O que é este blog?

Este blog trata basicamente de ideias, se possível inteligentes, para pessoas inteligentes. Ele também se ocupa de ideias aplicadas à política, em especial à política econômica. Ele constitui uma tentativa de manter um pensamento crítico e independente sobre livros, sobre questões culturais em geral, focando numa discussão bem informada sobre temas de relações internacionais e de política externa do Brasil. Para meus livros e ensaios ver o website: www.pralmeida.org. Para a maior parte de meus textos, ver minha página na plataforma Academia.edu, link: https://itamaraty.academia.edu/PauloRobertodeAlmeida;

Meu Twitter: https://twitter.com/PauloAlmeida53

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulobooks

sábado, 29 de outubro de 2011

Pausa para... la dolce vita (pronto, pronto...): viajando pela Italia

A Gothic Tour of Italy

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Church of Santa Maria delle Anime dell Purgatorio in Naples. More Photos »
VISITORS to Italy tend to seek its sunny, Dionysian side — vino, pasta, opera, cinquecento art, George Clooney on a Vespa. But, like a chilly draft on a hot day, Italy’s gothic angle offers intimations of darkness that make a moment on the piazza even more delicious. Consciously or not, anyone sipping prosecco at sunset in Rome or Naples savors an extra spoon of dolce in their vita thanks to the contrast between the beauty of the present and the proximity of catacombs, ruins and sites of ancient suffering. 
The New York Times
The original gothic writers were much inspired by the duality in the bel paese. Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe and other masters of the romantic and horror genres set some of their most famous works in Italy.
“Italy was the Gothic writers’ favorite background,” wrote Massimiliano Demata, a professor at the University of Bari, who has made a study of the form. The country’s baroque portas, ruined castles, eerie reliquaries and catacombs were a gateway to the uncanny, possessing, as he put it, “a labyrinthine and claustrophobic architecture that was the novels’ perfect physical and psychological setting.” Today, these same books can serve as unconventional guidebooks for tourists who tire of the sun and want to explore the country’s macabre past. 
For the gothic writers, different locations in Italy piqued different aspects of the imagination. Venice seemed to hold special appeal for those wishing to mine pre-Freudian psychological terror (“The Assignation,” by Poe, takes place near the Bridge of Sighs). Padua, an ancient university town 20 miles from Venice,  served as the setting for one of Hawthorne’s creepiest short works, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” about a mad scientist who experiments with plant poisons and turns his beautiful daughter’s lips into a literal kiss of death for her young student lover.
I decided to start my tour in Otranto, a white, cobbled seaside town on the Adriatic edge of Italy’s boot heel, and the setting for what’s regarded as the first gothic novel, “The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole. I had visited the town briefly one summer afternoon with children in tow. Returning in late fall, I found the formerly bustling streets chilly and silent — not as inviting, perhaps, but more in keeping with the intimations of its macabre history that I had been reading about in guidebooks.
I checked into the luxurious nine-room Palazzo Papaleo, and was led upstairs to a spacious suite with a balcony that overlooked the cathedral across a small piazza. The gonging of its bells was so close that, standing on the balcony, I could feel their vibrations. During the two nights I slept there I was apparently the sole guest and had the run of the place. I took my prosecco and my laptop to a common room with vaulted ceiling and big dormer windows with heavy dark velvet drapes. Once in a while I spied an elderly man with an eye patch drifting around the hallways, passing me without a word. He was the only other person sleeping in the building, and turned out to be the owner, the last scion of the noble family that had lived in the palazzo for centuries. 
Otranto, I had learned, is literally haunted by an old act of evil: a 15th-century massacre — one in the long and bloody skirmish between Islam and Christianity — that Otrantans commemorate annually to this day. “Local history is filled with blood and darkness,” an Otranto guide and historian, Francesco Calignano,  told me, as he led me into the Cathedral of Otranto. The cathedral is known for its complex mosaic floor, which depicts scenes from just about every human myth and legend known to the world circa A.D. 1100, including kabbalah’s tree of life, Confucianism and Puss in Boots. 
We entered on a raw, late-autumn morning and we were the only people inside. After admiring the beautiful floor, I was led to a truly gothic spectacle:  lining shelves on a wall off to the side were 800 human skulls — victims of invading Turks. Mr. Calignano grimaced as he related how bits of the victims’ preserved flesh are still stored in a locked drawer. Once a year in August they are removed and paraded through town streets. 
“The Castle of Otranto” was a publishing phenomenon in 1764. Walpole’s short tale describes the supernatural punishment of a usurping Italian feudal prince in a haunted castle packed with what we now consider standard fright stock — secret doors, gloomy tunnels, haunted suits of armor, portraits of ancestors jumping out of their frames. At the time, though, these images were so fresh and shocking that Walpole’s little book became an instant best seller in England.
Modern-day Otranto is a place of seductive pleasures, where a warm afternoon can be passed bathing in azure seas and gorging on nouvelle Italian seafood accompanied by the crisp local Greco di Tufo wine. Sienna Miller has been known to sun herself on the same local beaches where Turkish invaders once stormed the sands waving scimitars on their way to the Castle of Otranto. I paid a few euros and toured the castle’s white corridors alone, seeking signs of Walpole’s ghosts, peering into small, empty, barred rooms, any one of which could have been a dungeon. On the outside, it is a photogenic and perfectly preserved white fortress. But its turrets, gunwales and wide, waterless moat attest to the  inhabitants’ defensive terror of the invader hundreds of years ago.
A SHORT flight or a five-hour train trip west across the heel of Italy to Naples allows ample time to dig into  the works of a lesser-known gothic master, Ann Radcliffe. She was a reclusive Englishwoman who like Walpole was celebrated in her day for novels, many of which were set in Italy, that pit seemingly supernatural forces of evil, often associated with Catholicism or small-time feudal tyrants, against guileless young women and their brave, thwarted lovers.
Radcliffe’s best-known novel, “The Italian,” takes place in 18th-century Naples. Almost every page contains a castle keep, a shadowy ruin and creepy, robed stalkers from the religious orders. The plot is simple enough: a young nobleman of Naples falls in love with a girl of whom his mother strongly disapproves. The mother hires an evil monk to do away with her, but the monk discovers that the girl is actually his own daughter — the product of an illicit affair.
The novel opens with an Englishman surveying the Naples church of Santa Maria del Pianto, which Radcliffe wrote housed “the very ancient convent of the order of the Black Penitents.”
Contemporary visitors can test Radcliffe’s gothic imagination against the lively reality of the teeming city. The church of Santa Maria del Pianto is still there, but it’s not on any tourist map. When I inquired about it, a woman at a news kiosk in central Naples pointed vaguely in a (wrong) direction, sending me through a giant 19th-century galleria with a roof of delicate glass and worn marble floors. Subsequently, my quest led me down crowded, narrow back streets with balconies festooned with laundry and finally to the doorstep of the Hosteria Toledo, where the proprietors laid out a late Sunday lunch of fried frutti di mare and a tomato and basil pasta. The owner’s brother-in-law, a tour guide, was reached by phone to assure me that the church in Radcliffe’s book was definitely “not one of the great churches of Naples.” It does still exist, but in what is now an organized-crime-infested suburb called Secondigliano. I crossed it off the to-do list, reluctantly.
 Radcliffe’s other Neapolitan sites are worth a visit, if only because searching for them allows one to wander the city’s streets, noting the many other gothic charms of Naples that Radcliffe missed.
The book’s lovers, Vivaldi and Ellena, first lay eyes on each other at the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, which still stands in Naples’s historic center — a yellow and gray hulk with an archaeological site underneath it. Across a busy medieval lane is a far spookier, skull-festooned church, built in the 17th century by a cult called the Souls of Purgatory, which dedicated itself to adopting the bones of the dead to pray over and rescue the souls associated with them from eternal oblivion. Presiding over this in the Church of Santa Maria delle Anime dell Purgatorio is an actual crowned skull called “Lucia” and a sculptural masterpiece of a winged skull.
This macabre landmark fronts a fresh vegetable market that resembles a Food & Wine magazine cover, decorated with strings of garlic, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Behind it, a huge open-air bazaar dedicated to creating and selling the phallic lucky charms of Naples that look like little red horns, called pulcicorni. Next door is the always mobbed Pizzeria Sorbillo, which serves up Neapolitan pies of legend.
Most of the action in “The Italian” takes place at a ruined castle and monastery in the hills high above the city, where our hero and heroine get locked in dark rooms, are kidnapped and then sent to sadistic Inquisitional court. The Castel San’Elmo still towers over Naples, a hulking brute of a medieval structure, the sides of which form a natural-looking cliff pocked with arches and gun holes and riddled with dark passageways and dungeons within.
San’Elmo’s view of Naples, with its mint, ocher and rust roofs, church domes and sea, is spectacular. A few hundred yards downhill is the monastery of San Martino, a sumptuous, treasure-filled villa once inhabited by a small group of Carthusian monks who were expelled by Napoleon in 1804 and finally suppressed for good when Italy was unified in 1860.
The monastery’s secluded gardens, fragrant with orange trees, swaying cypress and grape arbors, could have been the setting for the hero’s run-ins with the scheming monk whose cowl, Radcliffe wrote, “threw a shade over the livid paleness of his face, increased its severe character, and gave an effect to his large, melancholy eye which approached horror.” Both castle and monastery are accessible by a funicular that runs down to the historic center, which has lively shopping and fantastic restaurants and bars alongside medieval creepiness.
Don’t miss the small Museo Capella Sansevero, with two anonymous skeletons whose entire circulatory systems are said to have been mysteriously mummified by a mad noble alchemist, and which resemble modernist wire sculptures of human figures. The Classical and X-rated magnificence of the Farnese collection of Roman marbles in the Naples National Archaeological Museum are also worth a visit. Some news kiosks will even helpfully provide a map of “Mysterious Naples” that includes spooky sites beyond even the English gothic imagination.
TRAVELING north from Naples toward Rome, the gothically inclined might want to pass the two-hour train ride reading a little novella by another obscure Victorian lady, Anne Crawford, author of the first vampire story in English. The pastoral vistas of the campagna have provided the setting for countless paintings and photographs commemorating Italy’s Classical beauty, but carved into the rock beneath the fields is an extensive warren of catacombs that once held the remains of millions of pagan and then Christian dead.
Crawford set “A Mystery of the Campagna,” published in 1887, in and above these tombs. Her female vampire, preceding Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 10 years, is named Vespertilia, a tall and slender seductress, clad in “something long and dark” out of which “a pair of white hands gleamed,” says the narrator, a Frenchman who has lost his friend to her charms. She sleeps in the catacombs by day, and by night leads besotted Northern European gentlemen from the innocent frolics of their Grand Tours down the stairs, where “the darkness seemed to rise up and swallow them.”
The catacombs are today a popular tourist site, fenced in and supervised by priests who lead groups of tourists down the yellow stone steps into the gloom, and, in a half-dozen languages, talk about the burial ground for the earliest Christians. 
Our tour guide, an Australian priest in a black shirt and white collar, declined to discuss what went on in the catacombs during the thousand years or so between their official end as a Christian burial ground and their reopening in the 19th century. He had even less interest in speculation about vampires. 
“This is a sacred place,” he kept reminding his small group, which included a trio of asthmatic Australians who couldn’t stop coughing in the musty, damp air. We trailed him through stony, narrow corridors single file, passing empty rectangular shelves that once held skeletons. I tried to stay in the middle, as there seemed enough shadow in the vaults to hide a wraith or two waiting to clutch a laggard in its cold embrace.
After the hourlong tour in the shelves of the dead, visitors rejoin the living to  quaff espresso and snack on cornetti or pizza at any one of a number of friendly cafes along the highway across from the site’s moss-covered brick walls. An extremely life-affirming and wallet-friendly shopping experience can be had at the huge, colorful flea market on Via Sannio at the Porta San Giovanni on the way back into Rome. At a table in the far corner, vendors sell heaps of fine cashmere sweaters and designer-label wool jackets starting at 30 euros. 
Rome is rife with gothic locations, and for my trip I took along “The Marble Faun,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne was reaching the end of his career as a master of the psychological and supernatural horrors of Puritan New England, and this novelistic travelogue is not his best. A two-volume compendium of some of the eerie sites, it is a meandering tale of three American artists working in Rome who meet and befriend a real-life satyr, who seems to have been the flesh-and-blood model for a marble statue in the Capitol. 
Visitors to the gloriously treasure-packed Capitoline Museums today will find many statues of the faun, associated with Dionysus, who represented the animal in man, simultaneously innocent, sexual and lawless. The faun’s more threatening relative, the satyr, is overtly Luciferian, with horns and cloven hooves. A large satyr of this type glares archly out from a cupboard in the Egyptian courtyard of the museum.
A bus ride or a leisurely stroll across Rome’s historic center leads the traveler to another principal site in “The Marble Faun” — the creepily gorgeous Capuchin Catacombs, where the Hawthorne characters confronted an evil monk. 
Decorated in Baroque style with the white bones of 4,000 dead monks, the Capuchin Crypt near the luxurious Via Veneto is today a popular stop on any Rome tour. As macabre as it seems, it’s also a sacred site. No cameras, no hats and no summery garb is allowed. “Tell the Americans, no spaghetti strap trash,” said Alba, the stern receptionist on duty the afternoon I was there, while berating a group of Germans who were ignoring the signs about turning off their cellphones. “Listen,” she exhorted them in English. “The cellphone lines are too strong for the human bones here. They are really delicate.”
The crypt is tiny and claustrophobic, and the bones’ sickly sweet smell fills a dimly lighted passageway winding past eight gated displays with arabesques of thousands of bones arranged by type — fingers, patellas, femurs, knuckles, skulls — in lacy flowers, garlands, clocks or urns, attached to walls and ceiling. In the final room, the message posted on the floor near the roses strewn by worshipers, in five languages, reminds happy tourists to drink deeply from the cup of Italy’s joys now, as the eternal shadow looms: “What you are now we used to be. What we are now you will be.”
Back upstairs and on the streets of Rome, the pleasures of Italy are immediate and accessible, but also complex. Without the darkness, the country might be as bland asSweden. Looking at Italy through the gothic lens deepens our appreciation of the pain, suffering and death that is, along with love, ease and light, also man’s lot. The hellward pull of Thanatos on Italy’s Eros, the artful dance between these archetypal opposites, is surely one of Italy’s great enchantments.
A Walk on the Dark Side
The luxurious, nine-room Palazzo Papaleo overlooks the cathedral. It’s a block from the beach, and a few doors away from some of the best restaurants. (Via Rondachi, 1; 39-083-802-108; hotelpalazzopapaleo.com; from 162 euros, about $218 at $1.35 to the euro.)
There is ambrosial food at Peccato del Vino (39-0836-801-488; eccatodivino.com). For local favorites try La Pignata (Via Garibaldi, 7; 39-0836-01284).
Francesco Calignano (Francesco.calignano@yahoo.it)
Chiaja Hotel de Charme, in a former bordello, is found through a walled courtyard and up an arched staircase. This small hotel offers the bare minimum — clean, small rooms with bathrooms — but is well situated, just off the main Via Toledo strip, walking distance to the medieval quarter, the Farnese Collection, shopping and food. (Via Chiaia, 216; 39-081-415-555; from 50 euros.)
Hosteria Toledo run by the Preziosa family. On Sunday afternoons, anyone can walk in without reservations and grab a table alongside jolly family groups sharing a leisurely and delicious meal of fresh seafood and pasta. Try the dry local wine called Greco di Tufo. (Vico Giardinetto a Toledo, 9; 39-081-421-257; hosteriatoledo.it.)
Pizzeria Sorbillo, where the lines are long, is said to offer the “best pizza in Naples,” and is absolutely worth the wait. (Via dei Tribunali, 38; 39-081-033-1009; sorbillo.eu/.)
Augustus: the black-suited waiters can’t keep up with demand from patrons selecting colorful sweets from the glass case below the bar at this sweet shop. (Via Toledo, 47; 39-081-551-3540.)
Via Toledo is home to excellent shops, and also to sidewalk offerings of excellent fake designer purses that are bundled up every time a police car goes past. A short bus ride to the Mercato di Pugliano on Via Pugliano in the Ercolano neighborhood takes you to what is reputedly Italy’s favorite vintage market. The shop called Old Star supposedly has a secret stash upstairs that customers in the know must ask to see.
For superior tours of Umbria and southern Italy, contact Anne Robichaud of Anne’s Italy (annesitaly.com).
Locanda Carmel, in Trastevere, which I like as a base of operations, is a block from the tram that runs over the river to Piazza Argentina, from which there is easy walking or a bus to all the main Roman sites. (Via Goffredo Mameli, 11; 39-06-580-9921;hotelcarmel.it; from 50 euros.)
Hotel Aldrovandi, near the Villa Borghese, is high-end and has a beautiful pool — a requirement in summertime. (Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 15; aldrovandi.com; 39-06-322-3993; from 287 euros.)
Ai Spagheteria offers basic pasta and pizza in Trastevere, moderately priced. (Piazza di San Cosimato, 57-60; 39-06-580-0450; aispaghettari.it.)
Otello alla Concordia serves fantastic food, with outdoor and indoor seating tucked in an alley near the Spanish Steps. I have never had a bad meal here. (Via della Croce, 81; 39-06-679-1178; otello-alla-concordia.it.)
NINA BURLEIGH experienced the gothic side of Italy while researching her latest book, “The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox” (Broadway).

Nenhum comentário: