Paolo Sorrentino’s Naples: The People and Places of “The Hand of God”

“The Hand of God” is packed with beautiful and surreal scenes of Naples. Learn about the locations, people, and cultural references in Sorrentino’s Neapolitan masterpiece.

Procida: Italian Capital of Culture 2022

Marina Corricella Procida

Procida is the Italian Capital of Culture for 2022.

The small island in the Bay of Naples beat 10 other candidate cities — Ancona, Bari, Cerveteri, L’Aquila, Pieve di Soligo (Treviso), Taranto, Trapani, Verbania, Lake Maggiore, and Volterra — for the designation.

“The patrimonial and landscape dimension of the place is extraordinary.,” said Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini when announcing Procida as the Italian Capital of Culture 2022 on 18 January 2021. “The project could represent a model for sustainable projects and cultural development of the island and coastal realities of the country.”

Here is the video that Procida boosters submitted for consideration:

An island city with a population of approximately 10,000, Procida is located in Campania, a short ferry ride from Naples. It is, along with Capri and Ischia, one of the Flegrean Islands.

Pastel and pastoral, the island is defined by its calm marinas and quiet beaches.

Boats in a marina in Procida
Boats in Marina Corricella in Procida © Melanie Renzulli

Il Postino, the beloved 1994 film that mingled the poetry of Pablo Neruda with a tender love story, was filmed in Pozzo Vecchio in the wide cove now known as Spiaggia del Postino. “The project is also capable of transmitting a poetic message,” said Franceschini, alluding to the film. “A vision of culture that extends from the small reality of the island as a wish for all of us, to the country in the months that await us.”

Spiaggia del Postino | Photo by Melanie Renzulli
Spiaggia del Postino © Melanie Renzulli

Italian Capital of Culture designations began in 2014. This year, once again, the Ps have it.

Procida follows Parma, which held the title of Italian Capital of Culture in 2020 and 2021, an extended tenure owing to the disruption of the pandemic. Palermo was the “capital” in 2018, and Pistoia before that.

There was no Italian Capital of Culture in 2019, as Matera, Basilicata, held the title of European Capital of Culture that year.

The Italian Cultural Ministry has already announced that Brescia and Bergamo, two Lombardy towns that were hard hit by COVID-19, will be the dual Italian Capitals of Culture for 2023.

Pino Daniele, Soul of Naples

Si ‘mmuore solo quanno ‘o munno nun s’aricorda più di te. Se no, ci si allontana solo fisicamente.

“You die only when the world doesn’t remember you anymore…otherwise you only move away physically.”

This quote — partly in Neapolitan and partly in Italian — appears in a video tribute to Pino Daniele, the legendary singer from Naples who passed away on 4 January 2015.

Pino Daniele was the soul of Naples, featuring the ancient city in his lyrics and singing often with his sweet, distinctive voice in the Neapolitan dialect.

The young man in the beginning of the video above explains that Pino Daniele didn’t die because he will never be forgotten. He became a part of the fabric of Naples, as sure as the sun, sea, Mt. Vesuvius, and the islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida.

Nun è muorto Pino Daniele…E’ comme si dimane me ne esco e dico che a Napoli è muorto ‘o sole, o è muorto ‘o mare, ‘o Vesuvio. Capri. Ischia. Procida. Guagliò…. si ‘mmuore solo quanno ‘o munno nun s’aricorda più di te. Se no, ci si allontana solo fisicamente.


Daniele’s signature song — Napule è —was sung in many tributes to Daniele when he died, including by thousands of fans at Piazza del Plebiscito and in Stadio San Paolo.

This song will always give me chills.

Here is yet another video of Napule è with the original audio and lyrics in Neapolitan and Italian. I can’t think of another song — other than Frank Sinatra’s New York New York — that so connects an artist to a place as firmly.

Naples Says Goodbye to Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona SSC Napoli

When the news broke that Diego Maradona had passed away, my thoughts turned to Naples, a city now in mourning. Fans gathered outside Stadio San Paolo on Wednesday night to pay their respects and SSC Napoli, Maradona’s former squad, turned their logo black.

“Everyone is waiting for our words,” said the official statement from Napoli. “But what words can we use for the pain we are experiencing? Now is a moment for tears. Then there will be a time for words.”

The official Twitter account of SSC Napoli was more succinct. “Ho visto Maradona” – I saw Maradona.

The mayor of Naples has now decreed that the city will rename the stadium in Maradona’s honor. Corriere della Sera captured the initial reactions at San Paolo:

Meanwhile, Italy’s main sporting newspapers – Corriere dello Sport and Gazzetto dello Sport – paid tribute to the “Il Più Grande dei Tutti” (The Greatest of All Time) on their front pages:

Maradona died young, at age 60, on 25 November 2020 after a wild and often troubled life. But he meant the world to the city of Naples, where he guided local team Napoli to two Serie A championships during his tenure there between 1984 and 1991. His success at Napoli elevated him to god-like status in a city and a region (Italy’s south) that was desperate for a hero.

Native Neapolitan and current Napoli player wrote a moving tribute to Maradona:

From the first day you arrived in our beloved Naples, you became a true Neapolitan.
You gave everything for your people, you defended this land, you loved it. You gave us joy, smiles, trophies, love.
I grew up hearing my family’s tales of your exploits, seeing and reviewing your endless games. You were the greatest player in history, you were our Diego.
I was lucky enough to meet you, talk to you, know you and I don’t deny that my legs were shaking.
For me you have always had beautiful words, words of comfort that I will never be able to forget and that I will keep forever within me.
As a fan, as a Neapolitan, as a football player: Thanks for everything D10S.
We will always love you.

Lorenzo Insigne on Instagram

Even after more than 30 years since playing his last match for SSC Napoli, the Argentine footballer was still revered in the city as a beloved adopted son and as a god, or “D10s” a single word that is a clever hybrid of Spanish and Maradona’s jersey number. Italians also called him “il Pibe” short for “pibe de oro,” which means Golden Boy in Spanish.

Naples in a nutshell – Maradona as “D10S” on the door of a friggitoria (fried food snack bar) / Photo Melanie Renzulli

Every neighborhood in Naples has a shrine to Maradona. Some are small and earnest while others are larger than life – just like Diego.

The most famous murals of Maradona are the “Murales Maradona” in the Quartiere Spagnoli, which was painted in 1990, and the more recent (2017) large-scale painting of Maradona by Jorit, which dominates the side of an apartment block in the San Giovanni a Teduccio neighborhood.

Finally, an in memoriam about Maradona wouldn’t be complete without the following video. This famous footage of Maradona warming up before Napoli’s 1989 UEFA Cup semi-final against Bayern-Munich is the perfect distillation of the myth of Maradona, a combination of supernatural football talent and an outsized personality. He was an original.

Featured photo via SSC Napoli

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