Saturday, 12 May 2018


Over the past few weeks, Giovanni Visetti has published a series of blogs regarding Punta Campanella and although I have been living in this area for decades and have walked  there on many an occasion, I can sincerely say that I had never heard  of either of the events described.
Let's start in 1998 when during one of his walks  Giovanni found workmen erecting a 2 metre high metal fence, topped with barbed wire, as well as a heavy metal gate ready to bar all access to the final part of the promontory. The person seemingly in charge said that it was private property and that from now on nobody would be allowed to pass. Giovanni ignored him and marched on.
Thanks to his research into the local pathways for the project Tolomeo (where he marked and mapped over 100km of footpaths in the Sorrento peninsula), Giovanni knew for a fact that apart from  two areas to the side of the path which belonged to the Maritime authorities, the actual path was  municipal, and therefore public. 
On return from his walk, Giovanni immediately snapped into action, spreading the word about what he had seen, but even more importantly delivering  a letter to the local authorities the very next day denouncing the situation. Luckily it was taken seriously and the work was stopped.
This marked the beginning of a lengthy and very public legal battle  between the local authorities of Massa Lubrense and the Ministry of Defence and the Naval authorities who had intended auctioning off an area of 11,000 square metres with related buildings including the tower of Minerva. The scandal hit the press, not only local but also national and as the days passed, new associations joined the plethora of opponents as did personalities from the political and artistic world. Even when the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) ruled in favour of the local authorities at the end of 1998, it took another 5 years  for them to be able to assert their right of first refusal on the sale and buy the entire disputed area. Three more years passed  until  finally, in 2006, the contested area at long last became  part of the municipal heritage of Massa Lubrense and the spectre of a private cement ridden resort receded.

The second interesting fact dates further back and regards the lighthouse. Anyone who has walked as far as the tip of Punta Campanella will have seen that nowadays there is a metal pylon by the side of the tower with a light on top.
It was not always like this. As you can see from the photos, there was once a two storey building in front of the tower with the light on its roof. According to information supplied by the splendidly named "Command Zone of Lighthouses and Maritime Signalling of Naples", this light was first installed on the roof of an existing building during the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1848. Even more interesting is the fact that the whole structure was destroyed by an explosion probably on the morning of Wednesday 6th August 1969. I say "probably" because this is the date given by the Maritime authorities. However when Giovanni spoke to some of the older villagers there was some confusion as to the exact date and even year.    Likewise, nobody seems to know exactly how it happened. The official and probably more reliable version says that there was a fire which then caused the explosion,  others say  that it was hit by lightning or even that it was caused deliberately by the lighthouse keeper. 
For the years immediately following the destruction of the original structure, a temporary light was attached to  the tower. This was then replaced in 1972 by the pylon that we see today.
All interesting facts, some well documented and certain, others less so..

Links to Giovanni's Blogs "Mercoled√¨ 6 agosto" and "Spesso accade che la memoria inganna"
Black and white photos of the lighthouse from or Ludovico Mosca's Ludo Blog