Brittany Napolitano

Name of the chosen cultural group: Naples/Neopolitans

Geographical Location (include maps): Southwest coast of Italy

Population (approximation if exact numbers are not available): about 2.7 million

Language(s): Standard Italian or Nnapulitano



List of representative people (these can be people who play important cultural roles, known politicians, famous artists, renowned scientists and intellectuals, religious leaders, etc.):  Three Popes, Al Capone, Sophia Loren, Giambattista Vico (philosopher)


List of literary and artistic works about your cultural group (fiction books, movies, cultural expressions such as dances and music, and representative works of art): the tarantella, comedic opera and folk music, multiple famous art museums, gangster movies are inspired by the Neapolitan lifestyle (“The Godfather” saga)


Brief history of the cultural group (you can write a short article separately or include this section in the Cultural Profile below):

Used to be known for its art, gastronomy (culinary customs or style), architecture, and culture

  • Originally founded by the Greeks in 2000 BC
  • Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 BC
  • Naples was added to the Spanish Empire in 1503
  • Naples was conquered by the Austrians
  • Museo di Capodimonte built in 1757
  • Revolution of 1820
    • Liberals involved in a secret society called the CARBONARI (“charcoal burners”) revolt and force King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies to grant a liberal constitutio

Cultural Profile:

  • Local Group: Naples, Italy
  • Population: Italy’s third largest city (2.7 million)
  • Negative Reputation: people from the wealthy, industrialized north—“Naples means political corruption, wasted federal subsidies, rampant organized crime, appallingly large families, and cunning, lazy people who prefer to do something shady rather that honest work” (article, 38); compared to NY line of thinking; quintessential Neapolitan trait: a compulsive urge to go against the rules—arrangiarsi (managing for oneself)
  • Religion: Roman Catholic (about 80%)
  • Government: Repubblica Italiana (republic)

Divided into 15 regions- Campania region is when Naples is

  • Chief of State: President Giorgio Napolitano
  • Flag Design: three vertical bands inspired by the French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797; colors are thoe of Milan combined with the green uniform color of the Milanese civic guard
  • National Anthem?): Il Canto degli Italiani (“The Song of the Italians”)
  • Economy: there is the developed industrial north, dominated by private companies, and a less-developed, highly subsidized, agricultural south, where unemployment is higher
  • FOOD
    • Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte: contains entire rooms devoted to Caravaggio, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Goya, El Greco, Michelangelo
    • Made-to-measure clothes

o   Pasta

  • Basic: pasta with legumes, tomato sauce
  • Elaborate: Bolognese sauce (minced carrot, onion, ground beef, tomatoes)

o   Cheese

  • Mozzarella, provolone, ricotta

o   Vegetables

  • Peppers, Zucchini, Eggplant

o    Seafood

  • Octopus/Squid
  • Mussels/Clams
  • Anchovies

o   PIZZA!

  • Margherita Pizza- colors of the Italian flag (basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce)


    • In the mid-16th century, the Spanish establish conservatories
      • Originally termed because they protected children, but later came to be music schools
    • Opera buffa originated here
      • Comic operas
        • “the Barber and Seville” and “The Marriage of Figaro”
  • Now mostly folk music
    • Mandolin



Communicational attitudes, behaviors, and practices:

  • Language: Italian  OR Neopolitan Language: in 2008, the Neopolitan language (Nnapulitano) was decreed a protected one by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization); grammatical differences- only 22 letters (no k, w, x, or y), ending of words are cut off, c and g sound similar, d sometimes becomes r; considered lazy/uneducated
  • Nonverbal Communication: Many Neapolitans prefer a more polished look, with tailored suits and silk dresses; Neopolitans use many hand gestures when speaking, and often speak in a raised (almost yelling) voice and a higher tone–paralanguage. Causal touching and being in a person’s personal and intimate space is not uncommon and is actually quite normal. Neapolitans are not uncomfortable speaking with people up close and loudly.
  • Cultural Contexts: Neapolitans are very assertive and stick up for what they believe. They’re not afraid to confront a person who is bothering them, and they know how to get ahead in their city. One Neapolitan interviewed by National Geographic said that “if you want to cross the street, follow an old person…cars only stop for old people”. Generally, they are very informal in their interactions, and they treat everyone they know like family.



For my ethnography, I conducted a participant observation at Sergio’s restaurant in Bridgewater, VA. From prior conversations, I knew that Sergio had immigrated from Naples, Italy to Virginia. After eating dinner at Sergio’s one night with my roommate, I asked him if I could come back and observe/ interview him. He was very excited at the idea, but he warned me that “he would put me to work” while I was there. A week later, I returned to help out with the Sunday lunch rush. Sergio said that the best way for me to observe me would be to help him and his staff cook meals. I agreed, and he taught me how to make pizza (DELICIOUS). As we were working, I was able to see how he interacted with not only the other Italians in the restaurant, but also the American workers. He treated them all the same; he was loud (but not mean), and he showed great leadership in the kitchen. He was also extremely patient when teaching me how to cook, and he was never too busy to assist me. He was attentive to all of his customers’ needs, and it seemed like he knew many of them on some kind of personal level. It was chaotic in the kitchen at times (there was a large crowd), but Sergio never lost his temper and made sure that everything ran smoothly. During the lunch service is when I interviewed Sergio; obviously, it was unstructured and very casual.

Sergio told me the story of how he came to America; his parents moved his family here when he was only 5 years old. They wanted a better life with more opportunities for their children, and Sergio thanks them for their courageous move. He says he is not able to compare what life was like in Italy compared to America, because he really doesn’t remember it much. He says that the main difference between his family and families in America is how close knit his Italian family is. Families are important in America, but they are much more important in Italy, he says. He states that in Italy, your business is everyone in your family’s business, too. He is Roman Catholic, which is consist with the official religion of Italy, and he attends church with his family every Sunday.

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