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Vico San Liborio is a street in Naples where you can see a plaque placed on 31st October 2014, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the death of the great Neapolitan playwright Eduardo De Filippo. This plaque recalls Filumena Marturano, one of his most famous characters, protagonist of the homonymous play.
“Filumena Marturano” is one of the 56 comedies written by Eduardo De Filippo, actor and director who masterfully narrated the society of his time.
On 6th July 2019, a collective of artists of the “Miniera” association also made a mural near the plaque in via San Liborio. The plaque had been placed on the initiative of the radio program “La Radiazza” conducted by Gianni Simioli.
Eduardo wrote “Filumena Marturano” to pay homage to the talent of his sister Titina De Filippo, who had asked him to write a female character specifically for her.
Other talented actresses after Titina have played Filomena, such as Regina Bianchi and Mariangela Melato. However, the face chosen to be immortalized in the mural is that of Sophia Loren, who played Filumena Marturano in the film version of the play, entitled “Marriage Italian Style” and directed by Vittorio De Sica.
Eduardo De Filippo has repeatedly stressed that he was inspired by a real story, which happened precisely in Vico San Liborio, a few steps from Piazza Carità.
Some local witnesses say they remember the real Filumena, who was only 17 years old when she began to prostitute herself to help her penniless family get by.
Eduardo’s theatre is an universal one: this great playwright brilliantly managed in fact to bring on stage a range of human feelings valid in all eras and at all latitudes. Filumena Marturano is no exception: the comedy, written in 1946, still is the most represented abroad.
One of the main themes of Eduardo De Filippo’s theatre is undoubtedly the family: the relationship between husband and wife, between parents and children, the sense of loneliness, love.
Filumena Marturano is a woman who wants to redeem the human and economic misery she has experienced, trying all her life to form her new family. She is still a prostitute when she falls in love with Domenico Soriano, a wealthy Neapolitan shopkeeper, a pastry chef, with all the strengths and weaknesses of the bourgeoisie.
Despite a thirty-year relationship, in fact, Mr. Soriano never marries Filomena and keeps on dating other women.
Grown tired of this situation, Filumena makes Mr. Soriano believe that she is on her deathbed, therefore managing to convince him to marry her.
Vico San Liborio is mentioned three times during the play, when the housekeeper Rosalia talks about when she met Filomena: “In Vicolo San Liborio I met Donna Filomena, who, as a child, played with my three children. After twenty-one years, my children left since they were unable to find work. One went to Australia and two to America… and I have never heard from them again. I was alone: there was only me, along with Piedigrotta’s fly-swatters and hats.”
It is always Rosalia that talks about Vico San Liborio near the end of the comedy: “She made me bring 1000 lire and 50 candles to Our Lady of the Roses in Vico San Liborio.”
But the most important mention about Vico San Liborio appears in the most famous monologue of “Filumena Marturano”, which was also recited by Lisa Sastri for the Cantata delle Parole Chiare, the homage to Eduardo De Filippo which was held in the Italian Senate.
– I don’t have to say anything about myself! But about my life until I’ve turned 17, yes, I have to tell something. (Pause) Counselor, you know those bassi*… In those districts, in San Giovanniello, Vergini, Forcella, Tribunali, Pallonetto! Black, full of smoke… where in summer you can’t breathe because of the heat, because there are so many people, and in winter the cold makes your teeth chatter… Where there is no light even at noon… Full of people! Where it is better to be cold than to be hot… In one of those bassi, in Vicolo San Liborio, I lived with my family. How many were we? A crowd! I don’t know what happened to my family. I don’t want to know. I don’t remember! We were always angry, always mad at each other… We always went to sleep without saying: “Goodnight!”. We always woke up without saying, “Good morning!”. I only remember one word, which my father said to me… and when I remember it I still tremble… I was thirteen. He said to me: “You are growing up, and there is no food here, you know?” And the heat! … At night, when you closed the door, you couldn’t breathe. In the evening we would sit around the table… One large plate and I don’t know how many forks. Maybe it wasn’t true, but every time I put the fork on that plate, I felt observed. I thought I was stealing that food! … I was seventeen. The girls dressed well, with nice shoes, passed by and I looked at them … They passed arm in arm with their boyfriends. One evening I met a friend of mine, whom I almost did not recognize because she was so well dressed… Maybe, in those days, everything seemed more beautiful… She said to me “This … and that … and that …”. I didn’t sleep all night… And the heat… the heat… And then I met you! (Domenico winces) I met you there, do you remember? … That “house” looked like a palace to me… One evening I went back to Vico San Liborio, my heart was beating fast. I thought: “Maybe they won’t look me in the face, they’ll throw me out the door!” Nobody said anything to me: one offered me the chair, another one caressed me… And they looked at me as if I were superior to them, a person that inspires awe… Only mom, when I went to greet her, had eyes swollen with tears… I never returned to my home! (Almost screaming) I didn’t kill my kids! The family… the family! I’ve been thinking about it for twenty five years! (To the young men) And I raised you, I made you become men, I robbed him (Points Domenico) to raise all of you! –
*the bassi are small houses located on the ground floor, typical of the popular districts of Naples.