Visiting Naples over the Christmas season, you can find inspiration everywhere: in stories about people’s lives, cinema, music and, of course, Vesuvius.
Naples is a city steeped in myth and legends. One of the most popular myths tells the story of how the city was born. According to legend, the Siren Parthenope cast herself into the Tyrrhenian Sea after she failed to seduce the Greek hero Ulysses with her singing. Her body washed ashore onto the island of Megaride in the Gulf of Naples where the present-day Castel dell’Ovo, the oldest fortification in the city, stands today.
The body of Parthenope is said to have dissolved and helped create the foundation of Naples. They say her head lies in the Capodimonte hill, her body makes up the centro storico and her tail follows the soft outline of Posillippo, a residential area that was a favorite vacation spot for Roman emperors.
There are many legends like this one that pique the curiosity and sense of wonder of travelers and locals alike – Naples with its many stories and traditions, is an endless font of inspiration for artists all around the World The city has a unique ability to make feel both remarkably alive, and inexorably ephemeral, at the same time.
Mount Vesuvius, although it is one of the most powerful and dangerous volcanoes in the world, many Neapolitans, cannot help but see Vesuvius as a protective presence. We belong to each other. For Neapolitans, Vesuvius represents home, so you can’t help but feel welcomed in his presence. The volcano is inescapable but we never tire of him. On the contrary, we are always looking for him on the horizon and when we can’t see him, we feel lost or disoriented. It’s as though Vesuvius were a lighthouse, a guide, a father. His form is majestic, a well-defined outline marked by two peaks. His shape, together with the very nature and energy of Naples, certainly influenced many studies and inspired artistic training in sculpture.
The city itself is also made of tufa lava stone. It is rough, but also friable and porous; it absorbs and impregnates at the same time. Naples is the solid and mighty Castel dell’Ovo, a fortification that rests on a small island constantly battered by the sea.
Naples is a capa’ e Napule. The Marianna, an ancient marble bust of a woman, strong and solid like a man. Naples is full of contradictions: it represents the coexistence of opposites that drive “napolteani” to detest and adore this city at the same time. It constantly gives and takes away, forcing you to never stay still, lest you get distracted. For better or for worse, Naples demands your attention, so you carry her spirit with you wherever you go. The city inspired the ancient Greek masters and also Michelangelo, Bernini, Rodin to Mitoraij, Moore and Kapoor. Color plays an important role in daily life, but also at home and in cooking. It represents energy and has the same weight and importance as materials such as marble or stone.
Napoletani often tell stories of myths and legends because they represent a mysterious and fascinating aspect of the history of a place and its culture: they reflect its true identity. Myths, legends, sacred rites, superstitions or popular beliefs merge with the history and contribute to the essence and authenticity of the land and its people.