Sunday, September 18

Love Letter from lovely Naples

On September 19th, Naples breaks out the bottles and rejoices -- it's the Feast Day of their Patron Saint, San Gennaro.  The bottles, of course, are the tiny ampules containing his blood which liquefy every so often, and only when the Saint deems it perspicacious.  

I recently had occasion to visit the Tesoro di San Gennaro, a jewel of a museum next to Naples' Duomo (Cathedral) containing some of the world's most valuable jewels.  Each piece, commissioned by kings and commoners alike, are truly something to behold.  And while most of the 20000+ items created over the last 700 years (give or take a few) are salted away in highly protected vaults, together they demonstrate the importance of this most patron of saints beloved the world over. 
Picture from Museo San Gennaro
[The current show will be up until January 6th.]

Wandering the streets of Bella Napoli for the first time in years, was Heaven on Earth.  The shops, the doorways, the courtyards, the underground ruins, the baroque palaces, the churches on every street corner, even the decay was sublime.  It is clear why the Neapolitans place so much faith in San Gennaro...He's been watching over these places for centuries, and receives his share of riches - 'protection money' without even having to ask.  Because of him, the lava from Mount Vesuvius has stopped right at the city limits.  An earthquake left the city unscathed.  And judging by the hustle and bustle of Napoli these days, it looks like he's saved the residents from being buried in waste as well.  Forget the blood, this is nothing short of a miracle.

Arriving in Naples, the new spiffy train station is outstanding in every way.  A far cry from the days in which you had more homeless than bag handlers to wish you a hearty Benvenuto! upon arrival.  Once the expansive Piazza Garibaldi is complete out front, I can't help but think how wonderful it will be.  Just keep in mind, while you look around to catch your bearings, you'll have to watch your pocketbook as well.  

Walk up the city streets, the town has been littered with policemen, traffic cops and tourist info kiosks right, left and center.  They're all so helpful, I watched Nigerian street vendors peddle their counterfeit bags without any worry that they'd soon have to pick up their sheets and run.  The cops passed may turn a blind eye, but you can be sure they'll be keeping an eye on you.

Take a good long look at the industrious Neapolitans from the barmen serving you (yet another) unforgettable sfogliatella, to the shopkeepers, housewives, businessmen and police of both sexes and you're reminded of the famous Neopolitan presepe (manger scenes).  The clothes have changed, but you've got the same wild and wondrous scenery. 

And as for the sparkling emeralds on show right in the thick of it?  You can rest assured that when it comes to defying San Gennaro, not even the most hardened criminals want to mess with him.

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