Saturday, February 07, 2009

Of Cabbages and Kings

I thoroughly enjoy the books of John Julius Norwich - I must have reread his A History of Venice at least 6 times. At the moment I'm in the middle of his Byzantium trilogy - well more accurately I'm waiting for the middle of his Byzantium trilogy. Feltrinelli had Book I and Book III but Book II is out of stock. So I've read them out of sequence - its sort of like thumbing to the end of a murder mystery - I know who brought about the fall just not who all the suspects where. While I'm waiting patiently I've started on his The Middle Sea: a History of the Mediterranean.

Norwich freely admits he's no historian just a man who enjoys writing about history. His style is unpedantic, at times gossipy but always interesting. It is not his fault if I get confused with the Kings of the Two Sicilies and the Kings of Naples - sometimes they were one and the same thing - it depends on who owned what that week. I was even more aware of the confusion when I tried to identify the statues on the facade of the Palazzo Reale in Napoli.
The Palazzo is an enormous complex and has undergone many changes since the first palace was built on the site in 1600. The original was commissioned by Ferdinando Ruiz de Castro, Count of Lemos, Spanish viceroy in Naples in anticipation of a visit by King Phillip III of Spain. In one of history's little touches of irony - Phillip never made it to Napoli.

The west side, facing what is now the Piazza Plebiscito (the largest piazza in the city) has always been the main entrance. The large niches in the facade are a mini-history of the eight dynasties that have ruled Napoli: the Normans, the Hohenstaufen, the Angevin, the Aragonese, the Spanish, The Bourbon, the Napoleonic and finally, after the Risorgimento, the Savoy. Well I can see why they all wanted a piece of the property!

Well that looks after the Kings, and the cabbages? Sorry nothing really about cabbages, it was just an attempt to find a literate and amusing title. Failed on both counts but as they say here: BOH!

While searching the Internet - what did we do before the Internet, oh yes went to the library - for information about Napoli I came across Jeff Mathew's Around Naples. Its a mini-encyclopedia of facts, figures and stories of Napoli and its history. Definitely worth a detour as they say in Michelin.

07 febbraio - San Lorenzo Maiorano


Doralong said...

That is a really imposing building!

yellowdog granny said...

every time i hear the word napoli i think of dean martin singing'back in ole napoli.....that's amore'...