These nativity scenes, known as presepi, are a Neapolitan tradition dating back to the 13th century. Over the years it has become a real art form; in the 17th century nobles would commission renowned artists to create their very own nativity scene, as can be seen in the Santa Chiara cloister and in the Museo di San Martino. But there’s no need to go to a museum to see today’s presepi – simply head to the Via San Gregorio Armeno in the Centro Storico where numerous craftsmen who specialise in this tradition have their studios and shops. We were there in November when the street was packed with families choosing their decorations for the coming festivities, but I gather that the workshops are there all year round, though the atmosphere might be a little calmer.
What makes a presepe stand out from the regular nativity scene is its scale, and the way that the holy family is placed in a setting representing old Naples, with its architecture, its people and its traditions. The best and most complex pieces will hold your attention for ages. You may see herders leading cows to the pasture, a couple sharing a meal, children playing, maybe a fight in an inn, etc. In addition to these ordinary scenes, and the focal point always of the nativity itself, Neapolitans have for over 200 years included figures of people who made news during the year, such as a politician or celebrity – I read of Paverotti, Princess Diana, Mother Teresa and Elvis all being “honoured” in this way, though I didn’t see any examples.
During the 19th century the presepe became a standard Christmas fixture for most homes, when poorer families created their own scenes with miniature chalk, terracotta and papier-maché figures. Today on the Via San Gregorio Armeno you can see not only the workshops where skilled craftsmen produce these scenes but everything you need to create your own at home: little rocks, bark and wood, streams with flowing water powered by tiny motors, balustrades and columns, and figures of all kinds.
If you are fond of football (soccer for american English), you will remember Diego Armando Maradona, a very famous argentinean foorball player. He played some years for Napoli/Naples football team, and they won the Scudetto (league) twice. He was (I think he still is), an idol here.
I found this pic on Via San Biagio dei Librai, and I bet the napolitan people still come here to pay their respects.
I cannot say or emphasize it enough if you are going to Italy please please PLEASE learn at least enough of the language to communicate! I studied for 6 months before our trip so I was not fluent but it made for a wonderful experience to be able to communicate. Some of the worst behavior I have ever seen was from frustrated American tourists who fully arrogantly expected the Italians to speak flawless English while they themselves did not bother to learn a word of Italian. I have found that if you show the respect of at least trying to speak the language, no matter how badly mangled you will receive a warmer reception than those red in the face who think that yelling is going to get their point across. Remember we're visiting their country, why not learn a little bit before you go? That said, in the cities English is more prevalent but where we liked to eat in the family run trattorias the only English you would hear was, "No speak English!"
Three times in a year occurs the miracle of San Gennaro, the saint that protects Naples.
The miracle dates back to 16th december 1631 when Vesuvius erupted and killed more than 3000 inhabitants, when archbishop took out his head and blood ou of the cathedral and showed the miracle, that brought on the rain and saved the rest of Naples from destruction.
On the first sunday of May (when the body of San Gennaro was brought to Naples), on 19th september (San Gennaro´s nameday) and again on 16th December, the blood of San Gennaro is exposed in Duomo and turns from powder back to real blood. The day before, a big procession carrying the saints from other churches and transporting them to Duomo.
Should the miracle fail to occur, a big disaster would hit Naples - as was the case in 1944 when Vesuvius erupted.
By the way, the miracles form an integrant part of religion in southern Italy and in Naples and the adoration of relics has a long history. In 17th century a priest did an account of the thousands of relics kept in churches in the city (among them 367 whole bodies, 54 heads, 28 elbows... add to this teeth, bones, hair, lots of blood of various saints, clothes, 5 pieces of the cross and 11 thorns of the crown...).
Pulcinella, often called Punch in English is a classical character that originated in the Commedia dell' Arte of the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. His name comes from his long beaked nose. His creation is sometimes attributed to an unknown Naples man in the early 1400's. Dressed a white hat, a white dress, and black shoes, and covering his face with a black mask, he would walk around Naples poking fun at the rich and the people in power. Life in Naples at his time wasn’t easy; the city suffered from economic and social depression and was often under the rule of many different kings. Because he helped people to forget about their problems, if only for a moment, Pulcinella became one of the most cherished symbols of Naples. Later he developed into the traditional crafty and rather vicious character we recognise as the English Punch, but the real Pulcinella is considered an archetype of humanity, with all its complex and contradictory features.
We saw several “Pulcinella” on the streets of the Centro Storico – this one was a street performer, another was working to attract visitors to a Christmas crib workshop in the Via San Gregorio Armeno, another busy luring people into a restaurant. I also spotted the masks for sale in several shops, in case you fancy acting out the role back home, as well as the more Venetian looking masks in my second photo.
If like me you enjoy trying local delicacies and drinks when visiting places, you’ll want to sample a limoncello. This is a lemon liqueur produced in Southern Italy, especially in this area around the Gulf of Naples and the coast of Amalfi and islands of Procida, Ischia and Capri, but also in Sicily and Sardinia. It is made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water, and sugar. It is bright yellow in colour and I found it a little sweet for my taste – I expected sharpness but although it is lemony, it doesn’t have any lemon juice in it, only the rinds.
Limoncello is served chilled and is a refreshing after-dinner choice, especially if you like a little sweetness in your drinks. I was pleased to have the chance to try one, but after our first evening reverted to my favourite Italian digestivo, Grappa.
You can read more about it, and get some interesting recipes for using limoncello, at http://www.limoncello.com/en/index.html (focuses on the limoncello of Capri but interesting nevertheless, and it’s all the same drink really).
Pizzelle fritte, or montanare, are a variation on the pizza theme: tiny and fried pieces of pizza dough, with a nice and well dressed tomato sauce and parmesan cheese on the top.
You must try because it is real Napolitano food and it is delouses.
As I walked the strand along the Bay of Naples at any time of day but especially at night there were many young couples making out.
I noticed that they would camp out at particular spot day after day. When I looked closer I noticed that they had placed a lock around the lightposts with their initials written on it as a gesture of the everlasting love, locking their hearts together.
I first saw this "profession" at work while in Sicily. The man on the street I saw outside my hotel here in Naples was at the height of this profession.
I watched him as he greeted everyone who walked down the street, everyone seemed to know him. He would tell jokes, say hello to little baby's in strollers, walk old men arm-to-arm down the busy street. He was a maestro, he conducted all the events on this little street corner with ease.
He parked cars and walked with confidence up and down the street. I wish I had a photo to remember this guy. I guess he made a living at this or at least felt important.
Sunglasses are prevelant everywhere in Italy but none more noticeable than when I was in Naples. It seems everyone young and old have a pair of sunglasses on at all times of day morning, noon, dusk and night! Bring your best pair of sunglasses and you will fit right in with the locals.
We arrived around lunchtime on a Sunday. Actually, it was probably about 13:30 by the time we got our gear stowed away in our hotel and started scrounging for food. Not only were we up against "siesta time", but it was also Sunday. We had been really looking forward to our first Naples pizza and were disappointed at not being able to get one. It was really hard to find anything open. Eat when you see something open or when something looks good. Don't wait until you are hungry to eat because by then, nothing may be open.
The Votive Aedicule represent the art and the history of the quarter. Along its lanes there are a lot of aedicule that give suggestive and typical imagine of the traditional and folkloristic Naples. The aedicule are everywhere: in the streets, in the lanes, in the courtyards and also in the private houses. When these imagines started to invade the quarter, the inhabitants made a competition to have the beautiful aedicule not only dedicated to Madonna and Holies but also to personalities of the Parthenopean culture like the Prince Antonio de Curtis, better known as Totò (Totò was a famous italian actor borned in Naples).
[by Egicom05 – Street of Naples]
If you've never had the opportunity to try "mozzarella di bufala", you must! The only kind to try is the fresh kind from Campania. Eat it alone or try it on pizza...you shouldn't be disappointed. If you are, just send it my way!
This is one of the most reknowned Napolitan traditions, the presepio (or the manger) where even icons like Maradona and Al Bano are part of the entourage of the manger of the child Jesus.
The presepio is also known for its craftmanship which is incomparable. Each of the figurines are hand crafted artistically where the artisits hands are able to mould certain facial expressions that seem to be very intricate. The smaller the figure is, the more difficult it is to craft, however, the presepio is 100% hand crafted and its origin is always attributed to the craftmen of Naples.
"... St. Gennaro would not have existed without Naples and Naples could not survive without St. Gennaro. The history of St. Gennaro starts with Naples’history... "So Alexander Dumas told about the bond that exists between our town and its Protector. He descended from the noble family Gens Januaria. So,Gennaro was the surname and according to not official sources,Procolo the name. The story that involved Gennaro,happened in the first half of the III° century;during that epoch he was Benevento’s bishop. In 303,when the famous Diocleziano’s edict was banished against the Christians,he went to Miseno to participate to a liturgy. In that time,Sossio was Miseno’s deacon,that was arrested by Dragonzio,antichristian judge,taking advantage of the rage diocleziana persecution. Gennaro,his deacon Festo and the reader Desiderio heard the duty to make visit to the friend to bring him some comfort. Dragonzio took advantage of the occasion to arrest the three with the accusation of forced adoration of the idols to the pagan altars condemning them to be devoured by the beasts in Pozzuoli’s amphitheater.The rebellion of the Christian community exploded,it got only the conversion of the punishment:decapitation,that was executed in the Hole of Volcano near the Solfatara of Pozzuoli in 305. To performed sentence,some Christians charged themselves to bury the martyrs and to preserve some their blood. According to the tradition,Gennaro’s blood was guarded by its nurse in 2 cruets,while the body was buried in Marciano near the places where the execution happened. His mortal remains underwent numerous translations,up to the actual setup in the Cathedral in Naples in 1492. The first certain news of the miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Gennaro goes up to 17 August of 1389; they tell that blood was liquefied as if it had gushed out that same day from the body of the saint.
[Egicom05 by Sun City]