Tiddley-Bits tea

Tiddley-Bits tea

Thursday, 1 September 2016

{postcards from italy--first days in Napoli}

Hello Blogland!
I arrived in Naples yesterday morning. After a very early morning rise (230am!) I caught my plane and arrived in the marvellous city of Naples. 8 years ago I lived here for three months and in some ways it feels a bit like coming home. I’ll never feel like I’m a local, but there’s something about returning to a city where you once lived—you know the streets, the shops, the neighbourhoods. It’s fantastic!

This morning I dragged myself to the archive, which I knew was going to be a bit of an ordeal. 
The walk there was lovely-I passed old haunts, such as the church of the Gesu, piazza San Domenico Maggiore, and enjoyed walking in Spaccanapoli. 

{Il Gesu}
{beautiful diamond corrugations}
 I love doing archival research, but I hate the process. I hate asking people for things, and this is what you have to do.  My Italian is really really rusty too (let alone trying to understand thick Neapolitan accents), and trying to explain my academic research in a foreign tongue is also a bit difficult. Even worse is not knowing exactly what you’re trying to find. There hasn’t been much research done on Naples, especially fifteenth-century Naples, because a lot of the archives were blown up in WWII. It means there is much less secondary sources you can rely on, even as a starting point to start looking in the archives. My particular type of research also usually means calling up random account books from merchants in hopes that I might find something useful to my overall project. Every Italian archive is organised differently as well, so it doesn’t help if you’ve worked in one in another city—every archive is a bit different. The procedures are also all different for even getting registered and you usually have to show your passport a number of times, fill out a variety of forms, and in my case, when they ask my name they all look at me and then just ask me to spell it out. You’d think they’d never heard of Clark Kent! The other problem with the Neapolitan archive is that they’ve tried to organise it and the inventories of the archive seem straightforward, but they’re not. Although they now have the list of the inventory online, it’s not very clear from looking at it what’s actually in the different fondi.
{the archives}
{piazzetta del grande archivio}
So I arrived in good time to be able to make the 1130 order (there are select times you can order archival materials), but of course I was told to wait before I could see someone to discuss the inventories of the archives with me, and I waited, and waited, and waited (for about an hour). I was introduced as the ‘ragazza straniera’ the ‘foreign girl’—you’d think I didn’t hold a PhD & was in my teens!  And so I waited and waited and watched the 1130 order time pass before my eyes….
Finally the dottore who was supposed to help me continued to yap to someone much more important than me, and another dottore, who was very helpful and kind came to my rescue. He tried to explain how the various inventories were organised…and pulled out large inventory books that listed what was in the archive. These, however, unfortunately, were all written by hand many moons ago and then photocopied, so even though these are modern inventories, no one has bothered to print them up so that even trying to find what you might want to find in the archive proves difficult. No wonder very few people do research here!
In the end, I didn’t make an 1130 ordering, but had to wait until 1315. I’ve started with accounts of merchant-bankers. There are none surviving from the fifteenth century, but some from the very early sixteenth century, so when I finally got to sit down, I had in front of me a merchant’s account book from 1507. It’s sometimes hard to actually think that it’s THAT old… you have in front of you writing that’s rather illegible, in ink that looks old, in a book that has traces of use over time—water damage, blackened pages, etc… but it’s pretty neat, if you stop to think that you’re looking at something someone wrote over 500 years ago! On paper. And it still exists! It really makes you think what will survive of our correspondence and accounts when the digital version we use today are no longer compatible with the digital literacy of the future.
Naples is much the same, but I would say, it’s a bit more modern—some slicker cafes have opened up, but it is still the chaotic city that I love. It’s also cleaner, as when I was here there were the rubbish wars going on and nothing was being collected!

My flat is absolutely lovely—it’s in a beautiful old 18th-century palazzo, and it is tastefully renovated. It looks down onto a courtyard where numerous Neapolitan families hang their laundry from their balcony. I can hear mobile phones ring to funny tunes and people answering them with the typical ‘pronto!’…I hear babies crying, floors being washed, food being prepared. It’s lovely!
{shopping for veg}
{view from my room onto typical Neapolitan flats}

{the grand staircase belonging to my building!}
 stay tuned for more!
ps: these pics were taken on my iphone so apologies if they're not as good as my normal Canon!

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