'O pazzariello, the Neapolitan ancestor of street advertising

by Chiara Sarracino

In Naples, until the 1950s, it was still possible to meet one of the loudest popular figures in the tradition. The pazzariello he was in fact a gentleman with a chevron uniform and an eighteenth-century admiral's hat, a brightly colored scarf or tie, a stick with a brass knob. He was usually surrounded by a huge group of urchins who made fun of him, pulled his clothes and teased him.

Around him, usually, there was a popular band with bass drum, trumpets and other musical instruments assorted that did more noise what else. "Accurrite, accurrite! Drink, drink!“, And then a show was started in which the pazzariello poured wine or gave food to the bystanders.

Here is the forerunner of the moderns commercials. In fact, his role was precisely that of announce the opening of some new store.

For fans of Totò, surely the scene from the film will have come to mind "The Gold of Naples", by Vittorio De Sica.

Totò pazzariello
Totò pazzariello in the film the gold of Naples

Let's discover the pazzariello

The figure of the Neapolitan pazzariello is one of thoseand typical of city folklore who had to give way to modernity alone in the 60s, with the globalization of the customs of the Western world which, in many ways, have rendered their figures are ancient and ridiculous. Today, however, probably they would drive tourists crazy, who often look for these in Naples characters outside the lines. Yet, thinking about it, it is perhaps a good thing not to have ended up all the popular figures of our history in that one stereotype blender which is mass tourism.

What is certain is that the pazzariello was to all intents and purposes a professional in the entertainment world, but their theater was the city: they stared a daily price to mess with your gang in front of the shop, attracting the attention of passers-by.

The most famous were the pazzarielli of Pendino. One of these remembers him with great affection Renato Benedetto, a journalist born in 1902 near Piazza Borsa, who is described in an article from 1975: he was a man much envied by his neighbors because he worked every day. Lived in a warehouse of the Port, in those areas of Naples not touched by Remediation, and his life was led in a misery less tragic than that of others, who often managed to make the most of their days. Every morning, finally, he wore his pompous and colorful mock officer's uniform and he walked through his neighborhood, clashing with the gray poverty atmosphere of the rest of the neighborhood.

His children, in the myth of the father, by day they made paper hats and, covering himself with brightly colored rags, wandered through the streets of the neighborhood imitating him. There band, instead of using musical instruments, it made a colossal clatter with pots, ladles, and iron pipes. But that was enough to make them happy.

Pazzariello
A pazzariello in the 1950s

Let's not underestimate the difficulty!

Actually the pazzariello profession was very difficult: in addition to a joy contagious that, with the noisy ways of doing things, had to involve the people, it also had to be continuously creative in improvising ever new shows. He was not in fact a character characterized by vulgarity, like many of the Neapolitan carnival for example, but he was appreciated for his own fantasy: had to compose nursery rhymes, refrains, jokes and different jokes every day, because often his audience was always that of the neighborhood and, clearly, he was bored seeing the same show.

At the same time, in the chaotic noise of the band, announced the opening of this or that shop or a new tavern which, to attract new customers, offered free food and drink. Other times the best Neapolitan pazzarielli were even hired for village festivals, since many had such a fond public who also followed them in their performances outside Naples, as real vip on tour.

However, times pass quickly and, seen with today's eyes, this form of advertising from the past can now appear to us naive and outside the modern world, which sees in advertising banners and in promotions on Instagram the future. The covid then ended the life of thelast Neapolitan pazzariello still alive, Mr. Pasquale Terracciano.
Yet, in that Vico Pazzariello which is located behind Largo Banchi Nuovi, the name survives an ancient trade of the people that still today knows how to tear us away a smile.

-Chiara Sarracino

o pazzariello

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1 Comment

Antonino Lauro 3 June 2021 - 14:02

When I was studying at the Orientale I often saw a gentleman dressed as a Pazzariello coming out of the alley of the same name with a small court of kids. He had reduced himself to asking passers-by for change because his function as a "living banner" was now exhausted.

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