All posts tagged napulitan

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.



Published August 24, 2012 by Tony


In 1800 Naples, as in the whole Campania, was a plethora of arts and crafts, imaginative and sometimes very specific, many of them carried out by peddlers who roamed the streets of the city or in the suburbs. Over the years many of these trades are slowly disappeared because obsolete and unproductive, while others even have lingered on till a few years ago. Interesting to know that each pedlar had its characteristic strong “cry” that emitted as he walked through the streets to warn people about its product.
To tell the truth, even today, around the Neapolitan hinterland or in some small countries, where certain traditions are slower to die, we still can find some of these ancient jobs, also if some is seasonal.
In many areas it is not difficult, for example, run into a seller of watermelons (MELLUNARO), mussels (CUZZECARO) or ears of wheat (SPIGAIUOLO).
What follows is a list of old trades that if lucky, you still can have the chance to meet around in the narrow streets of the province of Naples.


mullonaro  mellunaro
The “mellunaro” is the classic seller of watermelons (called mellune d’acqua), yellow melons (mellune ‘e pane) and green melon (mellune ca’ rezza)  the ones we can store and keep hanging in a grid of straw to consume later during  Christmastime. The melons seller, now as before, in the summer is still present in different countries. Watermelons once also were sold in individual slices, while for those who had to buy a whole watermelon, the seller effected the “test” to show that inside it was a bright red color, synonymous with right ripeness and sweetness. The prove was performed by cutting a piece in the shape of a cone (or triangle) starting from a central end of the fruit until arriving to its central part. The traditional seller’s cry was usually “tenghe ‘e mellune chiene’ ‘e fuoche” (I have watermelons full of fire).


It’s the seller of roasted chestnuts, who with a cooker, a large pot riddled with small holes and a woolen cloth (to keep the heat of roasted chestnuts), on cold winter evenings enlivened the chilly passers by selling some hot chestnuts wrapped up in a newspaper sheet.  A times, early in the morning, he also sold the so-called Allesse (chestnuts peeled and cooked in water flavored with bay leaves, fennel seeds and salt) and Palluottele (ie chestnuts cooked with the skin).

Ammuola forbece

It was the pitchman who repaired knives. He went around with his cart through the urban streets and by a foot pedal drove a grindstone to sharpen blades  of penknives, scissors and knives. Nowadays, it is difficult to find these peddlers around, especially as knives and scissors have become consumer goods sold cheaply, making repair less convenient.

Despite it’s very common to find around peddlers selling fruits and vegetables,  by a three-wheelers vehicle or truck, today someone still goes around to sell only a single product.  Here’s someone of them.


It’s the seller of onions and garlic. Once, it was a farmer who dried garlics and onions, harvested in his small farmland, then came to city to sell them. Their main characteristic was to weave dried bulbs and leaves, so as to form long braids which he carried on his shoulders.


This is the one who sold potatoes stored in a large sack over his shoulder. His traditional cry was usually “Tenghe ‘e Patane p’ ‘e panzarotte“, (I’ve potatoes appropriate for making panzarotti)


He was the strawberries seller.
A peddler who, from spring till summer, went around the town selling this fruit. Once,  strawberries were collected in the countryside or in the suburbs (especially in Afragola, where it says strawberry culture was already active in around the fourth or third century BC).

Today, these specific sellers go around for the streets driving a three-wheelers vehicle and often aren’t farmers.


ceuzaro  ceuze
He was the seller of mulberry fruits, both white and black, known in Naples as “Ceuze” or “cevze”.
He was a peddler who, after collecting the fruits in the countryside, moved into towns and villages of the surrounding area to sell these sweet fruits for the delight of the buyers. Usually, he attracted the crowd with colorful and entertaining cry like “Ceuze annevate“, because, often, mulberries were sold still covered with hoar-frost. Or “tengo ‘o mèle e te pitte ‘e russe ‘o musse, ca ciucculata!” (I’ve the honey which makes red your lips, as sweet as chocolate!).


cuzzecare  cozzecaro
He is the seller of mussels.
There was who sold fresh mussels and the one who sold them cooked. This one usually had a removable stand, equipped with chairs and bench that gave customers the possibility to sit and eat a soup of mussels (boiled mussels) prepared by him. At one time, the mussels were abundant along the beaches of Sorrento, Bay and Cape Misenum. Today, we from time to time can still find along the road a stand of a mussels seller, collected in the area, but because of the restrictive hygiene rules such sale is now prohibited, while the shellfish typically purchased at any fishmonger comes from authorized farming only.


This was the person selling spikes of grain.
They are ears of wheat boiled with salt water in a big copper pot that the peddler carries around the streets still hot (on a small support with ball bearing wheels), through the cry of “Doje, doje…. manco ‘o ffuoco me paghe”, (two, two…  you not even pay me the cost of the fire). Someone else instead sells roasted spikes.


One selling nougat. Today, these vendors still exists thanks to town festivals and village fetes during which they finds space for their own stall to sell candies and all kinds of nougat, white,  with honey or chocolate, with almonds or hazelnuts. In the past, the most appreciated producers of nougat came from Irpinia and Sannio, areas rich in tradition and quality manufacturers.


This is the the player of the Italian bagpipes, instrument that, unlike the common bagpipe, is equipped with more reeds sound (chanters), and accompanied by another man playing a shawm. Originally they were shepherds who came from the mountainous regions of Avellino. With the arrival of Christmas (especially during the Novena of the Immaculate Conception), arrived in the city they walked through the streets in traditional costumes, playing traditional Christmas motifs such as “You come down from the stars”.
They played on request in front of any votive shrine in the streets or in front of the crèche in homes of those who invited them to go in and play. Some time ago, they got few coins in exchange, or simply food and drink they put in their saddlebags made of sheepskin. Today, unfortunately, there are very few bagpipers players around, because those few who play bagpipes are no longer the poor shepherds than once.

Another vendor who still roams the streets, especially on Sunday or during holidays, is who is selling various types of seeds.

semmentaro  lupini

I refer to dried and salted pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and lupine seeds soaked in salt water. These seeds are a food for us to enjoy after lunch and as a way to stay more at the table, and for this considered as a trivial “pastime”. The seller of this seeds had various names derived from the kind of seed, unless we say “semmentaro” to indicate in a generic way the seller of different seeds. So we had the “Lupinaro” if refering to the person who sold lupins, or  “nucellaro” to indicate who sold hazelnuts. The typical cry of “semmentaro” was “Spassateve ‘or tiempe!” (Spend time having fun).

Besides, the seller of tripe together other boiled offals is very


common, where people can eat it dressed with salt and lemon juice near the stall.

Lastly, I want mention others two occasional trades we usually meet on the beach during summer holidays, just a temporary work some people do to earn something during summertime. They are the water-ice and the coconut sellers.
They both walk on the beach, and the first sells cool drinks made with grated ice flavoured with a sugary beverage, as orgeat or mint. The second trader, instead, sells cool and small slices of coconut which usually keep in a wicker basket screaming “Cocco bello, cocco fresco” (beautiful coconut, fresh coconut).

water-ice drinks  coccobello