Italy in Books - See Naples and Die by Penelope Green

Set in Naples, See Naples and Die is the story of Australian journalist Penelope Green's adventures as she moves from Rome to her new home, in search of a new life and the one thing missing - gainful employment.

What follows is a description of culture shock and true friendship as she adapts to living in the noisy heart of Naples. She befriends her landlord, tries (and fails) to impress the local men with her cooking, all while constantly looking over her shoulder for thieves and motorcycled muggers.

See Naples and Die is a combination of travel-writing and story-telling. Initially, I found it to be a little too much on the outside, constantly criticizing the locals and their supposed fatalistic attitude. However, as soon as I was beginning to find this really annoying (so much so that I almost stopped reading) she began to concentrate a little more on the smaller things in life, and her personal adventure in particular. I found this quite rewarding as she took me on her journey from being very much an outsider to understanding and assimilating somewhat into the local scene and culture.

I liked See Naples and Die, but only after I finished it. A large section of the book was devoted to a fascination with the camorra (the mafia), but didn't seem to go into any real detail and to my mind didn't really add anything to the book.  However, I did enjoy reading the book and I certainly don't think it's badly written, just perhaps a little dull (to my taste) in places. I'd be tempted to read some of her other books, but, while See Naples and Die was an okay read, I couldn't say that can I recommend it.

See Naples and Die is published by Hachette Australia and should be available in all good book shops (or can be bought from Amazon in the UK here).

The other May reviews in the Italy in Books challenge can be found here.

Flower displays/infiorate for corpus domini

Corpus Domini, also known as Corpus Christi, is a Catholic feast day. It honors the Eucharist, and as such it does not commemorate a particular event in Jesus's life. It often occurs on a Sunday but in 2013 it falls on the 30th May (with many processions still taking place on the following Sunday).

Infiorata in Casamari

Why is this of interest? Well... many places in Lazio celebrate the days around this festival with infiorata, or flower displays (many have festivals on the 1-8th June this year). At some places, this is simply a pleasant art festival with designs composed of flower petals displayed in front of the main church. Certain towns however, take it to a whole new level. As you can imagine, civic pride can really get into its zone on this one. Lazio is blessed with two big contenders. Starting with perhaps the biggest of them all...


Infiorata in Bolsena
Many towns in Northern Lazio put on grand displays of infiorata, such as in Ronciglione or Capranica, but the most famous is Bolsena, site of a miracle in 1263. A Bohemian priest, in doubt about the doctrine of Transubstantiation, reported bleeding from the host he had consecrated at Mass. Blood fell from the host onto the altar cloth and marble altar (the Cathedral in Orvieto was eventually built to commemorate the miracle and house the Corporal of Bolsena). This Eucharistic miracle led the Pope of the time, Pope Urbano IV, to institute the feast of Corpus Domini every year on the second Sunday after Whit Sunday. So Bolsena was the site of the miracle that gives the Catholic world Corpus Domini. A carpet of flowers is laid on the procession route for a distance of about 3 km using petals of flowers from gardens and from surrounding fields. The infiorata should be around from the 2nd June. Bolsena itself is perched on the shores of Lago di Bolsena, approximately 36km (22 miles) north-west of Viterbo.

Infiorata in Genzano di Roma
Genzano di Roma

Genzano, in the Castelli Romani, approximately 30km south of Rome is also famous for its infiorata. The town has put on a real show since 1778, with a carpet of petals stretching almost the length of three football fields through the streets to the cathedral. Often, the petals are arranged to artistically recreate famous works of art. The infiorata here should be visible on the 16th-17th of June.
Infiorata in Valentano
Infiorata in Sutri

The flower displays last a few days, but are best on the first day, so make sure you get there early. Most towns make a festival out of the whole thing, with a party atmosphere over the weekend with street food and a procession thrown in. It's a great way to get a glimpse into the local life of a town and to witness local culture in action,. Just remember about the campanilismo, the infiorata you're at is obviously the best one you've ever seen! ;-)

If you want to mix seeing infiorate with a sagra or food festival, here is my post on sagre and feste in Lazio in June.

Photo credits: 
Casamari infiorata from Paradoxplace.
Bolsena infiorata by Gobbler on wikipedia
Genzano infiorata from their website.
Valentano and Sutri from