Dr. Dawg

Quanno spònta la luna...

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If I never hear ‘O Sole Mio again, it will be far too soon. And ditto Torna a Surriento, not to mention the annoying Funiculì, Funiculà. They’re wall-to-wall in Campania, where coffles of tourists, led by guides with umbrellas in the air, no doubt expect such background music during their daily exercise.

But A Marechiare (above) is a different story. It hasn’t yet become a cliché: it still has the power to hold your attention. Listen for yourself.

The lyrics (here in Napolitano and Italian, here in Napolitano and English), were supposedly inspired by the sight of a carnation in a small, high window of a building perched over the sea in Marechiaro, a small municipality in greater Naples.


It’s now a restaurant, which is called, unsurprisingly, La Fenestrella. Ms Mew and I thought we might spend a romantic evening there. Here’s that carnation from the inside:


All of the vast rooms were entirely deserted.

La Fen resto.jpg

A waiter came over, without menus. Do we want meat or fish? he asked. Clearly the onslaught of the tourist season had been delayed in that area. It was cold in there, too: he brought my friend a tablecloth, which she wore as a shawl! We ate a thoroughly undistinguished meal for a stiff €100. Ms Mew, as is her wont, fell into a long conversation with the waiter. We learned that the service charge, supposedly making tips obsolete, went in its entirety to the owners. We left a few more Euros and departed.

Somehow this all seemed to stand for Naples itself, its bumptious mixture of romance and hustle. The large and somewhat vulgar decoration below the carnation outside the restaurant contains a few bars and words of A Marechiare, reminding me of an artefact from Ghana I once saw with the words “Ghana Culture” worked into it. And just so, the city holds up a mirror to itself, trying to capture us in its reflection. The impulses that gave us words and melody disappeared long ago into the sea air; what remains is an image, carefully tended, lensed through workaday economics and tourist hype.

That night, we consumed our supper of signs, and were left unfulfilled. But—we still have the song.

[Resto photo credits: Ms. Mew]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on May 20, 2014 10:30 AM.

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