The Belly of Naples and Displaced Meanings, City-as-Body and City-as-Theatre in Commentaries on the Old Town Risanamento

Deconstructing the Stereotype of the Picturesque


  • Giuseppe Resta



This article considers the formation of stereotypical images associated with the picturesque of the South, analysing the case of Naples. The text examines selected urban images reported before and after the late-nineteenth-century Risanamento period of dramatic renovations of the old town, with a focus on city-as-body and city-as-theatre tropes. The inevitable departure is Il Ventre di Napoli (1884-1906, The belly of Naples) by Matilde Serao. We will see how Serao tackles all contradictions of a built environment teeming with life. We have then connected excerpts from foreign travellers, again before and after the Risanamento, to the pleasures (or sickness) of flesh and theatricality. These displaced meanings parallel many descriptions by writers that travelled to Naples: Charles Dickens and the pantomime, Jean-Paul Sartre’s delirium of flesh and rotten food, Benjamin and the city-

Author Biography

Giuseppe Resta

Giuseppe Resta is a PhD architect. He is assistant professor of Architecture at the Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. He is owner and curator of Antilia Gallery (IT) and co-founder of the architecture think tank PROFFERLO (IT-UK). Resta is a member of the board of directors of ICoRSA (IE). His research on architecture and the city is focused on the relationship between space and power, and on adaptive reuse via artistic practices. His latest monographic books are AB Chvoya: Architectural Bureau (2020) and Atlante di progetti per l’Albania: La città e il territorio nel primo Novecento (2019), both published by Libria. Resta joined the COST Action CA18126 Writing Urban Places for its multidisciplinary approach to urban narration. 


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