Pursuing Happiness in Naples

You may have missed, as I did, that yesterday, March 20th, was International Day of Happiness, established in 2012 by the United Nations to recognise that the ‘pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal’.

To mark the 3rd anniversary of the Day, Voices from the Blogs, an Italian project that studies online tastes, preferences and opinions, published its report (in Italian) of the state of Happiness in Italy, based on an analysis of millions of tweets during 2014.  There was bad news for Naples: it languished in second from bottom spot in the list of happiest cities in the country and was the most unhappy place in Campagna.  August 8th was identified as the unhappiest day last year.   Overall, Italy grew slightly unhappier during 2014 in comparison with 2013.

How can this be?  As Pope Francis stated today as part of his visit to the city during his open air Mass to the faithful in the benighted area of Scampia, Naples faces serious problems.  High unemployment, exploitation, crime, drugs, discrimination, and especially corruption which he said ‘stinks’, using the Neapolitan slang term spuzza, all undoubtedly impact on happiness.  But the Pope also said that Naples remains a place of hope; ‘although life in Naples was never easy, it was never sad’.

On a beautiful Spring day, in Piazza del Plebiscito and in front of 25,000 people, he urged Neapolitans to reject the quick, criminal path to happiness and work together for ‘redemption’:

Dear Neapolitans, be open to hope and do not allow hope to be stolen from you! Do not give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income. This may be bread for today but hunger for tomorrow. It cannot bring you anything. React firmly to organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak, with the cynical drug trade and other crimes. Do not allow hope to be stolen from you. Do not allow your youth to be exploited by these people. May corruption and delinquency not disfigure the face of this beautiful city! Moreover, may it not disfigure the joy of your Neapolitan hearts.

But, despite these challenges, perhaps Voices from the Blogs got it wrong in their study of tweets. Maybe there is another way of measuring happiness, as captured by the Naples wrier Erri De Luca who said, in response to a previous index placing the city low down in quality of life, that Naples was too exaggerated, too off the scale to be able to measure:

I consider quality of life to be the ability to eat simple exquisite things anywhere and at low prices, which elsewhere would be unreal. I consider quality of life to be the sea which wanders into the room of the gulf between Capri, Sorrento and Posillipo. I consider quality of life to be the wind that sweeps the gulf from the four cardinal points and makes the light air.  I consider quality of life to be the excellence of Neapolitan coffee and pizza.  I consider quality of life to be courtesy and a smile when entering a shop, the music on the street. I consider quality of life the history that emerges everywhere.

Certainly the young people in the video are Happy from Naples.  I am. Are you?

Viva, Viva La Befana!

befane

Le Befane

Last night, as we packed away our Christmas decorations for another year, Italian children hung their stockings and awaited the arrival of a special visitor, Befana, a kindly and very ugly witch.  In Italian folklore, Befana drops in at Italian homes on the eve of Epiphany and leaves presents: nice gifts for good children and coal (now black sweets) for naughty ones.

A popular rhyme goes:

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana
Viva, viva la Befana!

There was a nice vibe in Naples today.  Family groups promenaded together along Lungomare in the glorious sunshine, and street entertainers amused the children (both the good and the not so good).  A fitting last holiday before the year’s work starts tomorrow as ‘L’Epifania tutte le feste si porta via‘.