Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2003


Five years ago, Enrico Durazzo opened a shop called "NapoliMania". By now, the enterprise has grown into a chain of eight shops throughout the city, more than 30 in the entire Campania region, one in Rome and one in Milan. They are what we might call "novelty shops"—t-shirts, beverage mugs, coasters, pictures, and assorted gizmos and—as Italians now say in imported English—"gadgets". (Friends are always asking me for a precise distinction between "gizmo," "gadget,"  "thingamajig," and "whatchamacallit". Who am I, Thomas Aquinas?) 

Everything in the shop has to do with Naples: the t-shirts are emblazoned with slogans or proverbs written in Neapolitan dialect; there are pictures of Vesuvius and models of Pulcinella, etc. There is even an "Emergency Kit" for Neapolitans when they travel; the kit includes a sealed can of Neapolitan air and a small Neapolitan coffee machine replete with instructions from the great playwright, Eduardo De Filippo, on how to prepare the only cup of coffee worth drinking. This is important, because when you get as far north as, say, Rome, Lord knows you sure can't drink that swill they make up there.

NapoliMania capitalizes on the abundance of well-known Neapolitans in show business. There is a painting that reproduces the main facade of the Royal Palace. In the 1880s the facade was adorned with eight statues depicting the first monarch of each dynasty that has ruled Naples since the 12th century, from Roger the Norman to the first king of united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. The NapoliMania rendition has superimposed the heads of Totò, Eduardo De Filippo, Massimo Troisi, and others on the statues. The row includes Diego Maradona, an Argentine, but, for all practical purposes, as Neapolitan as they come, since it was he who led the powerhouse Naples soccer team of the 1980s. 

Along that line is, perhaps, their most popular item: Leonardo's The Last Supper with Neapolitan celebrities at the table. At the center, in place of Christ, is Sophia Loren. (I have not inquired of the artist—Durazzo, himself—why he made that particular choice, nor have I asked Sophia how she feels about the honor.) It is more intriguing to see who is cast in the role of Judas. Traditionally, Judas is thought to be fourth from the left in Leonardo's painting. In the NapoliMania version, that person is standing in back of the table, facing to his left. It is actor Carlo Giuffrè. (Again, I haven't asked.) The others are comic Totò, three members of the theatrical family of De Filippo (brothers Eduardo and Peppino, as well as Eduardo's son Luca), Vittorio De Sica, comic Massimo Troisi, contemporary singer-songwriter Pino Daniele, actor Nino Taranto and singer Massimo Ranieri. Two of the twelve disciples are the Neapolitan mask figure, Pulcinella, and the traditional figure of the Neapolitan street-crier, the Pazzariello, the character dressed in mock military garb who, until well into the 20th century, used to parade around the streets shouting out advertising for shops and services. Sophia Loren is the only woman in the painting.

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