reporter and said, "You're joking, right?"

 This photo is of the frontispiece of the program for a stage performance, which, true to his vaudeville beginnings, he still did throughout much of his career. The image is from album 4 at this link. Link here to a larger image and the general entry on Totò.

Aug 17 - Photo of the Day 72 - Yes, this is a cruise ship. (I'm not sure which deck. I think there are 16, not counting steerage.) At this time of the summer they are in and out of here on Poseidon's great conveyor belt, the gulf of Naples, one after another, coming at dawn and leaving at dusk, strung out across the bay. If you yearn to "smite the sounding furrows and sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars," brother, have you ever come to the wrong place! I tried a cruise like this once; details here.

This is the END OF Naples Miscellany 65.

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