The Dialect

The Neapoletan dialect did not help daily life.  All those hours spent at my ‘Parliamo Italiano’ BBC discs,  learning the Italian verbs, practising conversation – what was the point of all that?   How was I to know that Italian, the language I had been trying so hard to teach myself, was not spoken by the people I met on a daily basis.   Instead, they all communicate in the Neapoletan dialect, left over from the Bourbon occupation – apparently quite useful still in certain parts of Spain – but meaningless to an English woman like me.   Fortunately, the use of hand-language was relatively easy to understand and by watching people’s gesticulations I could ‘sort of” manage to follow some parts of conversations around me.   However, it wasn’t much fun sitting at a table where anything from four to a dozen people would all be communicating in dialect and little old me had to be resigned to enjoying my meal.   I didn’t at all like the sound of the dialect for quite some time, but when I eventually gained some familiarity with it, my opinion changed somewhat.

It took almost ten years, with no help at all, to fully understand what was going on around me and when I finally did, I kept it to myself.   No-one had tried to help me, despite complaining if I dared to say something in English to one of my close friends, so  I was not going to let them know how many tit-bits of conversation I could at last understand.   By then many of the Neapoletan songs were familiar to me and although I found dialect being shouted down from a window to an acquaintance way below sounded very coarse, the poetry in those songs did touch me and I now really do love them.   I can understand why that particular dialect apparently is the most popular one in all of Italy – it DSCF0663is humorous as well as tender and romantic.

Amalfi’s Annual Regatta

Regatta procession

To celebrate the history of Italy’s Maritime Republics (Amalfi, Pisa, Genova and Venice) each of them take turns in staging an annual regatta.  When it’s Amalfi’s turn the town is full of colour and excitement;  flags wave from numerous balconies, music is played, invited guests take their seats for the best views, medieval costumes are brought out from the local museum, to be worn by those who make up the  glorious procession from Atrani to Amalfi.   The sea becomes a living Canaletto with the countless local boats of all types, yachts, rowing boats, fishing boats, rocking gently in the waves, before moving away from the channel where the race will take place.

 During the race, the town is animated with cries of encouragement to each of the team’s supporters.   I have seen the reaction when our team won;    there was a temporary hush before the explosion of fireworks, applause and cheering, supporters jumped fully-clothed into the sea, many of the competitors wept with joy and within minutes cars and scooters took to the roads, tooting their horns all the way to Positano.

Amalfi’s Cathedral

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“I can’t claim to have seen all the main European cathedrals but of those I have seen, the cathedral of Sant’.Andrea in Amalfi is unique. It’s style is chiefly Byzantine, with brightly coloured mosaics decorating the tympanum and slender, striped pillars in front of the atrium, but what really makes it unique is the sweeping, steep staircase by which it is approached  – a symbolic stairway to Heaven.”

where else is there so impressive an entrance to a cathedral?   Not only the beautiful mosaics above the building, but also the superbly carved door, sent back to Amalfi from Constantinople.   People spend an age sitting at bars in the Piazza, coffe or Prosecco in hand,  gazing upwards at this wonderful sight.