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NAPLES ANCIENT BUILDINGS

Published January 13, 2014 by Tony

– MYSTERY AND DECAY OF PALACE PENNE –

Penne's palace

Palazzo Penne is a Renaissance building in Naples, built by Antonio Penne, located in the Piazzetta Teodoro Monticelli, in that narrow blind alley that leads to the long and narrow “Scalea del Pennino” in the Sedile “Porto”.
Antonio Penne, so named because coming from the town of Penne in Abruzzo, belonged to a wealthy bourgeois family, and in 1391 he became secretary and special adviser to the king Ladislaus of Anjou (Naples 1374-1414), son of Margherita of Durres, nephew of the Queen Joanna I. His prestige at court became so high till to obtain permission to erect his own memorial in Santa Clara’s church, exclusive place for Angevin nobility, where today, in a chapel we can still admire his tomb.
Once this property was famous for a legend that hovered over, while in the last centuries a total negligence led it to ruin.

Penne's tomb

HISTORY

Palazzo Penne was built in 1406 and the area where it is located is called “Pennino” (meaning slope), because it was a small hill where the road surface was about 5 meters lower than now, a place that at the time was considered healthy, and safe against flooding landslides.
The year of manufacture can be inferred from the inscription on a plaque above the arch at the entrance of the building: “XX anno regni regis Ladislai sunt domus haec facte nullo sint turbine fracie mille fluunt magni bistres centum quater anni.” The inscription arranges a single block with the Anjou-Durres’ coat of arms. The concession of the sovereign to embellish the building with weapons and symbols of the royal family, as well as the approval of Penne’s blazon, signified the eternal protection to the family Penne.

The facade  is made with ashlar rusticated “piperno” alternated with “soft stone of the mountain”, referred to as “piperino tuff”, which is actually trachyte: a compact yellowish rock. The pediment is formed by arches called “flaming Gothic” with the crown of King Ladislaus in the first order, and below the Cross of Jerusalem, Majorca’s coat of arms (poles), and the stripes of Durres’ lineage. In the ashlar frame you see the “feathers”, symbol of the house in three rows, topped by Angevin lilies in seven rows, in honor of King Ladidslao. In the middle of the arch, a composition represents the religious and superstitious spirit of Antonio Penne: the stylized clouds from which come out some beams (the divine light) with two hands holding a tape containing two engraved lines of Martial (against evil eye) “Avi Ducis Vultu Sinec Auspicis Isca Libenter Omnibus Invideas Tibi Nemo” (you, who do not turn your face and do not look at this building willingly or envious, envy everyone well, no one envies you). The door is oak, although altered over the centuries, is one example of craftsmanship with steel spikes, iron studs called “Peroni”, consisting of the original arches of the Gothic period.
The inner courtyard is decorated with a beautiful five-arched portico with a lovely garden still partly preserved. Originally, in the courtyard there were sixteen stables, while the beautiful porch was adorned with statues of the Roman period, all remodeled in 1740 and then covered up by the construction of the janitor’s home, as well as the “Majestic Arch” which remains only a track in the wall. In the apartment on the first floor there were two rooms, one looking out on the porch and another on a courtyard that led into the park, all with frescoed ceiling. In the courtyard there was a spiral staircase that led to the basement that were below the level of the building. A scale of piperno led to the second floor, where there was a large terrace with a balustrade still made with piperno.

After Antonio Penne’s death, the building passed to his nephew Onofrio, as long as the last heirs sold it to the family Rocco or Rocca, and finally in 1558, to Aloisia Scannapieco Capuano who in turn gave it to her son Giovanni Geronimo, married with Lucretia de Sangro.
In 1685 the house was purchased by the Order of the Somascan Fathers, the nearby church of Saints Demetrius and Bonifacio. The fathers Somascan modified it according to their needs and transforming it in novitiaten and cells for the Fathers. The transformations occupied nearly a century, new houses were built in the garden area, while part of the cellars, adjacent to the Church of Santa Barbara, were transformed into shops and other flats. The final annihilation of the ancient structure happened with the destruction of the top floor’s roof. With the arrival of the French, in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and with the abolition of religious orders in 1806, the building was put up for sale and became the property of the abbot Teodoro Monticelli, noble barons of Cerreto, a volcanologist.
After his death in 1845, the assets were sold to the University of Naples, while the watchman Saverio Monticelli remained, the grandson of Theodore. In memory of Monticelli was a plaque on the first floor of the building, commissioned by the Civic Administration in 1909. In 2002, the Region of Campania bought the building for 10 billion lire, held by a private possession who had transformed the building into a “bed and breakfast” . The palace was then transferred on loan to “University Orientale” in 2004. The project involved the construction of laboratories, rooms for seminars or conferences, and services for students. Work on the renovation of the building that never initiated by the presence of squatters in the building. In 2007, the intellectuals Alda Croce e Marta Herling, daughter and granddaughter of the philosopher Benedetto Croce, obtained the suspension of the squatters works inside the building for the construction of some housing units by the occupants (who resumed work despite the ban). To no avail the appeals of the President of the Republic and UNESCO for the start of restoration work. On 20 May 2008 the investigations requested by UNESCO through the Italian judiciary, were concluded, and among the defendants the governor Antonio Bassolino and the then dean Pasquale Ciriello, for the non-restorative intervention against an artifact of historical and artistic interest. In November 2009, the Prosecutor has requested the dismissal of the process, giving the opportunity to the Public Prosecutor to appeal to the prosecution, if the case. In 2013, all the defendants in the trial, for damage to property of historical interest, were acquitted by the Tribunal of Naples because the crime does not exist. The agreement between the Region and the last two individuals, illegally occupying the building and to which it has been procured an alternative residence, has allowed to finally put the entire building under the supervision of the Region and the University Orientale, which must agree to the restorative intervention and the intended use. In November 2008, work  for the safety of the building has begun, to prevent further deterioration, as a new abusive attack, nipped in the bud by the Superintendent and the City of Naples, took place in the early months of 2009 when an adjoining hotel was taking possession of the garden.
For now, the only certainty is the decay and neglect that still prevail in the building.

THE LEGEND
”Beelzebub’s building”

As soon as the noble Antonio Penne come to Naples with the French entourage, he fell in love with a beautiful Neapolitan young girl.
Having too many offers of marriage and the next day to give an answer to other suitors, the damsel replied that she maybe would agree only if the Penne had built, for the next morning, a building equal to her beauty, as a pledge of love and wedding gift. Sure that he had not been able to fulfill such an absurd request because, alas, she already had chosen the man to marry.
Aware that he could not cope with such an impossible request, it is said that to just to have a change, the nobleman asked for help to the devil, Beelzebub, who accepted in exchange for Penne’s soul. Antonio accepted by signing with his own blood, but reserving the right to insert an irrelevant clause that he would reveal in the end.

At midnight the evil forces began their work, and at dawn and the building was ready. At this point Beelzebub asked him about the last clause and Antonio explained it: he would have sprinkled many grains of wheat in the courtyard, and the devil would have to pick up and count them all, and if he had missed even one of them, the agreement was no longer valid. Said than done, when the devil counted the grains their number wasn’t exact, because Antonio  deliberately had mixed them with pitch, and inevitably some of them stuck under Beelzebub’s nails. This one protested demanding for his soul, but Antonio made the sign of the cross obliging the devil to sink in the courtyard, where today it is said that there is a well.

 

NEAPOLITAN CHRISTMAS GAME

Published December 16, 2013 by Tony

THE TOMBOLA

Let’s put aside Baseball or Playstation and take the opportunity that relatives and friends are at home to play all together with a board game.

The board  games are a phenomenon quite common in Western countries as a moment of aggregation, although their importance in social life also depends on national traditions. In Germany and the German-speaking countries, for example, the culture of the table game is much more widespread than in Italy. This kind of games is important as entertainment for family, especially for those suitable for all ages.
Christmas, being a celebration that usually unites the whole family, also becomes an opportunity to play together, a way to spend a happy afternoon or evening with a board game.

And in Naples, the oldest and widespread game played during the holiday season is the ” TOMBOLA“.
It is a traditional board game just created in Naples in the eighteenth century. A home game as an alternative to the game of the LOTTO (lot), and often accompanied by a system of association between numbers and their meanings, usually humorous, deriving from “The SMORFIA“.
The Smorfia is like the dream book, used to obtain the corresponding numbers from the various dreams to play the “Lotto”, along the lines of the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition (Kabbalah). For the Smorfia, a word, an event, a person, or an object, is transformed into one or more numbers, even through a fairly accurate coding that provides a different number depending on the context. For example, the verb (action) “to play” is represented by the number 79, but it changes if you meant to play football (50), cards (17), chess (22), and so on. For The Smorfia, the number 1 represents “Italy”, while the last number, 90, represents the “fear”, as well as the number five the “hands” and 18 the “blood”.

smorfia

For the uninitiated, the Lotto is a gambling game (like lottery), the most popular game in Italy managed by the State. The word “lotto” is derived from the French ” lot ,” which means both ” portion” and “fate.” The term, arrived in the Iberian Peninsula, is documented as “lote” in Spanish and “loto” in Portuguese. The French verb “lotir ” also means “to divide the lot” or “assign the lot”. But similar term can be found in the old English “hlot” (“a thing allotted”), which correspond to “Los” in modern German.

The game consists of three weekly draws, conducted in eleven cities called “ruote” (wheels), in which are drawn 5 numbers between 1 and 90 without replacement, meaning that a number once selected is not put back in the urn. The game is to bet on one or more numbers (double, triplet, quadruplet, quintet), in the hope that they are selected in the “wheels” you had gambled. In fact, you can bet in a single wheel, multi-wheel or all-wheel.
Neapolitans are very superstitious and often bet the numbers (arising from Smorfia) corresponding to particular events or situations, or resulting from some dream. Even the numbers that are part of a just bought car’s license plate, are among those that a Neapolitan can play to The Lotto.

Lotto: extracted numbers

According to tradition, the Tombola game would be created in 1734 by a discussion between King Charles of Bourbon and father Gregorio Maria Rocco about the lottery. The first wanted it under public control, as the second considered it immoral on religious grounds. The compromise was found by banning the game during the holiday season, during which families organized themselves with a home version of the game, which soon became a custom in those days of the year.

Basically the game of Bingo is similar to Tombola, in which participants are required to pay a sum of money which is then redistributed as prizes to the winners.
The players have one or more rectangular “cards” previously “bought”, consisting of 3 lines, each with five numbers, from 1 to 90, printed on. Each time one number is drawn and it is present on one or more of the player’s cards, the player gotta cover it. In the traditional version of Tombola, the cards are simple paper cards and the numbers are can be covered with beans, chickpeas, lentils, pasta, or other materials available after the Christmas dinners, like hazelnuts’ shells. The Tombola’s cards are made in groups of six, so that in each group the numbers from 1 to 90 are present once only. A collecting box is part of the game, typically a small cone-shaped basket, filled with 90 numbers of wood. In turn, each player draws, at random, one number a time from the container, and go on until one of the players has covered all the numbers marked on one of his card. In such cases it is said that he made “Tombola”, and is the winner. Once put back in place the numbers and emptied the cards, the game resumes and another player can extract the numbers from the bowl. Depending on the amount of the prize money, players can decide to put at stake the double, the triplet, the quadruplet and the quintet, although it is the one who gets tombola to earn the top prize.

Tombola

Since Neapolitan tombola is normally played in a familiar context (as mentioned it is the traditional Christmas game), the amounts committed and won are usually small, and often have a purely symbolic value (you can “buy” three folders for 1 euro, for example). I like to buy 6 cards and to tell the truth, I’m not very lucky in this game, and although I only pay 2 Euros per session, after a couple of hours I could lose 15-20 euro! But as we say, more to comfort than anything else, “unlucky in the game, lucky in love”?
As mentioned, it is mainly a way to get together and have fun, which children may also take part, who know the numbers, at least from 1 to 90!

tombola

CHILDREN WITHOUT FATHER

Published July 22, 2013 by Tony

FATHERHOOD

Fatherhood by Ruth Bloch

Among test-tube babies, single mothers and divorces, the “father model” is in crisis, as the concept of “family” itself.
In 1990, 65% of Americans were happy to have children, today the percentage has dropped to 45. Over the past 10 years in Spain the number of marriages has dropped from 270,000 a year to 160 thousand. Even in Brazil, the birth rate fell from 4.3 children per woman to 1.9.
I would my father back home,” this is what Telemachus, son of Odysseus, says in Homer’s Odyssey, while scanning the horizon.
Not many things have changed since then, because today, the father figure is often missing and his absence is felt by a lot of children.
This has created a cascade of social and psychological effects not very positive.
Today, Telemachus can be compared with a child got by artificial insemination, then facing an odyssey in search of his biological dad. For a lot of them it is not enough to know that he/she has been conceived through a sperm donor whose specimen is identified by a simple number.
In this regard, the documentary “Anonymous father’s day” by Jennifer Lahl, is very comprehensive, describing the “genealogical confusion” and the adolescents trouble, dealing with the uncertainty of their origins.
To many the father figure may be the future, which through the comparison by meeting and clashing life gets “new force”, while children deprived of their father feels as if they fled the test of life that would make them be adult. Without a dad they lose the sense of pain and the memory of who they are. Parents death leads to make sense of destiny and give continuity to the progeny. It is a way to conquer death, and know where we go.
It was once said that young people psychologically unstable or inclined to become gay, were those who grew up without the presence of a male figure.
According to David Brooks, who writes in the New York Times, people are better if they have family and children. The commitments deriving therefrom, leads them to take care of people and future of the nation.
Also, according to some statistics of some American “advisory council”, family where the father is lacking, they are more poor and a risk factor for children (health, drugs, delinquency). Not for nothing Obama said, “….doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one….”
Obviously, there are also those who do not want to hear about fatherhood, for whom it means pain, loss, lack of care, violence, a sort of cultural heritage from the past better to get rid of. The opposite of the efforts in the work of Robet Bily through his writings and the movement “The mythopoetic men’s“, considered a “revolutionary” by liberals.
Because in the end it is easier to speak evil of the father than do without him.

SATURDAY DINING OUT

Published April 10, 2013 by Tony

SATURDAY NIGHT IN NAPLES and NEW YORK

Standard of living and lifestyle have influenced and still influence the way how people spend their weekend. If we take as a reference two medium families, one from Naples and another from New York, both formed by working parents, with one or more adult children, probably in a month the Neapolitan parents spend one Saturday or Sunday to dine out, while the New Yorker parents spend three. For New Yorkers the Saturday “evening dining out” was, until recently, an obligation, especially for couples with both engaged in work. Due to the popular demand, in order to go to a restaurant or pizzeria in New York, a Saturday evening reservation even was necessary. Where the New Yorker didn’t go out to dinner, as an alternative there always was a dinner party hosted by some friends at their home or in a pub. A lifestyle difficult to eradicate, even in view of the fact that wives were not inclined to spend weekend at home, between cooking and dishes.
Aside from this substantial cultural difference, there was another of economic nature, because an average Neapolitan family certainly did not have the same economic opportunity of the overseas peers.
Although a normal dinner in a normal restaurant in the Neapolitan hinterland costs less than the one in a similar restaurant in New York, the average Neapolitan family culturally is more “conservative” and traditionalist, with wives, who, although involved in work, have not lost their  “housewives” identity, preferring to stay at home during the weekend.  In Naples, there has never been a “dining party” culture, and instead of Saturday dining out, if anything, the custom of a Sunday lunch away from home has always been more in vogue. But occasionally and not as a weekly habit. The Neapolitan wife has always been very attached to the house and the children and  weekend is just a chance to spend more time at home with family, and attend to all those household chores that she has not been able to do during the week.
Our habits have not changed much over the years. The economic situation has led, if anything, to renounce to some Sunday lunch at the restaurant and be thriftier in foodstuffs purchase.

Americans, instead, after a hard week spent at work, look forward to weekends, planning in advance for them.  For many weekend means going out with friends or relatives, outdoor activities or watching a game in a stadium.
In the past, one of the largest changes in American eating habits was the increasing reliance on food eaten away from home (FAFH). FAFH increased from 33% of total food expenditures in 1970 to 47% by 2003. Most of this is at table service and fast food restaurants.
Much of the growth is attributed to the rising value of household time, especially as induced by more female labor force participation, and rising household incomes.
As a 2009 Zagat Survey showed, eating out was a way of life for many Americans, with 50% of all meals prepared outside the home. In short, restaurants became the family kitchen for the busy two-career families. According to Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat, “Americans are still eating out in restaurants, they are just making smarter choices.”

Recently, the economic downturn, occasional jobs and financial turmoil in America have made it difficult for people to find enough money to afford their “dining out” habit.
Lately, Americans are making family dinner more often than dine out, a trend that slowly took root before the recession. Mostly, they’re cooking with and eating a narrow range of foods — and relying, to some extent, on prepared, frozen, and canned items to feed their families quickly and economically. “It’s very boring. That’s the sad truth,” says Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst for the NPD Group, a national market research company. “For the most part, we’re looking for what’s the eaesiest way out of this, what’s the cheapest way out of this.” Balzer said, the number of restaurant meals an American family eats — dine-in or takeout — has been flat, at just under 200 a year, correlating to plateaus of both women in the workforce and household incomes.

Even the New York Times supported the thesis of the “end of the dinner party” because people do not have more money, time and wish to do so.  Someone else says that beyond the crisis there is a lack of good manners and savoir faire, with people no longer able to have a conversation and that’s why lately “finger food” and “standing up” are preferred to dinner party.

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Average family lifestyle

Published April 2, 2013 by Tony

How is the life of an average middle-class family here in Naples?
And that of a pensioner?

I think this is one of the curiosities that arises in people interested in Italian culture and living in other countries.
To realize that the answer cannot be exhaustive, ask yourself the same question, how is an usual family’s life in your country?
As you can see, at this question we can only give a very general answer, because there would be too many cases to be taken into account, varying from family to family and even according to the area they are living in.
Keeping me very general, I will consider two average family, the first consisting of a father and a mother, both workers, with two teenage children, and the second formed by two grandparents already retired.

For us, the “peak hours”, to indicate the hours of the day when there is more traffic and more people in the street, are the ones in the morning from 8.30 to 14, which roughly corresponds to the entry and exit from schools and shops and offices opening hours; then with another rush hour at about 14 (shops re-opening hour), and between 19 to 20, the closing time for factories and shops.
Of course, moving and traveling in urban centers during these hours is more difficult and takes more time giving more stress. No problem, however, for those who have schools and shops close at hand, and that, therefore, can easily move on foot.

Usually, students must leave home in time to be in their high school at 8.10 – 8.20 am, and except in special cases, most adolescents reach the school either by foot (if the school is nearby) or by public transport, and in this case they must be in the street at least one hour before. At that time, the majority of the public transport are crowded with students who move to the city and suburbs for going to school. Therefore, you can well realize the confusion and noise that you will be subjected if traveling on one of these buses.
In contrast, the majority of parents, who are employees or traders, move by car to reach their own workplace. Except in special cases, this means that between 7 and 8 in the morning they already have to leave home.

As I already have mentioned in a previous post, here most of the parents are quite tolerant towards their children. From what I know, compared to American families for example, here there is less worry and anxiety towards teenagers (from 14-15 up), who get enough freedom to go out alone and travel on their own.
With regard to working hours, I cannot generalize because depending of the work, some parents may be back home lunchtime, and then be able to eat together with their children who meantime are got out from school. Anyway, it’s a fact that are dads to be back home in the afternoon and so forced to have lunch for themselves.
During the afternoon, moms do housework and prepare dinner, and if the case go out for shopping. The youths, instead, do their homework, watch TV, spend time near computer/PlayStation alone or with some friends, and go out in case they have to go to a friend’s home, attend some gym or play some sport. Sometimes, it’s a parent to take them by the car.
Of course, in the late evening the whole family gathers for dinner, after which they all watch TV or teenagers can enjoy again computer or some game.
Generally, parents are not so strict about time to go to bed, and youngsters can stay up late evening, unless it is the whole family that goes to bed asking them to do the same.  They will pay at their own expense, having then to get up early to go to school, thing which will force them, in the future, not to stay awake up late at night.
On Sunday, if there are no commitments, boys and girls are free to do what they want, so, both in the morning and evening, they may go out to go to church or meet friends, while parents could take them to the cinema or a friend’s home if it is not so near their home.
On Sundays, parents take the opportunity to do some work at home, to engage in some hobby, meet friends or relatives, or relax by spending the whole day at home between a good meal and following football games on TV. Usually, the evening is also devoted to visit friends or relatives.

Undoubtedly, there is still a small-discrimination with regard to sex, with boys who are privileged in having more freedom to go out alone or invite both male and females friends at home. A girl who invites a male friend, would put parents in discomfort who, though agree, wouldn’t allow them to stay alone or with closed door, something that boys usually can do, instead!
Here, we are more concerned for daughters than for sons, in the sense that at the beginning of puberty girls already are thinking about a boyfriend and if they are gorgeous will also have many boys wooing them. In general, for some reason, girls are also more confident and precocious than most boys same age, and while good boys aged 14-15 still like to stay at home to play, others boys who are more rascal and untimely spend more time in the street together friends, often going around just with the intent to find a girl with whom make out.
Once the spark is struck, and the girl is in love with him, is quite certain that in the long run the boy gets its way, and unless you do not control your daughter 24 hours a day, sooner or later they will find the opportunity to be alone and even in 10 minutes do what us parents wouldn’t want our girl did at that age.
Under this point of view, from 14 to 17 is the age most critical and dangerous. A girl who is able to keep the virginity till her 18th birthday, probably will remain so until she’s sure of what is doing. Anyway, it is for this reason that unexpected and untimely pregnancies occur precisely in that age group, not so many here, fortunately. Of course, much depends on girl’s character and social context in which she’s living. Little can be done if she is a “siren” and surrounded by many tomcats or coxcombs. Although through no pregnancy (luckily phew!), I know girls who have had intercourse already at 13-14 years, and it is clear that this type of girl then will have no scruple to go ahead having sex with any guy dating her. On the contrary, at that age, many boys are still home to play with toys, watch cartoon and perhaps masturbating alone.
When children get older, over 18 years, it becomes much more difficult for parents to keep up. They want their freedom and cannot help but partying, go out on Saturday and Sunday evening, coming home very late at night. Sometimes you have to push them to devote more time to study or help them to find a job, where they have finished their studies. Nowadays, a child easily can stay with their parents even after his/her 30 years.

In Italy, every worker who has worked up to 65 years, receives a pension in proportion to the contributions. There are many so-called pensions “integrated to the minimum”, where the law has established that the amount of any pension cannot be less than 500 euro per month. So, if both spouses have a pension, life in retirement may be less difficult. Considering that in old age there are less expenses due to child support, personal expenses, partying or luxury. Here, the lives of pensioners is fairly quiet and monotonous. Grandchildren are often the only diversion that pushes grandparents to move and spend more. With crisis and unemployment are often grandparents, though their meager pensions, to help married son or daughter.
The grandmother is often full-time homemaker, spending free time between relatives, friends, church or some hobby. For him, however, things get a little harsher, because he often does not know how to pass the time and the days become all the same. Breakfast, newspaper, a stroll to meet friends around in the square, in a bar or in a social club. Someone pass the time playing cards, bocce, or doing errands for their married offspring who have little free time. If grandparents get the chance will join some organized trip by coach, and if they also are the lucky owner of a house at the sea or in mountains, bought during the long working life, on every holiday they will be there to spend a few days.
Grandparents are often the ones that invite their progeny to eat home (or vice versa), as well as become a sort of nursery for little grandchildren whose parents do not know where to leave them. Here, parents who have definitively broken any relation with their children or vice versa are very few. This can happen sometimes for economic reasons (inheritance), or because of some disagreement arose between the families. The family connection is never interrupted, unless sons have not been forced to leave their hometown. For this reason, concern and anxiety never end…. we start with babies after our wedding, and end up in sharing any issue that affect the family of our progeny.

Now it’s up to you, who live in another country, find the differences between these lifestyles and those belonging to your different culture.

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EASTER TRADITIONS

Published March 30, 2013 by Tony

MEMORIES OF A TIME
THE CASATIELLO

Easter time.
In addition to doing my best wishes to you all, I take this opportunity to tell you some memories that in these days come to my mind.
At that time I was a toddler and often on Friday our grandmother picked me up to let me spend a few days at her home.
The grandmother “mmaculatina“, as people called her (Immaculate, God rest her soul), in those days did not go to work, and aware I liked being with her, came to our house to take me, and sometimes took my sister too. She loved her grandchildren, and on that time I was the youngest grandson, and although she was living with our grandfather, between work and commitments she spent little time at home. It had been years that the granddad was already retired, having made the postman became sick with bronchitis and arthritis, and alone spent all his days at home. He had his own bed with a bedside table on which a glass of wine and his radio never had to be missing. A man of few words who spent his days walking slowly in the house, sitting on the bed, sipping wine, smoking and listening to 1920: My grandma when youngopera on the radio.

It was an old building where, on different floors, a long balcony gave access to homes, inside the building those balconies turned all around the perimeter of the apartment blocks. The houses were not very large, entering directly to the first room, usually the living room, where the granddad had created his personal corner. On the right there was a small kitchen with a small window that looked out on the perimetral balcony, and where there was a very small bathroom formed simply from toilet and a sink. Beyond the living room was my grandma’s bedroom, that had a small balcony overlooking the street below. We slept in the same double-bed with grandma and I still remember her laughter when she told relatives how I sometimes fell asleep touching her breast and resting my head on his chest. I loved my grandmother and it was only the need in maternal instincts of a kid who, like me, had evidently not received enough cuddles from his mum. The grandma “Immacolatina” was good, cheerful and friendly, as well as a holy woman and had dedicated her life to work in the factory where she had become the “teacher,” as called her there, to wit the supervisor. Her relationship with the granddad were not excellent, having been from long more a nurse than a wife, and she was glad to have us at home to chat and pass the time.

As usual, Friday is the day when all Neapolitans dedicated to the preparation of the “casatiello“, also called “tortano“, the typical Neapolitan rustic pie (Neapolitan Lard Bread). And the grandma prepared it Friday afternoon to let it rise all day and then in the night took it at the bakery for baking. In those years it was customary to let casatiello bake by bakers because not everyone had a powerful ovens as bakeries where the cooking was done in an optimal way. There was no area or neighborhood that did not have some baker nearby. Anyone who would have walked in the alleys of Naples, during Friday and Holy Saturday, felt the almost stagnant scent of “casatielli” which were cooked at homes or by bakers. How can we forget that smell?
Odor that became all one with those feast days Grandma & Iand represented them as well. For this in Naples, even today, Easter is to say casatiello and vice versa.

At that time, due to the enormous work to be done between Thursday and Saturday, bakers worked continuously day and night. For this you could go to one of them at any time of the day or night, and deliver your casatiello or withdraw it.
The baker from whom my grandma went, was a few blocks from the house, the huge old wooden front door was always open for the occasion, placed on the ground and stacked up one above the other, hundreds of aluminum “ruoto” (round baking pan). They were the casatielli waiting for bakery.
Truly spectacular!
At that time, not everybody had the pan with the hole in the middle, which gives casatiello the classic donut shape, and so, most of the containers had a wineglass or a cup (glass or metal) at the center, around which the pasta was then grown encasing it.

Crossed the entrance hall, people arrived at the courtyard where on both the sides were stacked firewood for the ovens, shovels, sacks, buckets and other objects. In addition to the smell of casatielli, so strong here to become pungent, you also felt the scent of flour that you found everywhere, on the ground, on walls, on objects, everything was whitewashed with a pinch of flour!
Entered in the furnaces room, the heat became almost unbearable. Everywhere there were shelves made by long wooden boards, one above the other, on which side by side the casatielli already cooked were placed.
Here, the casatiello was not more as white as those encountered at the entrance, but the color of the rind of bread in its various gold shades.  A variety of sizes and shapes, those with the eggs above visible under two small strips of pasta in the shape of X, those without eggs or those where the eggs were just popping out below the golden crust. You could not but be enchanted to see those scenes, and especially for a kid like me.

People came and went, with those who were giving their casatiello and those who were going to pick up it, and all workers each with its own task. On that occasion there were more people at work and one of them went to the grandma and after taking two plates of aluminum from a huge basket, gave one to her and attacked the other with thin wire to the container’s handle. The baker asked if the casatiello had already risen and then placed it onto the others waiting for cooking. Probably, somewhere else there were those which were in need of further rise before being baked.

On those aluminum plates was imprinted a number which from then on would have marked our “casatiello.” After cooking the casatielli were placed on those planks in a coarse numerical order, according to the number that had been tied close, so to trace it when the owner would come back for it. In fact, to take the casatiello you had to give back your plate, and the baker began to turn around the wooden shelves to look for it. Hundreds and hundreds casatielli. You paid, wrapped the container in a cloth, and went back home happy with your casatiello ready to be eaten.
Things of other times, when everything was simpler and folksy!

casatiello

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Work and Family in Naples

Published January 25, 2013 by Tony

Neapolitans:  Work & Family

napoli

I am against mama’s boys, against too obsessive parent’s attachment towards their children, which limits their freedom and experiences, but it also happens the other way, especially nowadays that both parents are busy with work and various daily commitments.
Parents who leave home early in the morning for work, and in some cases back just long enough to eat, then again to work until evening. The less fortunate are back at home directly in the late evening. Things to do are many, of course, and so parents’ free time must also be used for commitments and commissions, aside from leisure and other outdoor activities.
Result?
They spent very little time with their children, often with a quick hello in the morning and good night before going to bed only. During spare time, also kids have their own commitments, studying, friends or extra-curricular activities, and this shrinks the opportunities for parents and children to meet and stay together. Everyone daily involved in their activities leads, year after year, reduction and cooling of interpersonal relationships, with children who, over time, look to their parents as a simple mandatory presence in their lives, and that, like it or painful,  they still have to apply for any need or permission, and with parents who, instead, look at their kids as one of the reasons they must work, to meet all the expenses that growth, welfare and education imply. There are cases in which parents and children, even seeing every day and sleeping under the same roof, become outsiders, by a simple cohabitation. The ones who do not know needs, issues and expectations of others. The dialogue is condensed to a minimum and when it happens to have to or want to re-establish the normal parent-child relationship, then is too late, and parents realize that, beyond the genetic characteristics, have little in common, by now. If this lack of relation happens in children’s period of life between 10 and 15 years, which corresponds to the period in which kids are most in need of a parental presence, then it even becomes much more difficult to re-establish a close relationship. If it is true what we watch in many films from U.S., the above happens much more frequently in American families, because in Italy and Naples, where I live, such situations are infrequent. This probably is another difference between you and us.
Thanks to American films, we come to know about lifestyle of you overseas’ people, and often we see that relationship between adolescents and parents are not among the best. Parents too busy with work and commitments and boys now accustomed to fend for themselves. Just the opposite of what I said at the beginning of this post. This leads us to assume that work and some commitments have a significant part in your life. This is not to say that work or hobbies are nor important and necessary, indeed, but probably you Americans give them a different priority, compared with we Neapolitans.
For us, family and children come before anything else.
scugnizziBut to understand this, it is necessary for me to say something about work and Neapolitan people’s mindset.

In the past it was common to point to Naples citizens as one of those who did not like to work, slackers and malingerers. A cliché that for long any Napoletano has been labelled, especially from Northern Italy’s fellows.
As always, the southern regions of Italy have had less industries and infrastructure than North, therefore, fewer jobs and opportunities for businesses, which over the years has produced a high rate of unemployment. Every day, many people left the house in the morning looking for a job, trying to get by,  remedy and bring “nu piezze ‘e pane” (a piece of bread) at home, at least. For this reason Neapolitans have become famous for their ability to adapt, to have invented the oddest and unimaginable jobs, just to survive poverty. Even today, here the unemployment rate is one of the highest in Italy, but that does not mean we don’t like to work or snub the job. Although to be honest, apart from a few cases, I wonder who of you like to work really?
Neapolitans when they can, get a break from work to being at home, and if must be absent form work for family reasons, they do so without too much trouble. For women, this need is even greater, and here in the south there are still many women who don’t work and devote their lives to family and home. In this regard, I should make a distinction between wealthy families, middle and poor class.
Rich families such as the poor are the ones that usually allow more freedom to their children. Poor families’ children already at an early age are accustomed to being alone, to spend more time in the streets and fend for themselves. They are the heirs of the famous “scugnizzi” (street urchins) of a time that you can still meet in the hinterland or in the narrow alleys of Naples playing in groups. But these “guaglioni or guagliuni” (boys), as we call them, do not feel their parents absence, in fact, they love freedom and cut the “umbilical cord,” that binds them to their parents, as soon as possible. The low and middle income is not conducive for hobbies or other recreational activities, and apart from moms who stay all day at home, dads like to spend free time at home with their family. Who runs a shop, closes at lunch time (around 13.30) and reopen it at 4 pm,  and then close at 8 – 8,30 pm., while a worker usually works until 5 – 6 in the afternoon. On the other hand, famous are the Neapolitan sentences: “’e figlje so piezze ‘e core” (literally, children are pieces of heart), ” ‘a famiglia è sacra” (family is sacred), “tra moglie e marito non mettere dito” (literally, between wife and husband does not put the finger), and although here parents rarely invest money for the future of their children, woe to those who do them harm.