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Translated by Jeff Matthews

More than half a century has passed since September 8, 1943, the day on which Neapolitans heard for the last time the heart-rending wail that preceded the opening of the gates to the underworld. Since then, a few air-raid sirens, now silent, have remained in place, clinging to the old walls in the hope that their mere presence might be a warning of the horrors of the past. But the careless people, no longer accustomed to raising their glances to the skies, no longer even notice them...” (Livio Valfus, “The drama of a cave dweller sentenced to live in a city where to deny the sun is heresy”. Naples, Edizioni Sotterranee, 1954, p. 127, cap. III "Caves and War”.)

A few days ago I was walking along--less distracted than usual--my same old street; when I got near the crossing between via S. Maria di Costantinopoli and Piazza Cavour, something within me told me to raise my eyes and look up. There, about ten meters up, on the corner of a building (all the better to sound its song), a strange device caught my attention. A metal mushroom, rusted by time, slyly perched, unnoticed.

Indeed, some 70 years have passed since the air-raid sirens told the people of Naples for the final time that the ancient grottoes beneath them (now transformed into modern shelters) had opened and still stood ready to the protect the children of the Cimmerians.

Since that time, they have been silent; even Parthenope no longer bewitches daring wanderers from distant shores—but nothing has changed. If the sirens of yesteryear anticipated disasters, their silence today is not due to some rekindled golden age but, more simply, to the oblivion and abandon to which this society consigns whatever recalls the errors and horrors of the past.

There follow images of two air-raid sirens, obtained thanks to a bit of searching - and not even really attentive searching - along the walls of the city (Piazza Cavour and the facade of the national museum on via S. Teresa). How many others are still hidden amongst the stones of this city. The hunt is on!

Some photos

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19 August 2019

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