Neapolitan Philosophy


(Photo from Wikimedia commons contributed to public domain with the following comment: Veduta di Napoli dall’Eremo dei Camaldoli Foto personale)

I just landed at the Naples airport, and immediately I had the perception that some big changes in my mindset were going to happen. I grew up here, but I realized that being away from Naples and living in the US was changing my habits, at a faster pace all of the time.

Once we landed, I was standing with just a few other people; we were the only ones standing at the luggage belt that was the one indicated on the screen for the baggage claim. Everybody else did not care about the belt number on the screen. They just went to the belt that started moving. In this town the rules are perceived as something that only makes people’s life harder. But it is important to realize that this is not some form of protest, rather it’s a philosophy.

By the way, my luggage did not show up at the belt indicated on the screen, but at the belt where these "philosophical people" went.

I read a great book long time ago called “Oi dialogoi”, written from a Naples intellectual, Luciano De Crescenzo, that sparked my interest because of his philosophical association to the people from Naples. In that book he used a real story as an example to highlight his point. I am elaborating this story from my recollection of reading it because the example seems to illustrate so well the main point I want to make in this article. At that time that this story happened, about 20 years ago, the large American corporation was opening agencies all over Italy. When they opened a big office in Naples many complaints started to arrive from Milan and from the American executives visiting that office. An investigation was made and the issue seemed to be that the elevator was extremely old and slow. Since it was old, it was also protected by the building administration as a “historical” aspect of that luxury building.

Apparently, the debate between the management of the large American corporation who wanted to replace the elevator with a modern one, and the building administration became so heated at one point that the building concierge had to calm them down. This simple Neapolitan guy, the concierge, normally just kept to himself and at first was not even aware of the argument, but once he noticed that the arguing had reached a crescendo and was approaching a deadlock, then he proposed a solution.

He suggested that the problem was not the time "spent" in the slow elevator, but the way it was spent. Hence he proposed to test his own easy and fast solution: add a nice mirror inside the slow elevator. The "philosophical concierge" highlighted that with a mirror the people who were in the elevator could spent the time that they were riding in a better way. Once the mirror was installed, in fact the problem seems to have been solved. Actually, the concierge noticed that the elevator became the only place for everyone to compose themselves before stepping into the elegant office.

Different ways of solving the same issue! Obviously the concierge’s solution was the best one for everyone.

This is a simple example of the Neapolitan philosophy of life, but it says a lot about the thinking of these people compared to the thinking in Milan or in the US. I like this example, because it really expresses the meaning of my sentence: "enjoy your day with a little break of Italia Dolce Vita".

Although I grew up over here, I had to stop in Naples and get involved with these wonderful people’s lifestyle here in order to notice this. When I lived in Italy, this difference was not as obvious to me as it is now, with my different perspective.

Sometimes, a simple mirror can serve to remind us that we look tired and stressed. In my opinion, we do not need surgery and other treatments to look better: we just need to enjoy life to the fullest. That’s exactly what I’m doing here in Italy while traveling for business! And my mirror is telling me that I look better; maybe I look better on the inside, but that’s enough for me and the people around me to enjoy a better life 😉

Enjoy your day with a little break of Italia Dolce Vita,

Matteo Silvestri

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