Pulcinella is seen as the symbol of Naples and the Neapolitan people. Known as Polichinelle in France, Kaspar in Germany and Punch in England, Pulcinella is perhaps best known as a character from the ‘Commedia dell’Arte’ of the 16th century created by the actor Silvio Fiorillo however the mask has much older origins going back to the characters of Latin fables.
There are a few suggestions as to how the name “Pulcinella” came about: the first is that it is derived from the Latin word ‘pullicenellus’ a character created by Horace who had odd features like that of a cockerel – a hump and a hooked nose as well as a strange gait; the second is that it derives from the word ‘pulcinello’ meaning ‘little chick’ – with similar roots as the first meaning and finally that it comes from the actor ‘Puccio d’Aniello’ who was a court jester type actor of itinerant theatre companies. Whatever the derivation, he is always dressed the same – white shirt and trousers with a black belt and shoes together with his soft white hat and black face mask.
Pulcinella’s personality is a complex, varied and contradictory one. He can be crafty but sometimes foolish and senseless. Sometimes he is kind and generous but then also selfish and lazy, He is an eater and drinker and enjoys getting the better of people. Basically his character is determined by the outcome he desires! He has been adopted by the Neapolitans, particularly the poorest of society, as a two finger salute to the aristocracy and people in power as he can poke fun at what they represent.
He can be found all over Naples but particularly in the tourist shops of the old city where he can be a Christmas decoration, a key ring, a fridge magnet or if you want something larger, a whole face complete with mask to put on your wall.
Some Neapolitans enjoy their Sundays by spending time at the beach at Mergellina. This part of the beach is in front of Palazzo Donn’Anna, built on the site of a previous villa, La Sirena (the mermaid). Legend (or history, I’m not quite sure….!) has it that Queen Joan I of Naples used it frequently for luring her young lovers here before throwing them to their deaths in the sea.
Today saw a visit up Vesuvius to the edge of the crater. The guide explained that before the eruption in 79ad which destroyed Pompeii and the surrounding area, Vesuvius was a much larger volcano as it’s now believed to be only a third of the size it once was. Although it looks very benign, it’s still an active volcano which last erupted in 1944. It is considered one of the most dangerous however, but is one of the most monitored due to the 1 million people who live within the red danger zone. They believe they should have up to 15 days to evacuate the area although how and where to is a whole different question. Personally I think the most dangerous thing about the trip was the minibus ride from Ercolano station to the start of the walk up to the summit – mad Italian drivers…….
After yesterday’s excursion to Pompeii we decided to have a more leisurely day visiting a couple of spots in Naples that we didn’t get to previously. First stop was the gorgeous Duomo with painted ceilings and tiled floors followed by a trip up one of the funiculars to Castel St’Elmo for the panaramic views over Naples, the bay and towards the islands of Ischia and Procida. Here’s a view inside the fabulous Duomo.
Today saw a trip to Pompeii with all that such a visit entails – ruins, history, dust, more scaffolding (see my Galleria Umberto post from yesterday) together with hot sun and a spectacular lightning display as we were leaving. It’s hard to imagine it as the bustling busy place it must have been before the earthquake and eruption changed it forever. In a way it both provides some answers but then leaves so many questions as to what life was like in Italy under Roman rule at that time. My photo today is a typical Pompeiian street scene with Vesuvius continuing to cast its shadow. I’m going to assume that it’s only a cloud I can see to the left of Vesuvius as we intend to climb to the crater later this week……..!
Today we wandered round various parts of Naples much of which was either a building site or covered in copious amounts of scaffolding was. Galleria Umberto I was no exception and had teams of workmen whichever way you looked. However the roof and architecture of this once grand and important shopping arcade are fabulous although it now feels a little sad and neglected.
As is typical in Naples, the Italians put up a building wherever there is a space. This is the view from our apartment window looking out across Naples city towards the Bay of Naples with Vesuvius being just out of view round the corner. We arrived today to begin a week’s holiday and are looking forward to seeing all the usual sights including Vesuvius itself, as well as Pompeii and Herculaneum.