Napoli called me back! After being in rainy and humid Brussels for only a few days, I got invited to stay with a friend in Capri at his small penthouse with a view of the romantic Mount Vesuvius in the Posillipo quarter. I gladly accepted the invitation and before he changed his mind, I booked my flight without giving it a second thought.
After a two-hour flight and a ride from the noisy Capodichino airport, I am inhaling Posillipo’s rambling elegance while crossing a Mergellina quarter that exudes an air of faded grandeur. The quaint 17th Century fishing village on the city’s outskirts is filled today with lemon-hued Liberty palazzi lining the slightly scruffy seafront. Silky palms catch a southerly breeze as elegant elderly widows walk in the afternoon sun. I realize then, that Mergellina is the Naples version of Beverly Hills. As I look through the window of the new Cinquecento, I see a the crowd filled with Sophia Loren lookalikes. I cannot stop admiring with awe the dizzying panoramas of the bay and, of course, Mount Vesuvius and the little island of Nisida where Brutus is said to have conspired against Julius Caesar.
The apartment is warm and cozy — it’s a collectors nest. As soon as I arrive, I am offered a fresh drink that tastes like Italian lemon sorbet, Absolut Blue Vodka and other “mysterious” ingredients can be subtly detected. I am told the recipe is a “secret of the house”. All around me, near the small terrace, in the living room, the den and in the entrance hall, the walls are filled with the brash, arrogant and full of fire 17th Century Neapolitan artist, Camilo De Vito, depicting an intense red Mount Vesuvius erupting over a very deep blue sea. Immortal 16th and 17th Century Neapolitan masters around the house such as Luca Giordano, Francesco Solimena, Massimo Stanzione, Domenico Morelli of the Italian Vedutismo school, interact peacefully with the fresh sea breeze coming from the small attic.
Mozart’s opera, Don Giovanni, is playing on a large-screen TV. Nearby is a book that tells about the composer’s impressions during his stay in the city under a 1900 silver tray containing a pile of Neapolitan Red and Blue horns, amulets known to ward off curses. While my host holds the Sgroppino rivisto e gelatoso (reviewed) with one hand and with the other gesticulates almost to himself in animated fashion about the difference between Don Giovanni and Casanova, I ask politely where I can put my suitcase and get changed. I am advised to wear shorts — because in Napoli “we can only move about with a scooter”– and, to take off my steel Cartier watch for “precauzione e scaramanzia” (precaution and superstition).
We are now on the scooter in the elegant Piazza dei Martiri, after having crossed the Centro Storico and Spaccanapoli Street (where we bought gigantic home-made pasta). I realize Naples is a rumbling mass of contradictions: grimy streets abut palm-fringed boulevards, crumbling facades hide Baroque ballrooms and cute shrines flank cutting-edge clubs. One minute you feel like you’re in dusty Tangier, the next you’re thinking you’re in Paris.
My host has a long shopping list and apparently needs my company. From Marinella, a long time favorite of Luchino Visconti, Aristoteles Onassis, and Gianni Agnelli, the place for pret-a-porter and made-to-measure ties, to Mariano Rubinacci light weight and precisely fitting suits from the granddaddy of Neapolitan tailoring proudly worn also by 1950’s Italian actor Vittorio de Sica. It’s almost four o’clock in the afternoon, we must not forget to go to the Antica Latteria D’Angelo where at this precise moment fresh Mozzarella di Buffala is being made. It will soon be part of our moonlight dinner overlooking the sleeping volcano.
A few vegetables, basil, Percoca peaches and small figs are picked up at the local vendor whose truck is parked right under the apartment. I go to the kitchen and learn how to cook Mafalde alla Nerano (with zucchini, basil and feta cheese), pour red Barolo table wine into a large carafe with the pesche affettate (freshly cut peaches) and put it in the fridge for later — all while rock singer and summer Festivalbar 2007 winner, Francesco Regna’s “Cambio Direzione” is playing unbearably loud from a 1970’s vintage Marantz amplifier once belonging to a former cruise DJ.
It’s getting dark. I quickly pick up some fresh towels that have been drying all day under the Posillipo sun and after a long, warm shower overlooking the blue sea view, I put my pretty dress on. Prada’s new Hypnotic Amber eau-de-parfum intensifies Biaggi Antonacci’s voice from the far terrace singing “Sognami...” (Dream of Me). Candles are strategically placed among pretty hybiscus flowers emanating a special Mediterranean aroma . Peppino di Capri’s Luna Caprese in the dark sky shines over the Island of Capri that can be seen neatly tonight on the far horizon…
It’s a beautiful night. A distant voice interrupts my senses…
“A tavola!” (Dinner’s served!)
Marinella – Piazza Vittoria, 287 , Napoli / +39 081 2451182 / luxury accessories, including shoes, shirts, sweaters and vintage colognes.
Mariano Rubinacci- Via Filangieri, 26 , Napoli /+ 39 081 415793 / www.marianorubinacci.it
The Music :
Cambio Direzione – Francesco Renga available on I Tunes Italy / Watch : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5q0TRrprk0
Sognami- Biagio Antonacci available on I Tunes Italy / Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcYam6jD2sI
Due Ragazzi Cosi live 1996 : Peppino Di Capri & Fred Bongusto- http://shopping.yahoo.com
The Movies : Classics
1948 Ladri di Biciclette – ( Bicycle Thieves) starring Vittorio de Sica
1963 Oggi, Ieri e Domani – ( Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) starring Sophia Loren
1954, L’Oro di Napoli -( The Gold of Naples), in six episodes of city life, starring,Toto, Sophia Loren, Eduardo de Filippo, Vittorio de Sica.
Modern: 1992 Libera ( Free) Pappi Corsicato , Compared often to Almodovar in three stories.
The Fresh Mozzarella: Antica Latteria D Angelo D’Angelo Via F.Galiani (alla Torretta-Mergellina) / Caseificio Artigiano Antonio D’Anna Via Pizzo della Buffala.S Nicola la Strada /+39 081 450200
The best Icecream Nocciola (Hazelnut): Chalet Ciro Mergellina ,Via Caracciolo di fronte Via Orazio 80122 Napoli / +39 081 669928
The Art Book: Napoli Secreta – Massimo Listri – Rizzoli libri illustrati
The Book: Mozart -Amedeu Boggi e Edgar Vallone / Einaudi
Matilde Serao: leggende Napoletane available only in Italian
Queen of the Night – A fictionalised account portraying Queen Joan the First of Naples’ life http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/alan-savage/queen-of-night.htm
The Opera dvd: Don Giovanni – Mozart- Don Giovanni (1987 Saltzburg ) Herbert Von -Karajan -Vienna Philarmonic- -http://www.amazon.com/Herbert-Von-Karajan-Legacy-Giovanni/dp/0738919039
The Magazine: Elle Decor Italia September 2007/Napoli tra Arte e Design
Interesting Site: Chiesa del Gesu Nuovo, Piazza del Gesu Nuovo, +39 0815518613