Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry May 2003
entry 2, July5, 2023

he Risorgimento

Garibaldi's triumphant entry into Naples

painting of Garibaldi entering NaplesI had lunch today with a 95-year-old gentleman named Franco. He told me that his father passed away in the 1950s, also at a ripe old age. We did some quick figuring and determined that his father was born in 1867. That was the year that Marx published Das Kapital, the year in which The Beautiful Blue Danube was played for the first time, and the year in which the British North American Act created the Dominion of Canada. The typewriter was invented in 1867 and it was the year that Czar Alexander II sold Alaska to the United States. Rome was not yet the capital of a united Italy. I was one generation removed from all that. (Somehow, all that makes me feel very young rather than very old. That seems strange.)

I am in the midst of a "pump the elderly for information" campaign about the situation in southern Italy following the unification of Italy —that is, in the decade following the unification in 1861, the year in which Piedmont, Lombardy, Parma, Modena, Lucca, Romagna, Tuscany, and the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (of which Naples was the capital) were united under Piedmont's Victor Emmanuel II to form the modern nation state of Italy. (Rome would become the capital in 1870). 

The reason for my campaign is the few enquiries I have received about northern mistreatment of the south following unification —or, to use the terminology of those southerners who express themselves vehemently about that period, the "rape of the south". There certainly is no shortage of material in Naples on the subject. I have even seen a book about "the Savoy concentration camps," in which the title uses the Nazi term "Lager" (from Konzentrationslager) just so you don't miss the point. I am looking now at a book entitled They Were the Real Bandits, those Brothers of Italy. The title contains an allusion to the first line of the Italian national anthem, known as The Hymn of Mameli (after the author of the text, Goffredo Mameli, 1827-49). The line starts, "Fratelli d'Italia…"  (Brothers of Italy), that phrase being the alternate title of the anthem, itself. The music is by Michele Novaro (1818-85). This particular book is a condemnation of all the figures popularly connected with the Risorgimento, the movement to unify Italy; that is, Garibaldi is little more than a thug in charge of a band of mercenaries in the hire of northern hyenas such as Cavour and Victor Emmanuel II. The defeat of the Kingdom of the Two Naples (The Kingdom of Naples) by the forces of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel was the beginning of mass unemployment and general misery for the south and the beginning of immigration away from the former Kingdom of Naples, thus depleting its greatest resource, people who want to work. And so on and so forth.

[Also see this entry on "bandits"]

I didn't get much from Franco, except something I already knew —the Risorgimento is sacrosanct in modern Italian history. You may take issue with the way it was done; that is, you may say something like "The unity of Italy (Risorgimento) was inevitable, but perhaps the invasion and conquest of the south was not. Maybe it could have been handled in another way." But you can't argue with the premise that Italy was to be one. The term, itself, Risorgimento means rebirth, resurgence, resurrection (all that). It is the name that Cavour gave to the newspaper he founded in 1849. In the opening paragraph of the first issue, he spoke of the need for a "political and economic risorgimento". The name stuck and became the name of the movement, itself, to unify Italy. 

It would, however, be a mistake to view that movement strictly as the idea of northerners such as Garibaldi, Cavour, and Mazzini. Indeed, much of the philosophy underlying Italian unity comes from the south, from the members of the so-called Neapolitan Enlightenment such as Vincenzo Cuoco. Indeed, the first secret societies agitating for unity were the "carbonari", a southern invention. Thus, the drive to unity was broad-based. Could it have been achieved in any other way than by an invasion of the south? (The what-if school of history is always fun!) It turns out that on a least two occasions, Victor Emmanuel proposed an alliance with the Kingdom of Naples. He and the Neapolitans would divvy up the peninsula. Since this would entail taking over the Papal States (except for the city of Rome, itself), the King of Naples turned down the proposal as blasphemous. And, thus, Garibaldi did what he did; he invaded Sicily and then the Italian mainland. He disobeyed Victor Emmanuel, by the way. "Don't invade the mainland," was the order. Garibaldi wrote a nice note, asking for permission to "disobey". It is not clear that he waited for the return mail. 

Thus, according to these books I am looking at, began a ten-year period of intense suffering for the south: looted treasury, industrial plants carried off, unjust imprisonment and even execution of Neapolitan citizens, etc. As I say, Franco was no help, other than to tell me that his grandfather, born in the 1840s, was a proud member of the Bourbon army of the Kingdom of Naples. I have one more gentleman on my list of those to be pumped. He is 105 years old. He is in good health, but now says he is feeling tired. Lunch next week, I hope.

Note on the spelling of Immanuel, Emmanuel, Emanuel: there are variations in English versions of the book of Isaiah (7:14) "...and they shall call his name Immanuel..." (also Emmanuel — but always two mm's). In Italian, the common given name is Emanuele — one m. All references to the Savoy dynasty and their kings of Italy are spelled Vittorio Emanuele I, II, and III — one m, one l. If you are writing about them in English, it is correct to use two m's -- that is, "There is a monument to Victor Emmanuel II in Rome." If you are inserting the name of my street into an English sentence, cite it as it written on the street sign. "He lives on Corso Vittorio Emanuele." (Hint: it's easier to write Corso V.E. They'll know who you're talking about.) p.s. Modern Italian Bibles that I have seen cite the name in Isaiah as "Emmanuel".

====================entry 2===========================

                                The Mysterious Courtesan of Naples

         We Still Don't Know Who this Woman is! Do We Care?
                 We really do know, but I just found out a few minutes, so
                   you have to wait until the very end to read it. I hope I
                     haven't offended any Mysterious Courtesans.
                                             History is hell.

Yes. At least one source links her to Giuseppe Garibaldi, the liberation of The Two Sicilies (alias the Kingdom of Naples) and, hence, the creation of modern Italy.

   The date: May 1860. Garibaldi, smuggles a small and almost unarmed (!) group of men out of the port of Genoa aboard two leaky tubs and sets off to liberate the Italian south. He starts in Sicily in support of a local uprising, and works his way over to the mainland and on up to the capital, the city of Naples. He cajoles weapons and ammo out of a few armories along the way as he plods south toward Sicily, where his famous "Thousand redshirts" (1,089, to be exact) take on a regular army twenty times that number. He set sail from Genoa on May 5 and landed in Sicily on May 11, 1860. He picks up some Sicilian irregulars and they overrun Royalist forces. He now has 3,500 men under him. They cross to the mainland on August 19 and start the 300-mile slog in the heat of summer up towards Naples. Garibaldi's reputation precedes him. Peasants already call him the "Father of Italy," mothers bring babies out to be blessed by him, and there is an air of invincibility about him as he moves north. 

   Thus the unlikely sight, on Sept. 7, 1860, of Garibaldi and a small group of companions entering Naples unopposed, by train (!) from Salerno and then in an open carriage from the station to the Royal Palace. They are miles ahead of the army. The king has fled to Gaeta. Naples and remaining troops welcome the Risorgimento by giving Garibaldi a hero's welcome. On October 25th, near Capua, Garibaldi greets Victor Emanuel of Piedmont's Royal House of Savoy with the words, "Greetings to the first King of Italy" and surrenders his conquests —Sicily, half the Italian peninsula and the vast Neapolitan Royal Navy— because it's the right thing to do. For the six weeks between Sept.7 and Oct. 25, Garibaldi rules Southern Italy as "Dictator of Naples".

   Foreign interest in Italy ran very high in 1860. For this we turn to Sir Henry George Elliot (1817 – 1907). He was a
British diplomat noted for his time in 1859 as Minister in Naples and in 1863 as Minister to the King of Italy till 1867. That is, he was a link from the Kingdom of Naples to the Garibaldi dictatorship to the modern nation of Italy. If anyone knows more about the Mysterious Courtesan of Naples, he might be the one. He was a prolific writer. Among his writings is
Some Revolutions and Other Diplomatic Experiences
(pub. date 1922 by J. Murray, London.) It contains this passage on p. 104 (speaking of his time in Naples):
     "I forget whether I mentioned yesterday that Mazzini had arrived here, and that one or two demonstrations that were
     wished to be made in his honour have been put down. Another person has also arrived, and caused no less sensation—
     i.e., the fair 'Skittles' — who is now at the Hotel Vittoria, where she will meet another frail sister, known as the Countess
     Martini, but now travelling in a becoming uniform with Garibaldi's army, to which she professed to be a Florence Nightingale,           and in that character collected offerings, which however, stopped short in her own pocket, at which the Dictator [Garibaldi] is          not over well pleased."

Ah-HAH! you say. Not so fast, I say. The ‘fair skittles’ was a very well-known society courtesan named Catherine Walters
who numbered Napoléon III and Edward VII amongst her paramours. If you don't know what a coutesan is, in simple vulgate --a high-class whore. So, Sir Henry George Elliot is claiming that our Mysterious Coutesan (MC) is like a well-known whore (Walters), and she is "Countess Martini". Fine, we still don't know. You check a bit and see a few possibilities (but not plausibilities) such as Countess Theo di Linda von Martini, convicted and served time for helping to kill her husband in 1902...oops...can't be our MC. The date is wrong. Our MC (I feel closer to her if I say 'our') has to be trailing behind Garibaldi in 1860. So we still don't know who she is. Sorry.
[Thanks to William Moloney for bringing this material to my attention!]

WAIT! This just in! After further research, Mr. Moloney has unraveled the mystery. He writes: 'Our MC' seems certainly to have been the Contessa Maria Maritini della Torre of whom historian Dennis Mack Smith wrote in "Garibaldi" (published in New York by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.) the following: "Another woman who adored Garibaldi was the Countess Maria Martini della Torre. She too met him in London in 1854 but was already married. Some years later she donned the red shirt and followed him into battle, ending days in the madhouse."
  There is no mention of her pretensions to being a second Florence Nightingale. Mack Smith makes it clear that the real Florence Nightingale was an active supporter of and donor to Garibaldi - in contrast to Eliot's assertion that the Contessa pocketed funds intended for Garibaldi's campaign.

==========and now the THRILLING CONCLUSION!======================

In the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman, Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley, played by Louis Gosset, Jr., is addressing a group of recruits in training at Aviation Officer Candidate School. One of the recruits is a young woman. Foley looks at her and says, "Well, well, another little girl whose daddy wanted a little boy." Is that what this is about? Is that what explains Maria Martini? I don't think so. It's more complicated. Here is her time-line, the events of her life from birth to death (1831 to 1919). You can make up your own mind.

  • Born in Torino (Turin). She came from a military family. Her father and brothers were officers.
  • From early on, she was always active physically in swordsmanship and horseback riding. She was known to be generous, by nature. She was a big spender. Later in life she was hounded by creditors and even did time in debtors' prison.
  • As a young woman, she married count Martini Giovio della Torre. She got tired of marriage as well as of her daughter, Virgina, and deserted them both to set out as what might be called a "female soldier of fortune".
  • She met Giuseppe Garibaldi in London, May 1854. That determined the rest of her life. He was fascinated by her and she by him. Garibaldi later said of her, "that beautiful, unhappy woman".
  • Maria Martini also met Florence Nightingale in London and went with her to the Crimean War in the mid-1850s to help set-up field hospitals and care for the sick, wounded and dying. She sounds less like "another little girl whose daddy wanted a like boy" and more like the anonymous description of Anita Garibaldi, Giuseppe's first wife and true love (who died at age 27): " amalgam of two elemental forces...the strength and courage of a man and the charm and tenderness of a woman, shown by the daring and vigor with which she brandished her sword and the beautiful oval of her face that trimmed the softness of her extraordinary eyes." (The image shown here of Maria Martini is on pp. 208/9 of Garibaldi e le donne, by Giacomo Emilio Curatulo, Polyglot Press, Rome, 1913.)
  • She joined Garibaldi's army of The Thousand in Sicily, was with him up and through Naples all the way to the battle of the Volturno river in both military and nursing capacity and rejoined him much later for his ill-fated attempt to take Rome, that is, the Papal States, the Vatican, the Pope Roman Catholicism. She never hid her anti-clericalism.
  • She missed Garibaldi's final victory over the Kingdom of Naples because she had to get to Poland, where the Poles  had risen against Russian domination. A restless do-gooder's work is never done!!
  • She admitted to Garibaldi that she was often depressed and had thoughts of suicide.
  • She last saw Garibaldi in 1870.
  • Much of her nature is reflected in an 1864 letter to baron Bettino Ricasolo. She said she was a determined woman.

   "But my hour has not yet come and I say to those who would shut me up, I have never been anyone's lapdog and I           never will be."  She also wrote elsewhere: "I will not turn away from danger or difficulty. Too bad I'm not a man! I             would've made a fine officer, like my father and brothers. I am inebriated by the smell of gunpowder, as I showed with     Garibaldi in 1860."

  • She fought with the French in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.
  • She lived much of her life from hotel to hotel, keeping just ahead of bill collectors.
  • She married again in 1900 in Switzerland. Her eccentric behavior was notorious. They put her in what was called a "health resort" -- a funny-farm, a booby-hatch.
  • She died in 1919 in that Swiss insane asylum in Mendrisio. Debt-ridden. I bet she still had some fire in her eyes when they closed for the last time. Whatever else, she, of all persons, was not meant to waste away.
  • I don't believe in coincidences, so this must be their evil quantum twin 'synchronicity" (which I don't understand, but it sounds good):

   Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 into a wealthy British family in Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and was named after the city of         her birth. Florence's older sister, Frances Parthenope Nightingake was also named after her  place of birth, Parthenope, a Greek     settlement and the original name of Naples.

        main sources:

  • Donne d' Azione e Emancipazione: la Contessa Maria Martini Della Torre by Laura Fournier-Finocchiaro;
  • "Amori e guerre di Maria Martini la contessa garibaldina" la Repubblica 27 August 2014.


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