(Dec 22) - Probably nothing to worry about, but the scientific journal Nature Communications has just published a report by Italian and French scientists expressing concern at the hydrothermal conditions beneath the Campi Flegrei (alias the Fiery Fields, alias the site of the mammoth Campanian Ignimbrite eruption of 40,000 years ago, which created the western end of the bay of Naples.) The many small hills in Camp Flegrei are remnant craters. From the report:
...scientists have for the first time identified a threshold beyond which rising magma under the Earth's surface could trigger the release of fluids and gases at a 10-fold increased rate...This would cause the injection of high-temperature steam into surrounding rocks...which can ultimately lose their mechanical resistance, causing an acceleration towards critical conditions.
This is not the first alarm. The entire area was jolted by small movements called bradiseisms in the 1980s and has been subject to increased monitoring since 2005, and geologists on TV never tire of warning the half-million people in the area that the popular tourist attraction, the bubbling sulfur pit called Solfatara (pictured) is really an active volcano and probably part of a potential super volcano like Yellowstone in the United States. Probably nothing to worry about—unless you put credence, as do many Neapolitans, in the fact that the Miracle of San Gennaro did not occur the other day, when it was supposed to. That means bad luck, disaster, and catastrophe.
[Also see item for Feb 3, below]
Confessions of a Neapolitan model:
My name is Anna, Anna Cutolo. Those who like me call me Nannina, or Cosarella, because they say I look like a little girl. I'm a model, in the sense that they pay me to pose for them. Even nude. I'm not ashamed of it; I've done it a thousand times. Maybe a little bit when I started, but then it just got natural because I saw that their eyes were not full of desire, they just wanted to transform me—at least that's what they told me. I am much in demand. Maybe because a poet told me once that I looked as if I stepped out of painting by Titian, what with my red hair and my “pale gentle head”* [trans. note: a phrase from Neapolitan poet Salvatore Di Giacomo's biography of Gemito]
Those who have painted me include Giuseppe De Sanctis, Vincenzo Caprile, Paolo Vetri, Salvatore Postiglione, maestro Morelli and many others. But I fell in love with one of them. It was something in his look, I can't explain it...now I pose only for him, for my Vincenzo and his madness. Maestro Morelli, don Mimi, tells me that I have lovely breasts, lovelier than those of the Venus di Milo. Once he put a fan in my hand and had me undress. He told me to look in his eyes as if I were seeking a kiss. I felt like laughing, but I held it in. Now I'll tell you a little secret, but you mustn't tell anyone. One sculptor (not my husband—I'll let you guess for yourselves) looked at the painting that don Mimi had done of me and fell in love with me. He had me pose for his loveliest work, a half-bust without arms, just like the Venus di Milo. I don't think it was my “pale, gentle head” that inspired him, do you?
Jan 17 - (Only iff you're on a budget and are not claustrophobic...) They are called sleep boxes, transit hotels, pod hotels, capsule hotels and probably (at the very beginning) Draculairs (ok, I made that one up). They used to be drab and functional (a bed and a communal bathroom), but now there's one in Singapore called the Capsule Pod Boutique Hostel, (for some reason, they skipped 'cabana' and 'little grass shack') aesthetically designed with a shared kitchen and common room with flat-screen TV. Some now even have swimming pools.
They started in Japan as “capsule hotels” (kapuseru hoteru) and have spread rapidly —that is, extremely small, cheap, basic overnight accommodations generally close to the centers of cities that are major tourist draws or near (or even in) transit facilities such as airports and train stations. Currently, the only one in Italy has recently opened at the Capodichino airport in Naples (ask for the airport that sounds like a cup of coffee). It is called the Benbo and is on airport premises. The hotel has 42 rooms, each of which is 4.5 meters (almost 15 feet) long and wide enough for a bed and a desk. They are equipped with air conditioning and a docking station for your electronics. Two rooms are designed for the disabled and some units are connected internally to accommodate families. The entire facility has 16 common bathrooms. Showers are available. Not too shabby. Cost: 25 euros for one night, or if you just want to snooze before a flight, there is an hourly fee. There is a plan to expand the facility, all designed by the Studiotre firm of Naples. Airports at Rome, Bergamo and Palermo have shown interest.
18) - Here is
another fascinating photo of
one of the many subterranean
spaces beneath Naples; this
one is part of the now very
popular tourist attraction
known as the Bourbon Gallery
(or tunnel). The Gallery was
recently restored (which
means cleaning up, shoring
up, and dressing up) to put
on a good show or tourists
to the city. One such
tourist is the person who
took this shot, Gianluca
Padovan of Milan who has
contributed regularly (and
continues to do so) to the
website of Napoli
Underground (Nug). This
photo is from n.12 in a
series entitled Naples:
Above & Below. All
of the installments are on
the Nug website starting
here. They are all
very short insightful
comments on the spaces above
(castles, fortresses) and
below (quarries, aqueducts
and cistern) Naples. They
are all accompanied by good
photography such as this
sample. (On the Nug website,
the installments may not be
in numerical order—because I
didn't translate them in
order!—but they are all on
the same list and easy to
find. He said.) My own
comments on the Bourbon
(Jan 30) - The “Green Lungs” of Naples. In 1967 a city report, The Subsoil of Naples, said,
"A flood of houses has submerged Naples to an incredible degree. The hills have been assaulted, the greenery destroyed—the entire area victim of building speculators. Whoever now views Naples from the sea stares at a giant cement presepe clinging to a desolate cliff."
They also predicted that the population of Naples would be 1,425,000 by the year 2000 and 1,650,000 by 2020. The current (early 2017) population of Naples, however, is just over 1,100,000 somewhat less than in 1951! The reasons for this are increased mobility to move out of the city and the dramatic drop in the birthrate. (See this link and this one for more details.) In spite of that, the general impression is still that Naples is wall-to-wall housing “clinging to a cliff.” But there are still a number of what are called 'urban forests' or 'forest parks' —that is, substantial numbers of trees and other vegetation growing in and around the city. In many cases, the green areas are residual or restored (reforested) bits of what used to be. The advantages are obvious: these green patches filter air and water, provide recreational areas for people, cool the local 'heat islands' generated by city cement and asphalt —all that. Italians like the term polmoni verdi (green lungs) to describe these oases that let this third largest Italian city breathe. Some of these areas in Naples are:
Botanical Garden, Villa Floridiana, Mostra d'Oltremare, Camaldoli, Posillipo, Capodimonte,
San Martino Vineyard, Villa Comunale, Baths of Agnano, Astroni
(Jan 30) -The Big One, round 2? (or maybe it's 3) - The deep drilling project that started seven years ago (noted here) in the bay of Pozzuoli has recently published new results. The first reports in December (first item, top of this page) set off scream headlines in the local press and more thoughtful gasps in geology journals. The accepted eruptive history in the Campiflegrei is generally correct. There were two great events: a single massive eruption, 39,000 years ago (the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption and caldera collapse) and a subsequent series of smaller eruptions, 15,000 years ago, that created the pockmarks (craters) of the Campiflegrei as well as the Neapolitan Yellow Tuff ridge of what is now the long Posillipo spine that separates the bay of Naples from the bay of Pozzuoli.
There are a few puzzles: the initial eruption was smaller than originally thought and may not have actually “blown” from the center of the Campiflegrei (dead center in this photo) but a bit to the north (farther out into the bay, center left), producing the “campi” from somewhat of a side vent. (This, in spite of the illusion in photos such as this one that you are staring directly across the diameter of an exploded crater.) Remarkably, there was more settling of the caldera after the second eruption than after the larger first eruption. The Campi Flegrei Deep Drilling Project (CFDDP) drilled down 501 meters in the western gulf (the bay of Pozzuoli) to study the deep structures of the caldera, its geothermal characteristics, and its magma chemistry. The study measured argon isotopes in order to estimate the age of various layers. Studies of microfossils (or lack thereof) show that the original volcano, of which there are only a few rim fragments remaining, was well above sea-level. Studies continue. Consensus so far? A relatively placid-looking caldera basin (this photo) is deceptive. The magma chamber below the bay of Pozzuoli is alive and well. But we knew that already from studying the Solfatara, the potential supervolcano lurking beneath the Campi Flegrei.
Sicily abounds in wonders, natural and man-made, from majestic Mount Etna to the UNESCO World Heritage Greek temples of Agrigento to...well, etc. etc. There is no end of spectacular sites to see above ground, but if that is all you see, you miss half the fun. Look down, beneath the surface! For example, there is a limestone cave in the Temenites hill in the city of Syracuse called The Ear of Dionysius (for Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse in 400 BC, a ruler so vicious that in Dante's Inferno, he suffers forever in a river of boiling blood! The “ear” part means that the cave has great acoustics.) And you will see the famous salt mines (pictured) of Petralia (near Palermo), claiming to contain the richest salt deposits in Europe and to be the only facility in the world where production takes place entirely underground. There are more than 70 km (40 miles) of tunnels!—enormous boring machines, conveyor belts, and packaging equipment—all of it underground. Until you open that box of salt in your home, the salt hasn't seen the light of day for millions of years. The salt in question in called salgemma in Italian (from the resemblance to gems). In English, it is commonly known as "rock salt". The chemical name is Halite; it the mineral form of sodium chloride (NaCl).
Another version of this entry appears on the website of Napoli Underground (Nug) here; there are links to the original Italian source article by Attilio Bolzoni as well as additional photography by Roberto Boccaccino, the photographer of the image shown above.
(Feb 13) -South Italian? This is nuts. No, really. NUTS is a too cutesy European Union (EU) acronym for Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics... "a geocode standard for referencing the administrative divisions of countries for statistical purposes...It is the computational process of transforming a postal address description to a location on the Earth's surface (spatial representation in numerical coordinates)..."It produces strange terms such as "South Italian," a term that includes the "spatial coordinates" for the modern Italian regions of Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise, all grouped as ITF. It does not include the islands of Sardinia and Sicily (ITG). One problem is that this system causes confusion when talking about endangered languages. UNESCO has some important criteria for deciding whether or not a language is endangered or, indeed, worse—extinct. There are 5 categories. A language is
Vulnerable if- most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home);
Definitely endangered if- children no longer learn the language as a 'mother tongue' in the home;
Severely endangered if- the language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves;
Critically endangered- the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently:
Extinct if- there are no speakers left.
The table shown above is from a newspaper, The Guardian, and is the paper's attempt to fit the UNESCO description of "endangered languages" into the NUTS geocode. That is misleading, for there is no such language as "South Italian". There are various "southern Italian" Romance languages (related but not necessarily mutually comprehensible) that go by their traditional names of Neapolitan, Calabrian, etc. and even have their own literature. Together, the may have 7½ million speakers, and some may be vulnerable. Some are not. But there is no single minority language (a variety of language comprehensible within a geographic area) that everyone within the boundaries of ITF speaks. If there is an EU NUT-case bureaucrat reading this, please explain this to me. In the case of Neapolitan, it is not "vulnerable". True, it is not used as a language of governmental communication and news, but it is commonly used in daily interpersonal relations and is indispensable as a cultural vehicle; as I write, there are at least a half-dozen plays (with theaters packed) running plays in Neapolitan. It is so well-known in the world, that it has become iconic for Italy, which doesn't make people from Milan and Venice very happy. (See this link and this one for more). (The complete NUTS scheme for Italy is here.)
(Feb 14) -There is some bad news about Valentine's Day (besides the fact that I forgot it again): namely, the heart is not an accurate metaphor for the emotion we associate with this day. Love is really controlled by the thalamus, an "ovoid mass of nuclei" in the brain. There is, however, good news: If you are in love, it doesn't really matter, and, anyway, it's much easier to make a paper cut-out of a heart than it is of an ovoid mass of nuclei —and finding even a bad rhyme for "thalamus" would just about put the Hallmark people out of business. (No, don't bother. I've tried. So far, I have come up with: "I hope there's nothing with my gal/pal amiss; won't you be my thalamus.")
St. Valentine's Day is another of those holidays that no one around here used to celebrate. At least Valentine was not a foreign import. He, indeed, was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius II Gothicus in the third century. He was beheaded, they say, on February 14, not just for refusing to give up his faith, but for refusing to stop performing Christian marriage rites in an age when Christianity was still a covert faith. Until 1969 the day was a feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar; now, however, the secularization is complete. Paraphernalia of Valentine's Day is evident in all shops in Naples: stylized bouquets with heart–shaped candies in place of flowers, €50 heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, cards, little teddy-bears with the words "Ti amo" ("I love you") embossed on them, and a special newspaper insert bearing paid–for personal declarations of love. The papers also run articles about the commercialization of holidays.
was an excerpt from the original entry at this link.]
(Feb 14) -David Seymour (1911 – 1956) was a Polish photographer and photo journalist known for his photos from the Spanish Civil War and for his project "Children of War" for UNICEF that showed the plight of children in Europe after World War II. This photo comes from a friend at Napoli Underground (Nug) who tells me that the discernible labeling identifies the photographer as Seymour and says the photo was taken in 1948. It does not specifically say “Naples” but is in a collection of other photos identified as such; also, 1948 fits the timeline of Seymour's activities in postwar Europe. The photo also fits his spontaneous and harsh but very human approach to his subjects. If this is Naples in 1948, it shows a family or group of friends sitting around playing cards in their temporary dwelling, a underground quarry, one of the many used as bomb shelters during the war and for a few years afterwards as make-shift housing.
(Apr 4) - Currently running (until April 10th) Fatte Pittà, [roughly: Painting Naples and the Colors of Her Songs]. Maybe I'm just fascinated by this image and others like it. The event combines the art of Maurizio Vinanti (presumably the guy in the image painting on a 45 rpm record— whatever that is!), the poetry of Carla Adamo, and, of course, the beloved Neapolitan Song. Put'em together and what've you got—the story of the city, her people, streets, dreams, lottery numbers, etc. I'm not sure if this image from their advert represents a particular song (probably not), but I can think of some songs that are impossible to paint! Or maybe not. I guess I'll go and find out. The event is at the Egg Castle and it's free. (If you have synesthesia, you'll love this.)
(May 6) - Boats of the Bay 2017 - Here we go again. It's hard to see how big this tub is, so I'll tell you. It's the Motor Yacht Symphony, the largest M/Y ever built in the Netherlands. She was here last year. Stats: Length 333.01ft /101.5m; Beam 46.26ft /14.1m; Builder Feadship; Built 2015; Gross Tonnage 3000 Tons; Draft 13.45ft /4.1m; Cruising Speed 16 Knots; Top speed 22 knots. The current owner is French Godzillionaire, Bernard Arnault, the eighth richest person in the world. This zoom shot was taken from a balcony one mile away. The good ship Symphony is the first of the new "bigger" yachts to arrive in the Bay of Naples (Mergellina harbor) this season. The 100-meter mark is the newest definition of "big". It got here on the morning of May 1st, just in time for Labor Day. Guests on board gathered to sing rousing choruses of the Internationale and spit champagne onto the heads of the tired, poor and huddled Neapolitan street urchins who were in the water attaching magnetic mines to the hull.
[More Boats of the Bay on this page, below at May 17, June 3, & June 20]
Boats of the Bay page is here.]
(Jun 3) - After only 3 or 4 years, most vessels one sees in the bay are repeat visitors, but this is the first time I've seen this one. Nice-looking ship, kind of old school. The Leander, built in 1992. Designed by German ship architect, Claus Kusch (1944-2004). Overall length, 79m/238 feet; beam, 14m/41 feet. Interesting history. The original owner was Brigadier Sir Timothy Landon, somewhat of a shady character (born in Vancouver BC, served in the British and Omani armies and was instrumental in the development of the present Sultanate of Oman. He was one of Britain's wealthiest people. The ship has changed hands a number of times, but for a while after 2007 she was the charter replacement for the British Royal Yacht, the HMY Britannia (decommissioned in 2007 and now berthed as a museum in Edinburgh, Scotland). Her steel hull has a bulbous bow and a classic canoe stern (not unlike a few women I have known!). Six decks in all. There is a helicopter deck and a three-deck aluminum superstructure. Accommodates 22 guests as well as a crew of 23.
*The sculpture is by the great Danish-Icelandic artist Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), who spent much of his life studying and working in Italy and was called "the next Canova." The work, entitled Ganymede Giving Water to Zeus" depicts one version of the myth in which—as the Iliad puts it:
[Ganymede] was the loveliest born of the race of mortals, and therefore
the gods caught him away to themselves, to be Zeus' wine-pourer,
for the sake of his beauty, so he might be among the immortals.
— Homer, Iliad, Book XX, lines 233-235. (transl. Richard Lattimore, Uni of Chicago Press.1961.)
The myth manifested the socially acceptable Greek custom of paiderastía, the erotic relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male. The work is on loan from the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen.
There is a significant bit of European history seen here in the Bay of Naples. It is the vessel moored between the other two (better seen underway in the insert). She is the 50-meter Malahne, built in 1937 and subsequently one of the hastily assembled fleet of over 800 private boats in Operation Dynamo, better known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk,” the evacuation rescue of the 300,000-man British Expeditionary Force (plus another 40,000 from other member Allied forces) trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk, France, by swiftly advancing German forces between 26 May and 4 June 1940 during World War II. The Malahne has been recently re-outfitted into a splendid cruise ship. She still proudly flies the Dunkirk Jack on the jack staff at the bow (seen in insert): a St George's Cross defaced with the arms of Dunkirk, the warranted house flag of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships. The flag is flown only by civilian vessels that took part in the Dunkirk rescue operation.