For now there are two things that unite us… origins and parallel.
I keep telling you whenever we talk through this damn machine that the things that we have in common are two. The origins Neapolitan and the parallel, I think is 41.
For many years now have been looking at your beautiful face and the poster of the Statue of Liberty and you continue to see my face and the picture that depicts one of the most beautiful in the world: Naples.
«Ciro this story has to end sooner or later, you were born in Naples, in the hospital named after the patron saint of the city, you were born at San Gennaro –in” quartieri”-you should feel the sense of belonging to this land and instead, every time I tell you to come here to visit me you always say “nooooo… many things are said about Naples, it seems that is no longer the same that my mum and dad tell me about and grandmother Carmelina use to tell us.”»
«Oh well, come on Ciro, I could tell you that it is no longer the same since the time that were but now, but you are starting with the wrong attitude, the “rubbish”, the Camorra, shootings, drugs… as if these ills of mankind were only present in Naples and nowhere else, as if our history was made only this and nothing else as if we had only this and nothing else.
And as if to tell me “do not come to New York because there is the Bronx… It is to say not to have children because there is birth.»
«Robb, every time you do this harping… I know that Naples is beautiful but even if I were in Naples, where would you take me? The National Museum… Piazza Plebiscito… the Maschio Angioino… eating pizza. I have done all these things when I was little when I was on holiday in Naples. Have you built something else in the meantime or I forgo…»
«Ciro. Ciro please do not finish the sentence. You book the plane ticket and I’ll sort the ticket for the wonders. And when your trip through “Neapolitan culture” will be over and you’ll be at the airport to board your flight, you will then tell me. I already know what you say, but I want to read it in your eyes and hear it from your mouth.»
«Now let me just give you a preview of what it will be… then, when you come you either rely completely on me, or if you prefer you can tell me which of your memories you want to bring back to life… “Vabbuò”»
«So… let’s start?»
«How would they say here, our origins date back to the memorial stone *.» Go back and get to the ninth century BC. Greek colonists, from the island of Rhodes founded between the islet of Megaride and Mount Echia a small settlement and with the support of the citizens of Cuma, Parthenope was finally founded.
«L’isolotto Megaride?…I think you’re making it up, in Naples there are only Capri, Ischia and Procida and at the most the island of Saint Martin… This island of Megaride, I have never heard of it.»
«See Ciro, this would be enough to make you understand that Naples is not what you think it is. Megaride is what you call Castel dell’Ovo, Megaride is where the legend says, the siren Parthenope is “docked” who, in unrequited love with Odysseus, jumped into the sea and our coast gave her landing. Hence the name. And if you move towards the village of Saint Lucia, you can still see Mount Echia -Pizzofalcone where there are the remains of a necropolis era Cumana and of a Roman villa of a certain Lucullo. Wealthy people, with astonishing houses.»
«Ciro Ah well… I’ll take you to Posillipo, to impress you with the landscape, I’ll take you to see the ancient cave of Seiano, just to stay on the Roman theme.»
Over the years, the increase in population led to rebuild the city, the site where the old town is now, where there are always a lot of guys in the evening, Piazza Bellini. «When you come I’ll take you there to have a beer … if you knew how strange it is to lean against a railing that borders the finds of Greek-Roman.» The city was reborn under the name Neapolis, -the new city, right there in the current historical centre. The years pass and Neapolis become a famous port, especially for trade with Athens, but a disaster was just around the corner. A disaster that, unfortunately, made us famous worldwide.
«I think you did come Ciro, sure I remember that we also took some pictures together. At that age perhaps you do not understand the magnitude of what you are watching. When you come back I will take you there again. It is amazing to see how majestic Vesuvius is when seen from there.»
It was 79AD and the eruption of the now dormant Vesuvius, forever crystallized 3 cities, today famous worldwide for the extraordinary way in which they seem to be dormant. Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia. «You should see how in the summer evenings everything becomes magically surreal.» They organize events there… shows, concerts. Under the moon and stars. In the midst of what is still alive, of a city on that day of 79AD, which is not dead but has stopped.
«Ciro know… the thing that leaves you breathless in this city is that you do not need to go and look for places where things have happened… the places that have impressed the story. Just look around… you start from the ground and finish in San Martino… you would never stop to hear the tale of a story.»
«Obviously Ciro when I tell you that you could start from the ground… I do not lie.»
Naples has its roots in its own “Viscere”… pillars of a rock with lightness, crispness and stabilities, gave Naples a unique structure. It makes me smile the thought that even the pillars that hold us are different from all the others. The Greeks begun by building cisterns to collect rainwater, used the material “waste” for the construction of Neapolis.
You have to go down Via dei Tribunali, to enter a part of this underground Naples. «When you come we can first go and have a pizza and then, with a full stomach, I will have a rest and you can go. Personally I cannot go… I am claustrophobic, and under there it is slightly narrow, but I’ll ask Anna to take you.» It’s worth it… nearly two thousand square meters of streets crossing the city, these are obviously closed because obstructed by time, but going down there is to discover a city within a city.
«Of course, things do not end here!»
«Now we start with the primates… allow me Ciro, I have a moment of pride… “mi devo atteggiare”.»
«Staying on the subject of the basement, there is a place that is more or less in Pozzuoli, it called Mirabilis Pool; I would not even start to tell you of the wonder, but only because, in front of majestic like that my words now would be unnecessary.» The largest Roman cistern of drinking water ever built. Twelve thousand cubic meters of water. A masterpiece of architecture. The reservoir of the Augustan water… and aqueduct that, from the springs of Serino (AV), with a distance of 100 kilometres, carried water to Naples and Campi Flegrei.
«And speaking of Guinness could not be outdone our King… again, and do not ask me who is the king I am referring to because to us there was only really one… the King, Ferdinand II of Borbone.»
In February of 1853 he asked to design an underground viaduct, passing under Mount Echia, to connect Palazzo Reale with Piazza Vittoria, the one in front of the sea… where now there is the park. Let’s just say that the riots few years before did not make him feel very comfortable on the throne, and so he then decided that this viaduct could be coming to an easy escape route. After about three years of work, and made entirely by hand with picks, hammers and wedges, and with the only illumination provided by torches and candles, the ” Bourbon tunnel ” was inaugurated on May 25 of 1855.
Today the tunnel is open… thanks also to the hard work of those who have decided to give new light.
«Ciro, in those viaducts there were also our grandparents. Remember that we always told that when the siren sounded they had to escape in the shelters… were the bombing of the Germans. Visit those places gives me goosebumps.»
Hides everything in there… history and anecdotes . «I am sure that inside those tunnels there is still the presence of someone, it must be so.» Naples is underground and esoteric… mysterious and… religious… sacred.
«It was back in 1389 when, for the first time “the miracle” was documented, what we all wait anxiously three times a year, for our safety.»
«Sorry… but can it be the heat of the hand that make it melts.»
«Ciro Go to confession.» On this subject, we will not let you disagree. «Your mom and dad are very devoted and always went to the cathedral to pray, to pray, to pray so hard along with the crowd until the blood in the glass tube did not melt. And if it doesn’t melt we are in trouble. E’malaurie (bad premonition), and I’ll explain why…»
On December 16, 1631, San Gennaro, prayed and invoked by an entire population, stopped the lava that did not cease to fall. Vesuvius had woken up, and he stopped him. People swear they saw the saint and the angels on a cloud, he with his hand toward the mountain, almost to stop what was happening. So it was. The lava stopped and since then the two events are intertwined, for this reason all of Naples, three times a year, is waiting with bated breath that the blood in the glass tube, from solid, becomes liquid.
«Naples is so sacred and secular, religious and non-believer, devout and even gullible.»
«About this, I now go into a discourse that to you is always a bit… how do you say. Let’s say that when you were little you preferred not to hear.»
«There is a place in Naples where devotion and belief in faith echoes in an immense cave of sandstone. I remained fascinated by the story ever since I was in elementary school, and you should remember it Ciro because you made fun of me for some time; The teacher asked us to do an essay on a place that we wanted to visit and I wrote… The Fontanelle cemetery.» You understand that a seven year old that wants to visit a cemetery is not so normal.
“A guazzabbuglio of faith and horror” in the words of Matilde Serao.
Thirty thousand cubic meters of sandstone in a neighbourhood –La Sanita’ – where if a needle falls to the ground, you can barely find it do to the high density population. Forty thousand remains between skulls, femurs and who knows what other kind of bones… victims of the Great Plague of 1656 and the cholera epidemic of 1836. Some say that under forty meters there are still just as many.
Besides being an abnormal cemetery because of its structure, it is particularly famous for a ritual that still continues to unfold. And the rite of souls pezzentelle.
«Basically Ciro, you know what you do ? If you need a miracle, you adopt a head, a skull… “na capuzzella”, it will help you, and you give it a gift back for having received a grace, you build a shrine, as to give it a proper burial.»
«As usual you do not believe it and I knew it. So try asking the devotees of the “capuzzella of Donna Concetta. Her head is the only one sweating. Forty thousand heads dusty with age, forty thousand head untrimmed by time and she… shines and sweating when she grace. The sweat of the Purgatory’s souls.»
«Okay Roby the head sweating… I wonder what phenomenon of light and shadow has been created to make it appear that it sweats.This will be the guardian that cleans it every day.»
«Ah, but then you are never satisfied, you’re like Saint Thomas. Oh OK, then what about the Monaciello and Beautiful M’briana. You know well that grandmother’s sister was finding money over the cabinet without knowing where they were coming from. Luckily, she never told anyone, otherwise in addition to not having them anymore, who knows what sort of spite he would have done.»
«But do you think I can never believe the “munaciello”?»
«Oh ok then what about the haunted mansion that is at the Gajola and Anna Carafa in Posillipo how still dance on the terrace of his palace. And the building on Via Donnalbina, where on the wall there is a picture of the devil. Do you know that every time they try to put lime or to paint the figure always reappears… even that I invented? When you come I have to take you to the Pedamentina, I hope the white face “munaciello” scares you, so you learn to underestimate. And if that’s not enough while playing football in the woods of Capodimonte I hope that it will appear in front of you the beautiful Maria Cristina, the daughter of King Ferdinand of Bourbon… who is still wandering for the beautiful green lawns.»
«You are one who believes in crop circles made by UFOs and not in these things.»
Ferdinand… Charles… the royal palaces… I almost forgot the best.
What a wonderful time. What magnificence, what prosperity. «You imagine a heart… the centre of it all… the heart… the pin hinge. No, actually you have to imagine an heart, that began to pound on May 10, 1734 (you were already thinking of May 10, 1987 eh… that’s the first championship of Maradona… but there the heart stopped for the joy, then we’ll talk about it).»
Here as I was telling you: on May 10, 1734, Charles of Bourbon enters triumphantly in Naples and, while crossing Porta Nolana (where there is the fish market) coins of gold and silver were spread in the street by his treasurer. This gesture, almost foreboding, will be the beginning of one of the most extraordinarily prosperous and imposing sovereignty of Naples, capital of the kingdom of the same name first and then the two Sicilies.
All around seemed to pay homage to him and everything seemed to be moulded around him since that time; San Gennaro also decided to welcome him so much so that four days after he made his miracle liquefying blood.
“It is said” that the kingdom was retrograde… with widespread poverty… «what you hear today however; needless to say it was not so.» Naples was in the forefront in Europe in matters of economy, technology, industry and above all rich in culture and art treasures. A splendid Baroque capital teeming with squares, churches; Half a Million People in a city… even this is a record, because throughout Europe it was the most populous city… and ingenious I would add. «Did you know that we were the first to bring running water in the houses… and before I forget I remind you that we have built the first cemetery for the poor – that of 366 ditches- can still be visited?»
«I could give you a nice long list of firsts that give lustre to Naples and its magnificent… Bourbon period.»
The first botanical garden, the first city of Italy for number of printing presses, the highest number of journalistic publications, the highest number of conservatories and theatres… yes theatres, among all him, the San Carlo. The first opera house in Europe.
«Ciro, but do you know what Stendhal, the French writer, said: “There is nothing in the world able to match the San Carlo”… you understand, in the entire world.»
King Charles was fascinated by Naples and its people so as to be very thoughtful and careful about what they needed… so as to bring lustre to the capital… so to begin to learn the dialect, him, how came from the royal courts of Europe spoke Neapolitan, he could only become the most loved ruler of the kingdom.
How to blame him… Neapolitan is a language in all respects, not a dialect.
His primates do not end here, because, in my opinion, he wanted to make it clear to everyone but especially to “Parisienne”… that the sovereignty of Naples and its kingdom was impressive and undeniable… and in fact decided to make tangible all this, decided that would rival the gardens of Versailles and surely succeeded, entrusting the construction of this magnificence to Luigi Vanvitelli, what came out is the Royal Palace of Caserta with its park, a breath-taking beauty, a construction of fountains and paths of water almost unthinkable for that time, with its English garden, surreal and crystallized. A masterpiece. A jewel of 61 thousand square meters. A second capital. Oh I forgot, Maria Carolina, wife of Ferdinand, the son of King Charles wanted in her bathroom, in the aforementioned royal palace a bidet, the first used in Italy, a forerunner of cleaning. Yet another primacy.
Not content to live in the royal palace, Charles… he wanted his palace to symbolize once again his power. A place that could “dominate” Naples from the top. He wanted it and he had it, The Royal Palace of Capodimonte. It is impossible to describe all there is in it… rooms, furniture, magnificence, works of art of immense value, collections, among the others that of the Farnese family, a huge garden… so that we call it the “forest of Capodimonte”. «If you come, I’ll take you there and make a picnic.»
«Oh I forgot… I do not know if you understood it, but the King didn’t like to be second to someone and so he built a porcelain factory in the same Capodimonte.» The funny thing is that the father-in-law owned a famous factory in Saxony, the Meissen Porcelain and maybe he could not be outdone. Today many of those works are held in the rooms of the palace, fortunately intact.
If only he had stopped there, it would still be known to history, but Charles did more, and much more during his reign. Together with his students was the first to start systematic excavations on two cities known in the world known for their “integrity” in spite of the events that made them so: Pompeii and Herculaneum. The wonder that came out echoed throughout Europe and today is known around the world.
«Now tell me, what else should I tell Ciro to make you understand that the “is said” is not of this land battered by rumours…»
«I should tell you that at this time we laid the foundations of many disciplines, so much so that we can and must be recognized today all over the world?»
« The world record for the first chair of economics, assigned to Antonio Genovesi (student of Giambattista Vico), or maybe you want to know that the third global maritime fleet, the Neapolitan, instituted the first maritime code and the first world atlas…»
«The first mineral museum… the world, the first steamship… the Ferdinand I.»
«The first railway line… the Naples-Portici, and see that just in Portici where there is also your patron saint, St. Ciro, there is the museum Pietrarsa where you can see the first trains of the time… if you do not believe me.»
Tell in words what your eyes can see is simplistic and it would be with respect for the king. Do not make me write down everything that you could see just by coming here and taking a walk with me…
«I want to tell a ‘last thing. Then I’ll stop. I swear.»
«When I tell you that sometimes the beauty of this place and the history that follows, are like rabbits out of the hat, I’m not kidding.»
In 2003 a site has been opened for the construction of the subway station of Piazza Municipio. At the moment the site is still open, but not for poor service, not for flaws in procurement, not for slowness in the work. No.
It took 27 variations on the original design. Every meter excavated brought to light the history. Each meter that was lit, carried with him the remains of a city that must be reborn even thanks to this. It has been found everything from facilities of the port of Neapolis, the Molo Angioino, two ships, Aragonese towers and viceregal, Incoronata Tower and the remains of the Palace of the Balzo and who knows what else is there yet. The great thing is that they haven’t diverted the work building the metro elsewhere… no, around all this, around a part of a sunken city they have built the station. A museum inside the subway. When it says “making a virtue of a necessity”.
«”Listen to me.” Let me finish telling you this story… watching with your own eyes.»
* Il Cippo a Forcella, (CIPP ‘a Furcella, in Neapolitan) is a group of stones (mistakenly called “stone”) originally part of the ancient wall of ancient Greek era of the old Neapolis. Most likely the stone is constituted precisely by the remains of a defensive gate of the walls or the door Furcillensis or Herculanensis. In Naples, saying that something “S’arricorda ‘or CIPP’ a Furcella” means that it’s very old.