There are many myths and legends about Torre del Greco, a town between the Vesuvius National Park and the waters of the Gulf of Naples. In this fascinating and ancient city there are incredible narratives and very ancient beliefs about its red gold, the coral, whose art finds its origins in a legendary love story. The very name of the city comes from a mysterious event halfway between history and legend.
The origins of the name Torre del Greco
There are many hypotheses formulated about the mysterious origins of the name of the city of Torre del Greco. Its ancient name seems to come from Turris Octava, Eighth Tower, since the town had developed in ancient times around a huge and majestic tower, built by Frederick II Duke of Swabia in order to sight the Saracens, his feared enemies, before they could launch their attack.
Starting from Naples, this construction was supposed to be the eighth defensive tower but according to another hypothesis, eighth was to indicate the fact that the tower was eight miles away from the Neapolitan city.
According to the historical reconstruction of Francesco Balzano, the name of Torre del Greco, instead, derives from a precious gift given by a hermit to Queen Giovanna. According to this story, the unknown traveler brought to the queen a particular grape of Greek origin, from which was produced a wine so sweet and particular to make this city the producer of excellence of a fantastic Greek wine.
However this remained a simple belief as it seems the production of the particular wine of Torre del Greco was older than the Angevin era and therefore it was not responsible for the origins of the name of the city, however we do not know the connection between the name Torre del Greco and the wine produced.
The red gold of Torre del Greco
Torre del Greco has always been famous all over the world for the production of a very singular material: coral. This, for its characteristics has fascinated man since ancient times, giving rise to very special beliefs, myths and legends. Its very definition has created doubts in the minds of our ancestors who, despite knowing well the marine origin of the coral, did not know how to classify it.
Its appearance was reminiscent of a plant but its hardness was typical of a mineral and being the home of tiny filter-feeding polyps, also included an animal meaning.
For its beauty, it was appreciated by women of all ages who wanted to wear jewelry and artifacts produced from this precious material obtained from the seabed.
The oldest beliefs about coral date back to the time of the first civilizations that attributed to this material magical powers. Testimony of this are the presence of objects or pieces of raw coral in the burial structures. Even in Egypt, the ancient civilization used coral to build scarabs and protective amulets, then found in the pharaonic pyramids. The Romans, however, as well as the Greeks, gave the coral therapeutic and healing powers.
The legend of Medusa
The oldest legend, told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses deals precisely with the origins of coral. It is said that this precious material was formed from the blood of one of the three Gorgons, Medusa. The three monsters of Greek mythology, had the power to petrify anyone they met. Of the three, Medusa was the only mortal and was, in fact, killed by Perseus. When the hero decapitated her by cutting off her head crowned with countless snakes, the drops of her red blood, gushing from the wound, fell into the sea and rested on some seaweed which was thus petrified, turning into coral.
The birth of the art of Coral
The bright red color of the coral is also a symbol of passion and love, so on the origins of its processing could not fail to give rise to a romantic story mixed with a love legend. The popular tradition of Torre del Greco, attributed to the bourgeois native of Genoa, Paolo Bartolomeo Martin, the birth of the art of working coral.
Bartolomeo, an entrepreneur with a great talent in working coral cameos, came to Torre del Greco in search of fortune after leaving Marseille following the crisis caused by the French Revolution. One day, absorbed in buying and selling coral at the port, he met the gaze of a girl who was the sister of a local fisherman. Enlightened by the rays of the sun and the magic of red coral, the woman immediately made the young entrepreneur lose his head and, madly in love with her, he moved to Torre del Greco where he undertook the art of working coral, earlier simply fished by the people of the town.