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ERASMUS

Published January 7, 2014 by Tony

– Napoli Seen by a Foreign Student –

I want to share with you these words and this video about a guy who, thanks to the Erasmus program, spent a few months in Naples.
For those who do not know, the Erasmus project (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students), founded in 1987 through the work of the European Community, gives European university students the chance to perform, in a foreign university, a period study legally recognized by their university. The program’s name derives by the Dutch humanist and theologian Desiderius Erasmus (XV century), who for several years traveled across Europe to understand the different cultures. Currently more than 4,000 universities from 31 countries are participating in the project and, up to 2009, within the European Community, the students who participated in this initiative have been more than 2.2 million.

It does not matter the country this student comes from, and although I do not know what information (which described in such a bad way our city) he found and read on the Web before coming to Naples, I think there is no need to add other, apart from telling him “Thank you too, and come back here again.”

(I have translated what the student wrote and published on this website.)

<< I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in Bilbao when received the news that I had been selected for the Erasmus project. I quickly went on internet and typed the word “Naples”. Oh my good! It didn’t seeme true what I was reading! Was I going to relocate into the worst place in the planet? I could not believe in the things written on the first pages that I found on internet, but, fortunately, I am quite curious and went on reading, until a point where the bad stories transformed into beautiful stories about people who had been in Naples and had discovered the heart of the city. It can be said that from that moment I felt the wish to become part of those people.  I arrived on September 21 and from the start I found myself really well. I remember my first way from Garibaldi square, where I got out of the bus, going ahead through the colorful Corso Umberto I, turning right towards the long Via Duomo, while I was leaving behind the sea, until to reach my street: “via Anticaglia”. I threw the suitcase on the bed, and so my first day began, the first pizza, the first beer and early acquaintances that later would become my first friends. It’s amazing how the city and its citizens open the doors of their hearts as soon as I arrived in the street “Via dei Tribunali”.

It is said that “when someone goes to the South, he cries twice, once when he comes and another when he leaves (note: a phrase taken from a recent famous Italian film). It may be true, but in my case this occurred rather between arrival and departure. In fact, I lived some of the most intense emotions of my life during the time I have lived in the city. There are many things that I learned there and I’m not able to say all of them. I was living in the historical center, a place that every day is full of life. A place where at the beginning it was impossible to sleep after seven in the morning, because of scooters’ noise that honk at every intersection, even if, after a while, you get used. A place where you can find: from secondhand books in Port’Alba to musical instruments in Via San Sebastiano, from the bar “Café Carini ” in Piazza Bellini, to the best pastries in Domenico Maggiore square. And, above all, the greatest thing that you can find, the one that makes me nostalgic, it is the sunrise seen by “Via San Biagio dei Librai”, with the sun that crosses SpaccaNapoli, from Forcella to Montesanto street.
There is no city equal in the world, I called and still call it “Naples: the city where anything is possible”. I think it’s a city full of noises and music, that you hear from when you wake up until you go to sleep. One of those cities that you cannot judge before staying there, a city that needs to be discovered by everyone without any kind of prejudice, and so and just so you can feel what Neapolitans feel, a true love for the simple things that are simply the things that make you happy in the easiest way: having coffee with your child, drinking a beer in the square with friends or eating a piece of pizza together your dad, like you did many years ago…..
Eventually, living in a special way like only the Neapolitans know. For this reason, there is not a day that I do not remember the aroma of the small “Morenita”, the smell of pasta ready at home, of Peroni
(note: an Italian brand of beer), of buffalo mozzarella, of sfogliatelle, public transport links that work in that particular way, the order in the disorder. Above all, I miss my home and people I met and which I still feel nostalgia. A nostalgia that sometimes brings me back to Castel Sant’ Elmo, where I looked at those sunsets with the sun disappearing behind Pozzuoli.  I miss Naples… >>

TRAVELS & TRAVELERS

Published December 8, 2013 by Tony

– TOURISM AND SOUVENIR –

If we put pilgrimages and explorations aside, tourism can be traced back to the early 1800s, when the custom to send their offspring around the world for educational purposes (Grand Tour) became established among the British aristocracy.
For a recreational tourism we will have to wait a few more years, after the publication of the books “Journey to Italy” (Italienische Reise), published in 1817 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and “Memoirs of a tourist” (Mémoires d’un touriste), published in 1838 by the French writer Marie-Henri Beyle, known as Stendhal.
In the first case, it is the account of a long journey made by the author in Italy between 1786 and 1787, where among other sites he visited Verona, Venice, Florence, Bologna, Rome, Naples and Palermo. Goethe was so impressed from Naples that he wrote:

« Neapel ist ein Paradies, jedermann lebt in einer Art von trunkner Selbstvergessenheit. » Naples is a paradise that everyone lives in a kind of drunken self-forgetfulness.
« Man sage, erzähle, male, was man will, hier ist mehr als alles. Die Ufer, Buchten und Busen des Meeres, der Vesuv, die Stadt, die Vorstädte, die Kastelle, die Lusträume! » You can say, tell, paint what you want, here is more than anything. The shores, bays and bosom of the sea, Vesuvius, the city, the suburbs, the castles, what a pleasure!
« Aber weder zu erzählen noch zu beschreiben ist die Herrlichkeit einer Vollmondnacht, wie wir sie genossen, durch die Straßen über die Plätze wandelnd, auf der Chiaja, dem unermeßlichen Spaziergang, sodann am Meeresufer hin und wider. Es übernimmt einen wirklich das Gefühl von Unendlichkeit des Raums. So zu träumen ist denn doch der Mühe wert. » I can’t begin to tell you of the glory of a night by full moon when we strolled through the streets and squares to the endless promenade of the Chiaia, and then walked up and down the seashore. I was quite overwhelmed by a feeling of infinite space. To be able to dream like this is certainly worth the trouble it took to get here.
« Ich finde in diesem Volk die lebhafteste und geistreichste Industrie, nicht um reich zu werden, sondern um sorgenfrei zu leben. » I find in this people the liveliest and wittiest industry, not to get rich, but to live carefree.
« Wir sind auch noch abends in die Grotte des Posilipo gegangen, da eben die untergehende Sonne zur andern Seite hereinschien. Ich verzieh es allen, die in Neapel von Sinnen kommen, und erinnerte mich mit Rührung meines Vaters, der einen unauslöschlichen Eindruck besonders von denen Gegenständen, die ich heut zum erstenmal sah, erhalten hatte. » In the evening we went to the Grotto of Posillipo,just when the setting sun shone on the other side. I have forgiven all those who lose their heads for this city, and I remembered fondly of my father, who had kept an indelible impression on the things I’ve seen today for the first time.
« Von der Lage der Stadt und ihren Herrlichkeiten, die so oft beschrieben und belobt sind, kein Wort. »Vedi Napoli e poi muori!« sagen sie hier. »Siehe Neapel und stirb!» From the location of the city and its glories, which are so often described and praised, not a word. “Vedi Napoli e poi muori,” they say here. See Naples and die!
Even here I seem to be another. So there are two things: either I was crazy before coming here, or am crazy now.
Today, I am given the mad joy, devoting all my time to these incomparable beauty. Towards folks I already find myself much better. Here one does not know anything of the other and it’s barely noticeable that they run here and there next to each other. They come and go every day in a paradise, without too look around them.

Stendhal, instead, tells of his journey through parts of France still little known at that time, describing culture, dialects and traditions.
Since then, many others followed, although they still were travelers elite, whose memoirs and travel notes, like Goethe and Stendhal, were later used by travelers such as real guides.
At that time, the grand tour did not generally reach the south of Naples, until – but we are already in the nineteenth century – Stendhal wrote :
« To seize the whole essence of the Bel Paese is a must visit Sicily with its beautiful Greek ruins. »
What we now call tourism – ie organized and mass trips – can be traced back to the English entrepreneur Thomas Cook, who in the summer of 1841, taking advantage of the new possibilities offered by the railroad, organized a trip of just 11 miles (from Leicester to Loughborough), for 570 people at a cost of one shilling each. The success was such as to push Cook to organize more complex package tours, giving rise to the tourism industry. From that day onwards, thanks to new and faster means of transportation, tourism has been one of the most profitable businesses in the world, as it still is today.
Thanks to mass tourism, a growing number of people from all walks of life, had and have the opportunity to visit countries, cities and sites of cultural interest, albeit in far distant lands.

                        
Tourist agencies that live and feed on “images”, the same that tourists capture and take home as a relic. To paraphrase the saying “there’s no trip without return,” we could say “there’s no trip without a memento”!
It’s one way to “authenticate” the journey, as if to say “I’ve been there!”
The huge success of the picture postcards that reflect sceneries and objects of a location (bought to send or keep), is the most striking example. But other items bought on the spot and referred to as “souvenirs” became common and a must in the years. The memento in all its forms, bought for themselves or for others, appears to become, though unconsciously, like a “certificate of visit,” a way to demonstrate that the trip did not disappoint our expectations, which we then keep to have memory and publicize our journey. It does not matter where the souvenir comes from or who has built it, whether it’s a plastic gondola “made in Taiwan” and bought in Venice, or a music box that plays “‘O sole mio“,  built in China but bought in Naples, you put them on display in your home as to affirm “we have visited Italy.”
Another item that has made good fortune in past years, is the small “glass ball” with the fake snow inside which, after shaking the globe, falls on the landscape below. It does not matter if inside the sphere is represented the pyramid of Giza or the Colosseum in Rome in miniature, places that, in truth, hardly have a snowfall! ù
It’s the memory that counts and the place where you bought it.


Long since that the so-called “fridge magnets” are fashionable, a gadget now universal with which we conspicuously upholster our fridges’ doors. So that at first glance, any guest becomes aware that we have visited many places.
Not to mention the souvenir photo (or video)! Our photo albums and  hard drives are full of souvenir photos (or video) taken during our travels and outings. Some have tried to even calculate the impact that cities such as Venice have had in the photographic industry’s business worldwide.
Landscapes and portraits which in most cases will be destroyed along with our house because our children will be too busy to collect their mementos, and we know that old things are thrown. While we will be a little less than a far memory for our grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Like psychologist P. Handke says, we (parents) are the foundation, but we then remain in the basement because the everyday life is above! Our memories remain so as long as we live…. alas everything is on the go and a passing on this earth!
Nowadays, with a simple internet search, especially if referring to famous destinations, you find thousands photos shot by tourists, and between maps, pictures, reports and sale of local products, you could even “virtually” travel without move from home.

LO STRUSCIO

Published March 11, 2013 by Tony

‘Paschal struscio’
A sort of stroll

sepulcher

All over the world, the Holy Week for Catholics is the period before Easter, from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday.
In Italy, the Holy Week’s representations are numerous and often very charming, popular in almost every region, in which strictly religious elements mix with folk components.
In Naples, one of these is the “lo struscio“.
From Good Friday the Sacrifice of the Mass is no longer officiated, and therefore the Eucharist is not consecrated. In addition, the repose of the  Eucharist is a way to invite the faithful to worship, in the night between Thursday and Friday (that we called Holy Sepulchers time), the establishment of a so big mystery and meditating on the sufferings of the Passion of Christ.
It was customary to decorate every altar with buds. In the days of Lent (which lasts forty-four days, starting from Ash Wednesday), many people placed in small flowerpots or bowls, containing wet soil or cotton wool, seeds of wheat or pulses, and then placing them in the dark. After a few weeks, they germinated in the form of greenish-yellow long and thick filaments, and on Holy Thursday each person brought the vase in church. (The seed, place in the ground -sepulcher- is transformed into a new plant that will look something different in appearance from the seed, but it is essentially the same thing, and maturing generates new seeds allowing the renewal of the life cycle).


In the past, during ‘Holy Sepulchers days’ many believers went in mass in the different parishes, generally seven (like the days of the week) to pray and visit the churches (the number of visited churches had to be odd and never less than three or more than seven, otherwise it was ominous).
Keep in mind that in Naples there are a lot of churches, often not very far from each other. In the eighteenth century in Naples there were a hundred convents and monasteries and about 500 churches, so that Naples earned the nickname of “the city with 500 domes”. Naples still has a large number of churches and convents, a value that is around thousand units, which places it among the cities with the highest number of worship’s place in the world. If we consider only the historical churches, the number is very high, in fact, they even surpass the 200 units in the old town and 450 in the entire city center.

“Ce qui nous to the paru plus extraordinaire à Naples, c’est le nombre et de ses the magnificence églises; puis je vous sans exagérer say this hides surpasse the immagination”  – Maximilien Misson –

Although in many parts of Italy and in general “lo struscio” (rub) is strusciodefined the evening Sunday stroll in provincial towns, once in Naples it referred to the visit of the Sepulchers made during Holy Week, (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) in the churches. The name comes from the Neapolitan verb “strusci-are” (to rub) and stems from the fact that, in the past, so much was the persons who moved into the street for this occasion, that crowding led people to touch and “strusciate” (rubbing) each other, or it can also refer to the sound of their shoes “rubbing” on the pavement.
Over time, this custom has lost its religious significance and although many people still leave their homes for a walk on Friday or Saturday evening, the ‘Paschal struscio’ has become an opportunity to go shopping, to show off new clothes or meet friends and people.
Even today, for young people it is a good opportunity to get “panni nuovi” (new clothes) from parents. This custom originated in the postwar years, when people bought some new clothing only on special occasions such as Christmas and Easter.

Easter in Naples

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NAPLES TOUR

Published January 22, 2013 by Tony

A TOUR IN NAPLES
TYPICAL QUERIES

Pompeii, fresco

Often some foreign people, intending to visit Naples, ask me for advice and tips for their tour.
In general, the questions are always the same: where to stay, places or things not to miss, or possible risks.
Tourists are not all the same, everyone has their own preferences, as well as a Spanish tourist can be different from an American, or a couple with children with different needs from a guy in search of adventure. Therefore, the advice may be different according to the type of people and from what they intend to do, and depending on the length of stay, of course.
One thing I tell everyone about their stay’s length is to take into account that such a journey happens once in a lifetime, so, they should plan a longer stay to be able to see things and places that really deserve to be seen.
Naples and its surroundings have so many interesting things to see that it would be a shame to come here and leave without having visited them. Therefore, I always pray everyone  to stay a few more days, and they will not regret, for sure.

PLACE TO SEE
One thing is certain, places of cultural interest and natural beauties are so Royal Palace in Casertanumerous that you should prepare in advance a program of things to do day by day, as long as you also are willing to move and travel if necessary. The advice that can be given to the tourist who prefer a holiday more on history and art, will be different from those given to that who is more interested in beauty and landscape or to Neapolitan’s culture and traditions.
In addition, for lovers of novelty or unusual places, Naples offers many attractions that are often unavailable or not even mentioned among the Villa D'Esteusual excursions found on most leaflets. It is true that a trip to Capri or Sorrento coast are a must, popular locations advertised by all travel agencies and therefore visited by any tourist coming to Naples, but believe me, there are other places, less known and not advertised, that will give to your trip a touch of uniqueness that few others will have the luck to see. Not so many tourists know that in less than one hour drive by Naples they can enjoy a visit to the Royal Palace in Caserta, with its beautiful furnished rooms and its large garden with fountains that can also be visited Villa Adrianaat night by beautiful lighting effects.
If you are among the fortunate few who have planned a very long vacation, then, after having spent most of the time to visit the city with its many monuments, churches, ruins and museums, and after an excursion to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, if you have other time available, please note that Naples is a few kilometres from the province of Rome where there are other fascinating places to visit, and I advise “Villa d’Este” and “Hadrian’s Villa”  in Tivoli, or  the “Sanctuary of Montagna Spaccata” in Gaeta, for example.

ACCOMODATION
Naples is not an expensive city and being in the South is certainly cheaper Montagna Spaccatathan Venice or Florence. However, if you are a young tourist or have a more limited budget, a “bed & breakfast” at a hotel in the outskirts could be a solution, rather than in a hotel located in the center.

And what about the RISKS?
To this question I usually say that Naples is not riskier than New York or Madrid. However, everybody who contacts me I advise a few (behavioural) rules to follow in order to decrease the risk, concluding then to come here without trouble and enjoy anyhow this city that has no similarities in the world.

WEIRD MUSEUMS

Published October 10, 2012 by Tony

BIZZARRE WORLDWIDE MUSEUMS

When it comes to museums, it is natural to think of those where we can see famous works of art or ancient archaeological finds, and so one is surprised to know that there is a museum about menstruation or taps, even! On the web, it is easy to find information about these bizarre museums around the world and for this virtual tour I chose the best known ones.

I noted with interest that at the top as most visited museum is the “Icelandic Phallological Museum” in Reykjavík, with more than 5000 visits per year. It is a museum of penises, with more than 276 specimens from hunting trophies or bodies embalmed and dried. It was born in 1974, through the work of Sigurður Hjartarsonsi, a former professor of Icelandic history, and at the beginning were shown only penises of some animals (not living in Iceland) and of fantasy (elves, trolls, monsters). But the goal was and is to have a penis’ specimen of all mammals in Iceland, including extinct species. Since a “human” model was missing,  one of the older people of the island, the Icelander explorer and womanizer Páll Arason born in 1915, gave ‘his own’ to the museum. By a written document, the founder’s doctor will take care of these particular findings after Hjartarsonsi death.

The ranking of the best weird museums follows with the “FROG MUSEUMin Switzerland. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Swiss Guard François Perrier was so attracted by the frogs who began to explore new and strange ways to embalm them, making the body flexible and suitable for any kind of manipulation. So, with the bodies of 108 frogs filled with sand, composed the first “tableaux vivants”, ie compositions of fantasy in which frogs make a parody of human situations…. while at school, at the table while eating, playing cards, etc..  The compositions are preserved in the museum of regional Estavayer-le-Lac in the canton of Fribourg, and even if it has a collection of lamps and lanterns,  it is well known as the Museum of frogs.

Instead of going in Massachusetts, we can visit comfortably from home the “TOILET MUSEUMor the museum of bathrooms online. Here you can find many historical WC and vintage toilet paper’s images from around the world, carefully collected by the editor Burt Stark. The idea was born in 1982, but only in 1998 Stark has actually started to collect images, which come from various sources: comics, photos, newspapers, movie scenes, etc.. Clicking on a virtual flush, you enter the site divided into various categories, from the classics such as “Ladies Room” and “Mens Room”, to the most extravagant as “Animals bathroom”, “Bathroom Christmas” or “Bathrooms sounds.” Do not miss the section dedicated to e-commerce and themed e-cards.

Continuing the theme, in Italy, in San Maurizio d’Opaglio (NO), there is the “MUSEUM OF TAPand its technology. Here you will find faucets rare, unusual and curious, with historical insights from the Greeks to the present day.

Unusual also the “HAIR MUSEUM”  owned by a certain Leila in Independence, USA, with wigs, combs and tools, but also and mainly human hair, dating back to the eighteenth century, with more than 300 pieces woven into beautiful garlands.

In the lower part of the ranking we find the “BATA SHOES MUSEUMin Toronto, Canada. One of the largest exhibitions in the world of shoes in a futuristic building that contains more than 10,000 specimens, from the ancient Egyptians to the present day.

 

You could find it only in Italy, the “MUSEUM OF PASTA”, and precisely near the Trevi Fountain in Rome. Opened in 1993 with an exhibition on two levels, covers eight centuries of history of this staple food of the Italians. Production equipment, nutritional information, the pasta as ancient and contemporary art, its short history in general.

The “MUSEUM OF MENSTRUATIONyou can not believe, but it really exists and is called “MuM”. For now it is only open “online”, as the official headquarters is a basement of Hyattsville, a small town in Maryland and the creator is Harry Finley, the patron of Tampax, who works for the federal government of the United States in Washington. The menu on the left of the page gives you an idea of the very extensive subjects that the site deals with. Advertisement of the first absorbent, their history with different types and models, scientific news, and more.

The “MUSEUM OF VOODOO” in New Orleans has the exact name of “Voodoo Spiritual Temple” and concerns an activity run by Priestess Miriam Chamani that follows the traditions of her ancestors. In this temple rites are celebrated mainly spiritual healing, based on voodoo American Afro-centric derived from the power of the spirit on the people who live in friendship.

You can find the “MUSEUM OF HORROR” called “Profondo Rosso” of the horror director Dario Argento, in Rome. Here you also can try on your own skin the emotions experienced by the protagonists of his films…

Americans could not miss a “PEANUTS MUSEUM”,  the American symbol par excellence! We are in Connecticut and her (deceased) creator stated: “Nuts have a heart. Hard and pricky sometimes on the outside, but soft and sweet on the inside. That’s my philosophy.”

 

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