“See Napoli and Die” – A lot of people when they see that title, they think it signifies the something more terrible. However the quotation is from “Italian Journey “by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, [1786 – 1788]; as translated by W. H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer (1962) when Goethe was travelling in Naples. He travelled widely in Italy and loved it here.
I myself used to wonder at this saying before I understood. I now know how he felt as it has that same effect on me. When I am working and see a photo of the bay of Naples – I want to fall down on the floor and die when I am not there.
When you live on that bay for a period of time it seeps into your bones. It is almost something magical – like a spell cast over you never to be released and prehaps carried on into future lives.
The Neopolitans probably think this is normal because most of them never leave and if they do – they always return as if this spell is dragging them back like an umbilical cord.
As I am Australian, one of my friends lived in outback Queensland on a large cattle station. When he was growing up there were some Neopolitan men who had emigrated to find work in Australia on the farms in the far country. He said that at night one could hear them weeping as the wind would blow the sound for many miles in the silence of the bush.
My heart bled when I heard that . What depths of suffering they must have felt!! To be isolated in the harsh Australian bush with no people around …. one could not find such a contrast to Naples. It must have been torture for them. So sad – and what courage they had to come out and leave their amazing land. Out of all the Italian immigrants to Australia that came out after the war – more than half returned after they had made their fortune. Homeward bound to the land of their hearts and love. They could not let go of the memories of that bay and people.
One can never feel isolated in Naples as everyone is so friendly and they talk to you all the time. In fact they never shut up – I have never seen such people to be able talk so fast as well with their hands as well as sing well. The Neopolitans I am sure would talk under water if given a chance.
In the beginning when I first used to stay in Naples I used to be terrified as I had heard all the stories and read the horrible Mafia books so it took me a long time to lose my nervousness and it goes to show that fear is often a fantasy appearing true. In fact, now, I feel more safe in Naples at night than walking on my own, around the Australian cities.
I find Naples the most interesting and fascinating city in Italy. I consider the food to be to die for – the mozzarella, the coffee, the tomatoes – oh the tomatoes are the best in the world like Grandpa used to grow….. as well as the sweet seafood and to swim in the bay in summer – ah – so soft and so warm and the people have hearts to match – hearts of gold. Napoli has many hidden art treasures to discover – and the deeper you go the greater the treasures. Come to Napoli and die!!