Write Around the World with Richard E. Grant, Series 1, Episode 1: Southern Italy  35170

  • 00:00:00 “Common sense says that, when you’re going on holiday, don’t burden yourself with a bag of books. Pack a tablet instead, it’s light and you can read it in the dark. But I love the feel of page turning … give it a good sniff. So I’ve got a case for clothes and a bag for books …”
  • 00:02:30 Naples and My Brilliant Friend
    • 00:03:00 Touring Naples with Sophia Seymour
    • 00:04:00 Brief history of Naples
    • 00:05:00 Drinking gazosa (lemon / sulphur / bicarbonate of soda drink) at an acqua fresca stall in a market
    • 00:07:00 Background to My Brilliant Friend
    • 00:07:45 Visit to traditional market sign-painter
    • 00:09:15 In the isolated suburb Rione Luzzatti (not mentioned by name, but inferred in the book)
    • 00:10:30 Identity of the author
    • 00:11:00 Top of Maurizio Pagano’s flat to survey the view described in the book, over to Vesuvius
    • 00:13:00 Tunnel separating Rione Luzzatti from the rest of the world, featured on day when the two main characters skip school to go to the sea
  • 00:14:30 Dickens’ journey across Italy, including Naples in 1845
    • poverty
    • critique of Catholicism, including visit to the Cathedral
    • meets Amedeo Colella on 19 September, the day of the miracle of the blood of San Gennaro (Saint Januarius)
    • city’s taste for gambling; Amedeo and Richard visit gambling shop with Smorfia, a book in which dreams are translated into numbers to play in the lotto: “horse is 24 …”
  • 00:23:00 Food, including Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love
    • pizza, and San Marzano tomatoes
  • 00:26:00 World War II and Norman Lewis’s Naples ’44
    • 00:27:30 eruption of Vesuvius in 1944
  • 00:28:00 Climbs Vesuvius, as Dickens had done.
  • 00:30:30 Pompeii, and Robert Harris’s Pompeii, based on Pliny the Younger’s account.
    • Tour with Francesca Del Vecchio, starting in the forum; she is highly complimentary about Harris’s book
    • From Pliny: residents had no knowledge it was a volcano, they simply called it “the mountain”
    • 00:34:00 At aqueduct (novel is based around aqueduct engineer)
    • 00:36:00 One of the baths
    • 00:37:00 On scholarship and fiction in Harris – “it’s not boring!”
  • 00:38:00 Positano, the inspiration for Mongibello in The Talented Mr Ripley
    • Highsmith’s travels through Europe with girlfriend, sociologist Ellen Blumenthal Hill
    • Seeing model for Ripley from a window in her hotel room
    • Grant understands why Franco Zeffirelli had his summer residence in Positano: “only when his climbing steps days were over would he have to retreat back to his house in Rome”.
  • 00:45:00 Matera: European City of Culture in 2019, but known until the mid C20 as “The Shame of Italy”. Carlo Levi’s memoir Cristo si è fermato a Eboli was largely responsible for the change in perception.
    • Levi as a painter, and opponent of fascism and Mussolini
    • The Sassi caves
    • 00:49:00 Antonio Nicoletti explains the title; Eboli was a small town at the border of the region. Nicoletti’s father had lived in the Sassi. High infant mortality of the time. Very high number of old churches carved into the rocks, which were dwelt in during Levi’s time, with the frescos covered in dust and discovered 150+ churches during 1960s and 1970s. Now UNESCO world heritage site.
    • 00:53:00 Hotel Sextantio, hotel in a renovated cave dwelling
    • 00:55:00 Palazzo Lanfranchi, city’s art museum with Levi’s paintings, including Lucania ’61.

Topics covered by this tv

  1. Lucania ’61 (image) • 00:55:30 • Mariangela Caruso: "He knew their condition of poverty, their sorrow, their sense of pity ... a lot of soul". Also the strong community: take a tomato if you needed it. "The children were the children of everybody".
  2. Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (book) • 00:46:00 • Grant: Levi's "searing indictment of the way that local villagers had to endure the most appalling poverty".
  3. Withnail and I (film) • 00:44:00 • Bruce Robinson having based Uncle Monty on Franco Zeffirelli; Grant "perhaps in some strange roundabout way I have Positano to thank for my film career"
  4. The Talented Mr Ripley (story) • 00:14:30 • In Positano, Highsmith's inspiration for Mongibello in the novel
  5. Pompeii (story) • 00:30:30 • Grant: "A decadent world on the brink of destruction. It's a brilliant example of how fiction can transport you back in time emotionally and bring history to life".
  6. Naples ’44 (book) • 00:26:00 • Lewis's account of poverty but also of the humour, kindness and generosity of the people, and their will to survive; also 1944 eruption of Vesuvius
  7. Eat, Pray, Love (book) • 00:23:30 • Gilbert's search for pizza
  8. Pictures from Italy (book) • 00:14:30 • Dickens' visit to Naples and shock at the conditions of life there; critiques of traditional 'Grand Tour' narratives and Catholicism
  9. Pictures from Italy (book) • 00:29:00 • Dickens' account of climbing Vesuvius during an eruption
  10. L’amica geniale (story) • 00:02:45 • "What's so particularly fascinating about Ferrante's Naples is the visceral, warts and all portrait she paints of this intoxicating city."
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