Crowded and colorful, bustling, energetic, and animated, gritty and crumbling – no panoply of words can ever describe Naples’ Quartieri Spagnoli.
The street network of the “Spanish district” was set out in the 17th-century during the Spanish rule of the Kingdom of Naples. The troops were quartered here in this district bordered by one of the main streets of Naples, Via Toledo, named for a 16th-century viceroy of Toledo, Spain.
In the crowded narrow streets of Naples’ quartieri spagnoli, murals of seaside landscapes brighten crumbling walls:
Beloved napoletani theatrical personages spread out under hanging wash, their portraits adding color to cracked and crumbling walls:
Adored Argentinian soccer champion, Diego Maradona – who brought Naples to glory in two major championships – reigns, too..
..as does Neapolitan actress, Sophia Loren…
– and Neapolitan jazz and blues singer, Pino Daniele.
As our napoletano friend, Adriano, well knows how much I love Pino Daniele’s music, we stopped during our recent walk through the quartieri and he serenaded us with one of the most famous Pino Daniele songs – “Napule” – a wash dangling above Adriano and flanking the Pino Daniele mural:
Lucio Dalla (another favorite Italian singer, though not napoletano) is portrayed in a mural dedicated to the “grande Lucio“:
Actor and playwright of extraordinary versatility, Peppino DeFilippo (1903-1980) – brother of actor Edoardo and actress Titina – beams from a wall painted in orange that Pino and I passed on our recent Naples walk with Adriano (born in this populous quarter) and his wife, Roberta:
The mural figures DeFilippo as Gaetano Pappagone, a comical personage he invented and played in a television series.
In the mural called “L’Oro di Napoli” (“The Gold of Naples”), Pino Daniele strumming his guitar is to the right of another famous napoletano actor, Massimo Troisi:
Also a film director and screen writer, Troisi is best known for his film “Il Postino,” nominated for two Oscars posthumously after his death of heart attack at the age of 41 just after filming was concluded
Called “the comedian of feelings,” Troisi ranks as one of the most important of Italian theater and cinema actors.
Daniele and Troisi were closely linked. Pino Daniele had worked on the soundtrack of most of Troisi’s films and the two were soon considered the symbol of Naples’ “musical Renaissance.” Edoardo De Filippo – brother of Peppino and poet, actor, playwright and screenwriter – greatly esteemed Troisi, denoting him as “a comedian of the future, rooted in the past.”
To Troisi’s left in the “Gold of Naples” three-person mural is comic actor Toto‘, shoveling down spaghetti – a scene taken from the 1954 film “Miseria e Nobilita‘” (“Misery and Nobility”) starring Toto’.
Beneath Toto’s plate are the words “I eat” and beneath Troisi is his reply, “I am near you!”
Words from a Pino Daniele song, “I’Sto cca” (in napoletano dialect, “I’m staying here”), flank the Daniele guitar.
Born in 1898, Antonio Griffo Focas Flavio Angelo Ducas Comneno Porfirogenito Gagliardi de Curtis di Bisanzio is known to all by his stage name “Toto'” or the Italian nickname for “Antonio.”
Dubbed il Principe della Risata (“the Prince of Laughter”), Antonio De Curtis (Toto’) was born of noble origins, the illegitimate son of a marquis who did not recognize his son for years. Certamente a “principe” for the Italians, Antonio De Curtis (who died in 1976) was a famous actor, screenwriter, poet, dramatist, comedian and singer and perhaps the most popular Italian performer of all times.
In August and September, 2019 twenty artists invaded the Quartieri Spagnoli to create murales as a homage to Toto’, all the group gathered together by the non-profit cultural association, Onlus Viva Napoli.
Ubiquitous wash lines hanging above many of the paintings seemed to crown Toto’:
Murals reign over parked motorbikes and Vespas in the Vico Toto’ neighborhood:
I stopped to talk to two young Iranian visitors gazing at a Toto’ image and curious about who he was – we talked for some time both about Toto’ and our family trip to Iran some years ago.
And they asked for a picture of us all together before they continued their wanders:
We continued our “Toto’ walk” with Roberta ponting out to us highlights, including famous quotes from some of his films…
…and other murals with Toto’ aphorisms, including “L’educazione non passa mai di moda” (“Good manners never go out of style”):
and “la cultura e’ unica salvezza” (“culture is our only salvation”):
And the murals of the Quartieri Spagnoli in Naples underscore precisely that, emulating beloved and esteemed Neapolitan personages of grandissima cultura.
As Luciano De Crecenzo (1928 – 2019), napoletano writer, actor, film director put it: “I think that Naples is the last hope for the survival of humanity.”
He, too, lives on in the Quartieri Spagnoli:
Hear Pino Daniele sing “Napule” (including translation in English)
Read about the Neapolitan love for Pino Daniele
Read about Massimo Troisi
Read here about Toto’
Read about why I need a “Naples fix” now and then
Read about how Naples has honored Maradona
Read about the care of foundling in Naples
Click here to read about – and see! – the creche scene artisanal splendor in Naples
Read about my need for Naples
Read about a favorite – and famous – cafe’ in Naples
Click here to read about – and see!– a favorite and famous Naples trattoria
Click here to read about – and see! – maiolica splendor in a Naples cloister
See a “street-life” creche scene in Naples
Click here to read about the depiction of the Mediterranean diet in the Neapolitan presepe
Read about a not-t0-miss Naples eating spot