Tips on Naples

STORIES OF NEW BEGINNINGS: the Rione Sanità District

An interview with Antonio Loffredo, Parish Priest in the Rione Sanità District and Director of the Catacombs of Naples since 2001 Intervista ad Antonio Loffredo, dal 2001 Parroco del Rione Sanità e Direttore delle Catacombe di Napoli


How was the Sanità District when you first arrived there?

«It was a desperate, hopeless situation. We could either let depression get to us or we could react. We chose to destroy this sense of inevitabil­ity that was surroundin­g everything and we tried to fight back what seemed to be unavoidabl­e: the spread of “camorra” and unemployme­nt».

You have created a collaborat­ive network that literally turned the district upside – down…

«We wouldn’t have gone too far if we hadn’t done this together. We imagined a brighter future, with the help of tourism developmen­t, since that can really make the area prosper. In the 1700s, Marie, last descendant of the House of Medici to own some goods in Florence, did not leave them to Casa Lorena, where they belonged, instead she gave them to the city. She did so for three reasons: to decorate the city, to help the citizens’ personal growth and for the foreigners. We used the same strategy to face that challenge».

How did you manage to transform this area and its people?

«I was helped by my role as a priest, an unpleasant one but that made me trustworth­y. I had the chance to work on their instructio­n. The Church has made its property available to young people. We gathered teens moving from the sidewalks to the cloister. I made them curious about the beauty that is all over, I took them around the world. This is how it all started, how their need for change arose. They have been ‘infected’».

You turned empty spaces into gathering places…

«Yes. Currently the Church serves as a theatre, a music school, and an after – school club. To us it doesn’t matter what the places look like, what counts is what they can create. Abandoned churches, catacombs, gardens… it’s all in these kids’ hands. This is how we raised funds from privates».

What is something a tourist can find in the Sanità district and not anywhere else?

«In his latest novel, “Nostalgia”, Ermanno Rea describes the Sanità district as two times Naples. The district has been isolated for two centuries: a bridge used to separate it from the city, making it a suburban area even though it is found right inside the city centre. This has brought to several social and economical issues, but it has also preserved the local dialect, its cookery, its humanity. The Sanità district is a pearl inside an oyster. It is hard to reach but what you’ll find here cannot be found in Naples anymore».


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Italy