Wasting Away Again in Elena Ferranteville
No force on earth could stop me from going to "the neighborhood"
This post is free. Please support if you are able so I can keep most of my newsletter free.
I wish I could think of a more basic bitch activity than visiting Naples and going to “the neighborhood” but I just can’t. By the way, if you haven’t read the Neapolitan Quartet or at least seen the HBO show don’t read this because there are no explainers.
I thought it would be hard to figure out, but a florid piece in the Guardian, published pre-pandemic and as this area was emerging as a destination for Ferrante lunatics, told me everything I needed to know about getting to Lenu and Lila’s stomping grounds. I exited the train station, went left then left again and found myself going through THE TUNNEL.
Could it really be this easy to experience so much pleasure?
Are you shitting yourself that that is THE TUNNEL and it’s REAL? Well imagine what it was like for me to walk through it! It really is long. For a child it would take on sinister qualities.
I passed a physical therapy office, an auto parts store, and a gas station, then made a right. There, like Everest itself, were the apartments where Lenu and Lila lived. I counted the stories: ONE TWO THREE FOUR. JUST LIKE IN THE BOOK.
The courtyards were impossible to access. The spaces between the apartment buildings are now gated and locked and residents park there, so not as much room for playing dolls, very sad.
I saw not a single soul save an old woman smoking in a window, surveying her hanging laundry, which is funny, because the florid Guardian article promised those vampiric enough to make this pilgrimage would see exactly this.
Here is the church where the girls had their first communion, and where Lila and Stefano Carracci got married, right behind that same block of apartments.
The words carved there translate to “you are the keeper of my mistress’ house.” I thought about all the times women in the books grew enraged at the amount of housework they had to do.
After making one square, I walked through a small commercial area which resembled a strip of stores in a quiet American town. There were two pizzerias, a barbershop, a few bakeries and a grocery that sold meat, cheese, and exciting Italian canned goods. A young man with thick dark hair smiled at me from behind the register as I passed. Now that Covid restrictions are lifting and travel will increase, how many people like me will descend on the neighborhood, look at this young man and think “HOLY SHIT STEFANO is REAL!” Think of all the people, drunk on lunchtime Aglianico, who will actually yell this.
That was it. I wanted to be fast and unseen. As I left the neighborhood I photographed the towers built on the land where the ponds used to be.
In the foreground you see a billboard ad for a weight loss doctor. I saw these exact ads all over Naples. Readers say the Neapolitan Quartet is about motherhood, writing, feminism, sex, revolution, capitalism/how pretty ponds always get replaced with ugly towers and people/relationships suffer as a result of this process, etc. The billboard reminded me of the books’ one true theme: a woman whose best friend is much thinner than she is struggles to love her anyway.