June 1st, 2003

A Formal Feeling



I came to this mysterious island four years ago to take a close look at the place that shaped my Vittoria, thinking that if I could come to understand it then I might better understand her. Likewise the other day I went to Pozzuoli to see if I could discover what shaped Vittoria’s biological mother, Maria Marrella, the famous movie star.

Like Beverello in Naples, the area around Pozzuoli’s port is busy and noisy, jammed with traffic and crowds of people. Signs pointed the way to the Flavian Amphitheater, and the Roman Temple of Serapis.


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As I was taking photographs at the train station, a man carrying a red flag shouted, “Signore! Signore!” and hurried across the tracks.
“You are a journalist?” he asked.
“Yes.”
“I am sorry, but photography is not permitted here.”
“No? But I have come all the way from America just to see this train station. Perhaps in my case you will make an exception.”

Last year, I told the same story at the tomb of Vergil in Naples, to a guard who’d said it was closed. He laughed, and said “Va bene,” and what’s more he gave me a private guided tour.

“I am sorry,” the trainmaster said, “but no exceptions can be made.”
“Very well,” I said, and departed.

With some map-reading difficulty I finally found the entrance of the Serapis Temple. But a sign announced it was closed on Tuesdays. I headed for the Flavian Amphitheater. It, too, was closed. Bad luck, eh?

The Amphitheater was said to be the third largest in all of Italy, built by emperor Vespasian in the second half of the first century AD. It seated 40,000 citizens who cheered as hundreds of gladiators and all manner of beasts were slaughtered.

I took some pictures through the bars of the iron fence that surrounded the ancient structure.


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