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Naples
“Kissed by God and raped by Man”
It is unrivalled for its artistic and cultural treasures and is the city where pizza, coffee, pasta, the tarantella, the nativity scene and tombola were born.
Home to philosophers like Giambattista Vico, composers like Scarlatti and actors like Totò.
It’s all to be found in the surprising book by young writer and journalist, Angelo Forgione
by Lino Patruno
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Naples. Posillipo, via Orazio. Terrace overlooking the sea. Photo by Giuseppe Guida

There’s a city which is unanimously considered a “unique and unrepeatable” wonder of the world. An Italian city.

It is one of the oldest in Europe and on the face of the Earth. In fact, according to U.N.E.S.C.O it is “the cradle of European civilization”. And its old town center is the biggest of those included in the world heritage sites on the U.N. lists. Italy was born around there with Aeneas’ landing, with the golden bough and with the Romans that defined it as the place “where pain disappears”.

It is the city that, unlike capitals like Rome Paris London, sprang up in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. A culture that has lasted three thousand years in an earthly paradise. That is why some consider it “the only real capital we have”.

Its language is the most widely spoken in the country after Italian. It is among the most widely spoken languages of world emigration.

It is the only city in the world that has not lost its character and its identity, stronger than any Americanization and every Chinesation. Apart from its language, its traditions, its music, its cinema, its theatre, its literature and its myth are unequalled.

It boasts the biggest and oldest opera house in Europe. Melodrama and Comic Opera were born under its sky. Mozart came here to drink it in and become Mozart.

Here Paisiello, Cimarosa, Mercadante, Piccinni, Scarlatti, Pergolesi, Traetta, Jannelli, Porpora and Leo were born (or became great).

Here the Melodic Song that crossed all borders was born. Its Festival di Piedigrotta was no less famous than the Rio Carnival or the Oktoberfest in Munich. This is the birthplace of O’ sole mio, as famous as the national anthem composed by Mameli.

Here the Sceneggiata, the Tarantella, the Curtain-raiser, the Character sketch and Variety itself were born. Here two universally famous stock comic characters like Punchinella and Totò were born.

Icons and universal flags like Pizza, Coffee, Coffee and Croissants, Rum Babas, Pasta, Macaroni, Mozzarella, Pastiera (a cake made with cottage cheese), Zeppola (a kind of doughnut), Parmigiana (eggplants with cheese and tomato), Ragout, Tomato sauce, Mpepata (mussels with pepper) and Tiramisu are fruits of its invention and vital energy. And if they weren’t all born here, they were all sent out into the world from here, and are no less widespread than Coca Cola.

The Nativity scene took off from here. And also Folk carols: it was Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, from here, who composed Tu scendi dalle stelle.

The games of Lotto and Tombola sprang up here. They invented the Smorfia here.

Hospitable and tolerant, it is the city that quashed Nazism and never built ghettoes. Catholic but secular, it stood alone in refusing the Inquisition; now it is embellished by an inexhaustible inheritance of a myriad churches and monasteries.

Its high-class men’s tailoring has created a style which takes its name from the city. And its artisans’ expertise has become of such cult value that it goes beyond even the famous multinational brand names.

Its artistic, cultural, archaeological, monumental and environmental treasures explain the strong appeal it still has for tourists, together with the surrounding area full of legendary names and places.

The run down of the city’s visiting card that I have so far given you is by no means an exaggerated claim for its forgotten charms. It’s really like this. Even if I don’t mention the events of its past which are part of a more controversial history. But there is no argument that between the 18th and the 19th centuries it was the cradle of Philosophy, Economic Science and the Italian Enlightenment. And that its economist Gaetano Filangieri with his Felicità delle nazioni inspired the U.S. Constitution and was the fore-runner of the more celebrated Scotsman Adam Smith and his Wealth of Nations. This is the city where Tommaso Campanella, Giordano Bruno, Pietro Giannone, Giovanbattista Della Porta, Antonio Genovesi, Celestino Galiani, Francesco Maria Pagano, Giuseppe Maria Galanti and Giovanbattista Vico were born (or became great). This is the city in which Giovanbattista Basile with his Lo cunto de li cunti and Giovanbattista Marino were the fore-runners of the literature of fables that had from Perrault on, so many foreign successors that were regularly more highly acclaimed. This is the city to which Frederick of Swabia in 1224 donated the first public university in the world.

P.S. The city I have been speaking about is Naples. And everything that has been said so far is contained in the book Made in Naples by young writer, journalist and graphic designer Angelo Forgione (foreword by Jean Noel Schifano, Magenes ed., 315 pp. 15 euro). Subtitle: Come Napoli ha civilizzato l’Europa (e come continua a farlo) [How Naples civilized Europe (and continues to do so)]”. An amazing book. Forgione refuses to be nostalgic and does not cover up the dramas, explaining to us why his city is “kissed by God but raped by Man”. He explains why Naples represents the whole of the South. But he adds that a country that loves itself should have more Naples and not less Naples in its soul. Because Naples is something grandiose that should not slip through our fingers. Starting from the capacity to last out that has enabled it to survive and live, despite everything, so “young and indomitable” for the last 29 centuries.

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