Saturday, September 29, 2012


Yesterday I met up with Lisa Norall, an old family friend, who I hadn't seen in something like 40 years. Lisa lived in my father's rooming house in Cambridge when I was a kid. I remembered her as a badass hippie chick with long paprika-red hair who took me skinny-dipping in Walden Pond and drove a motorcycle and just generally radiated waves of cool, so when she showed up on the back of a scooter driven by a handsome young Italian man I thought, Yeah, that's her

"This is Francesco," she said by way of explanation. 

Francesco zipped off, and Lisa and I walked down Via Toledo looking for a cafe. I didn't put it together that Francesco was her son until we'd been chatting for over an hour. 

Anyhow, Lisa has been living in Naples for... 25 years? I'm very fortunate to have her as a guide. We took a funicular car up the hill to Montesanto (serenaded by a Roma accordionist who played a swinging rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow") and looked down at the city from on high.

Vesuvius in the background, medieval city in foreground, financial center in middle distance. From there, we walked back to Via Toledo. 

Lisa ran into her nephew on the way down. He winked and told me to "watch out for her." Note that she still has paprika-red hair.

Also note the shrine built into the roadside.

It was the first of many such shrines I noticed, but once I started looking, I realized there must be thousands of them in the city -- every other block seems to have one. 

Which reminds me: I asked Lisa about all the laundry. Like a lot of people, I've had my clothes stolen out of the dryer at the laundromat. I asked her how it was that, in a city that is supposed to be rife with petty crime, people felt so comfortable leaving their laundry unattended on the street. She said the idea of stealing clothes seemed un-Neapolitan. People here don't buy second-hand clothes, so why would they steal them?

I thought about that, and about all the little shrines on the street. Many years ago, I was at Goodwill with a friend. I found a beautiful orange chenille bathrobe, but she wouldn't let me buy it. "Someone might have died in that," she said. Well, someone might have died in any of these clothes, I thought. It's true that there is something haunted about old clothes.

Which makes me think of this:

Anyhow, here's what I still want to cover in Naples:

Capodimonte museum
Hermann Nitsch museum
National archeology museum
Duomo di Napoli (and excavations)
At least some of the other 1,000 churches

But here's what I did today: loafed until 10:30 drinking coffee, then walked around for a few hours looking at stuff.

Archeology, churches, and art museums will have to wait another day. My eye was drawn to brutalism today. Casa del Mutilato:

Terrifying post office:

Haunted Naples:


  1. Note that the first three shrines all feature images of near-local stigmatic Padre Pio, pretty much a kitchen god around there, I imagine.

    1. the grafitti is demonic or rather boshian or rather perhaps human