I am growing curious to learn what is the image of Naples abroad, and what (if any) is said above and beyond the few lines stereotype-driven mentions in the news. A few days ago I found this article on New York Times that takes up the challenge to touch on 3 millenia of history in 3 pages. It is a mission impossible task, but I found it an interesting reading.
Interesting for instance to read, in between the lines of the effective first paragraph, the sense of confusion and overwhelming mess that the writer felt as first impression of the city, and how this settles into a deeper understanding of what’s beyond the surface in the rest of the article. It does scratches the surface of the city image.
I don’t think the article captures all the main aspects of the city, though: it just can’t in only 3 pages. For instance Naples can be like “elegant, restrained Florence or show-offy Rome” in some places, just not as a general feeling of the city. There are relevant music movements, from the opera around the San Carlo theater (built 1737, oldest active theater in Europe) to the blues experience of Pino Daniele and his group from the ’70s, to more recent experiences like the “99 Posse” group. There are important fashion firms like Marinella. There is a University funded by Federico II on June 5th 1224.
Trying to say that in one sentence, I think the article does capture the general impression of the city, the main feelings of the everyday street experience, and the main traits of the city’s history; what it misses is the more positive but less evident aspects of contemporary life in Naples. On the other hand, as said, three millenia hardly fit in 3 pages!
One last but not least point: the main ingredient of “Sfogliatella” stuffing is semolina rather than ricotta (which is there anyhow). This 17th century recipe was actually invented as a way to recycle semolina leftovers!
Driven by the curiosity push I mentioned at the beginning, I am also reading a book about Naples written by an American that has received very positive reviews. More on that later.