Sunday, 18 December 2016

Journey to Naples

Visiting Naples is just a unique experience. You'll never forget it. Guaranteed.

However, in order to understand Naples, its regality combined with decay, we must quickly review the history.

In 1861, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies (Palermo and Naples) unified the country after having conquered Florence, Milan and finally Turin.

The backward Savoia crown, which set his capital in Turin, was rejected beyond the Alpes…

No, that's not true.

The events occurred in the opposite way.

The Savoia crown conquered the prosperous South of Italy, supported by the UK who aimed to tear apart the 2nd largest fleet in Europe, just behind the English one.

The first move the Savoia army made once arrived in Naples was stealing all the gold from the Banca di Sicilia. In fact the Savoia had incurred in a huge debt to finance the wars previously undertaken.

Additionally, the Savoia appointed Liborio Romano as prefetto di polizia of Naples because he was well connected with local mafia (camorra). Savoia had used camorra to preserve the precarious status quo. 

As result of this, camorra got institutionalised.

This premise is fundamental to understand Naples today.

Visiting Naples will reveal you its massive cultural heritage.

I have spent there three days. Nevertheless, one week is not enough to view all the jewels that Naples conserves.

Let me just mention the Certosa di San Martino (pictured).

I have rarely seen anything as astonishing as this.

A visit to Naples is also worth because there are three Caravaggio's paints (pictured), in the order shown below: Le sette opera di Misericordia, Martirio di Sant'Orsola and ultimately La flagellazione di Cristo.

The first one was commissioned by the Pio Monte della Misericordia, a charity institution who paid 400 ducati to secure the Michelangelo Merisi's paint.

This paint is so plenty of life, so rich of elements. Probably, the most suggestive one is the lady breastfeeding his father. Caravaggio has even painted white drops of milk on the man's beard. 

The second one, Martirio di Sant'Orsola, was painted one month before he died. It's his last work.

If you carefully look at the paint, you'll notice that the Caravaggio's self portrait (his head) seems inserted into the Sant'Orsola body, or at least, I have such feeling. 

In other words, it's like if Caravaggio had prefigured his imminent end.   

This paint, bought by Banca Commerciale Italiana in 1972, was initially thought to be a Mattia Preti's paint.

In 1980, researchers have once for all clarified that it must be ascribed to Michelangelo Merisi.

This paint is part of a fantastic collection owned by Banca Intesa-San Paolo, exhibited in the historical location of palazzo Zevallos-Stigliano, where currently is shown the exhibition Fergola, lo splendore di un Regno.

Intesa-San Paolo promotes arts throughout the country by a triennial project called progetto cultura

Concerning the third Caravaggio's paint, La flagellazione di Cristo, it's located in the Capodimonte museum.

Capodimonte is an awesome museum, where you'll enjoy paints depicted by Tiziano, Raffaello, Botticelli, Mantegna, Masaccio, Artemisia Gentileschi and so on.

Additionally, Capodimonte museum exhibits several paints of the so-called scuola napoletana, a movement profoundly inspired by Caravaggio since he arrived in Naples. His presence, his style had a tremendous impact on the local painters. 

Keeping talking about art, I cannot refrain from mentioning the Stendhal syndrome I felt for the first time in my life when I entered the Cappella San Severo.

Cappella San Severo is the mausoleum which the Prince Raimondo di Sangro conceived for his family in the middle of 17th century. 

This place is magic. It reflects the esoteric knowledge practised by the eclectic Prince.

I consider the Cristo velato as well as the disinganno (pictured) among the most beautiful things I have ever seen. 

Cristo velato was sculptured by the Neapolitan sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino. 

Instead, Disinganno was made by Francesco Queirolo

Naples is not only one of the main European capital in terms of art and culture. This city is also special because of his people.

People struggle here to carry on. A high unemployment rate lashes the city. Despite that, Neapolitans haven't lost their humanity.

And what about their language? It's so musical, so melodic. 

Making coffee is an art in Naples.

I have experienced it by ordering a coffee in Caffe delle Muse.

Aldo (pictured) asks me "Shall I put sugar into the cup?"

I am used to put sugar into it on my own. So the question sounded me pretty wired.

Aldo feels my concerns, so he adds "You know, if you put sugar before pouring coffee into the cup, they get mixed better"

He was right.

Additionally, the art of drinking coffee expects that you clean your mouth with a glass of sparkling water.

So, without asking, Aldo serves me a glass of water before coffee is ready.

That's class, gentlemen. 

And what about via Pignasecca, where thousands of people walk up and down buying food? 

The elders sit around a table and  play cards along Via Toledo.

It seems to me unnecessary to point out that I have been eating pizza almost every day.

On the other hand, if you have enough of pizza and wish to eat proper meal with little money, I strongly recommend you to go to Nennella, located at Quartieri Spagnoli, right beside the Toledo underground station.

What incredible place is this one.

The waiters make fun of you, but it's just a joke, a nonsense.

The waiter who served at my table got irritated after I asked him twice half litre of wine "mate, do you speak Italian? Do you understand me? I have already told you that we serve just entire bottle, no half litre!".

A table beside me asked for additional serviette, and the owner replied "Nun mi scassare o' cazz" (don't break my bollocks). 

In other words, you eat and get entertained. You are actor and audience at the same time. 

Another magic place in which I have been walking several times is Via San Gregorio Armeno.

That's the street of presepi. Presepio represents the scenario in which Nativity takes place. Edoardo De Filippo have celebrated it in his comedy Natale in casa Cuppiello

I prefer to avoid to narrate further about my trip to Naples. It's up to you to put aside stereotypes and experience it.

I wish just to add something in terms of my feelings. After having left Naples, I feel like I'm missing Naples and its people. 

So, I started to watch over and over again Massimo Troisi' sketches and movies.

Massimo Troisi was a talented Neapolitan artist as well as an humble man.

The soundtracks of the Troisi's movies were played by another Neapolitan artist, Pino Daniele.  

Pino Daniele and Massimo Troisi, what a magic combination. Check this out voglio 'o mare

Both Pino and Massimo have passed away. 

Yesterday night I dreamed of Massimo Troisi cheering me up. This morning I woke up with my earth upside-down because of such a dream.

Massimo, Pino, this article is dedicated to you. 

Rest in peace

Monday, 12 December 2016

Campagna Amica in Altamura

La settimana scorsa ho conosciuto Giovanni Ragone della Coldiretti in Altamura.

Ero andato in sede per informarmi sugli strumenti disponibili per chi, come me, ama la terra e vorrebbe vivere dei suoi frutti.

"Sai Giovanni" gli dico "seguo con estrema attenzione le campagne Coldiretti di azione diretta contro le importazioni di cibi esteri di dubbia qualità a discapito delle produzione italiane. Pertanto tienimi aggiornato su eventuali eventi da voi promossi".

Giovanni mi risponde: "Se vuoi puoi venire a trovarci domenica 11 dicembre, festa del ringraziamento, in occasione della quale si terrà un sit-in di Campagna Amica, con stands di produttori locali".

Quale occasione migliore per conoscere da vicino questa realtà, e documentarne le dinamiche, le storie, le passioni?

Mi imbatto in Giovanni Petruzzi e Giovanni Pugliesi dell'azienda agricola "La Buona terra" di Turi.

"Noi produciamo solo frutta ed ortaggi di stagione" esordiscono gli affiatati contadini di Turi,  cittadina famosa per le ciliegie e per aver dato i natali al tarantolato allenatore di calcio Oronzo Pugliese.

"Il futuro appartiene all'agricoltura. La gente dovrà mangiare. Se la campagna gira, gira tutta l'economia" affermano con fede. 

Domenico Ginefra ha una azienda agricola a Santo Spirito, ed un negozio dove rivende i suoi prodotti a Giovinazzo: "I cavolfiori, come tutte le crocifere sono dei fantastici antitumorali. Più son colorati (verdi, violacei), più contengono vitamine".

Si respira una bella aria qui. Una aria gioviale. 

Chiedo ad un signore che mi osserva silente: "anche lei fa parte della Coldiretti?" 
"Si" mi risponde. 
"Cosa produce?" Gli domando. 
E Lui: "ho prodotto mia figlia che lavora per Coldiretti". 

Davanti alla chiesa di San Domenico attendono pazienti gli associati Coldiretti. A breve comincia la messa del ringraziamento.

"La Coldiretti ha sempre nutrito un sentimento di profonda religiosità" puntualizza Marino Pilati, direttore provinciale Coldiretti.

Francesco Rella, agricoltore di Grumo e delegato Coldiretti Giovani Impresa spiega come i giovani si stiano sempre più orientando su produzioni biologiche.

Tra i vari stands c'è l'azienda agricola Tafuni, specializzata nella produzione di legumi, olio extravergine, mandorle e grano. 

Ho assaggiato la loro pasta fatta di semola di grano duro e posso testimoniarne l'eccezionale qualità. 

Vito Tafuni, amministratore della medesima azienda, mi spiega: "il nostro grano non contiene glisofati ne' microtossine. Il nostro clima asciuga il grano, a differenza di paesi come il Canada (da cui importiamo grandi quantità) che trebbiano con climi
ben più rigidi e son costretti ad usare quello che noi chiamiamo 'u siccatutt".

L'intolleranza al glutine (celiachia) sta diventando una malattia di massa qui in Italia.

Qualche nesso con la violenza che facciamo al cibo che mangiamo ci sarà pure.

Roberto Anzivino, apicoltore di Orsara di Puglia (Monti Dauni) centra il nocciolo della questione: "Noi consumatori abbiamo delle forti responsabilità. Siam disposti a spendere 200 euri per un paio di scarpe, ma non più di un pugno di euri per 1 kg. di miele del supermercato che in realtà di miele italiano ha ben poco."

Sarebbe il caso che cominciassimo a chiederci che cosa vuol dire dieta mediterranea, perché l'abbiamo abbandonata ed in nome di cosa.

Il cibo può essere la medicina od il veleno del nostro corpo. 

Sta a te scegliere!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Nicola Piovani and his dangerous music

"I'm just back from a quick tour in Altamura. I'm impressed by the square nearby the cathedral" Nicola Piovani begins.

It's Saturday 3 December, 5 pm. At the conference room within the Mercadante theatre in Altamura, Nicola Piovani is presenting his book La musica e' pericolosa

Nicola Piovani, the composer of the soundtrack of La vita è  bella says "Thanks to my work, I have chance to travel around Italy. A while ago I've discovered a theatre in Novi Ligure so beautiful that if it had been in California, they would have done everything to let people visit it".

Talking about what's the mission of theatres, Piovani states that what makes a theatre interesting is not only the theatre season, but also the connections established with the local community.

"Theatre is the only place left, with church probably, where people get concentrated to receive what artists have to say" Piovani continues.  

Music and beauty are the two things which still derange Nicola Piovani "I remember in Vigevano, being there in Piazza Ducale. Oh what a feeling, I felt shivers down the spine".

Piovani was good friend of Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone, Federico Fellini, Mario Monicelli and many others composers and directors. 

"The title of my book is a Federico Fellini's quote. We were together one day, I was at the piano. As soon I started playing the Amarcord soundtrack, suddenly I saw Federico crying, leaving the room" Piovani recalls.

Nicola Piovani takes this opportunity to openly acknowledge the uniqueness of Apulia in terms of wind bands (bande musicali) such as the Squinzano and Conversano ones.

He pays homage to such Apulian customs, which sees so many Apulian cities having their own banda musicale.

"Many years ago I was in the province of Taranto. It was the first time I came across the maestro Gennaro Abbate, orchestrating the banda of Squinzano. He was amazing" Piovani states.

Indeed, Gennaro Abbate inherited the conduction of the banda di Squinzano from his dying brother, Ernesto Abbate, famous for having composed la sagra dei fiori.

Gennaro Abbate had already achieved great success directing bands in theatres of all around the world (Russia, Uk). 

However, he decided to stay in Squinzano till the end of his days, leading the banda composed by 70 musicians to the top.  

It's a great pleasure to listen to Sir Nicola Piovani. 

His memories, his thoughts, his opinions are tremendously fascinating. He brings to mind glorious times gone forever. The times in which Italian directors and composers gathered together to create unforgettable movies.

Later on Sir Piovani will be performing on stage at the Mercadante theatre.

Long life to Nicola Piovani.