The "Don Marzio": the newspaper-bulletin of the Great War in Naples

by Francesco Li Volti

How did the Neapolitans get their information during the First World War? With the Don Marzio! The newspaper was founded in October 1860 by Luigi Pappalardo and owes its name to the evil and gossipy character created by Carlo Goldoni for his work "The Coffee Shop". Known for being one of the most famous Neapolitan newspapers between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some of the finest pens in circulation collaborated with it, from Enrico De Nicola, future first President of the Republic, up to Carlo Nazzaro.

From 1863, due to the sudden death of Pappalardo, the management passed to Raffaele Villari, who kept this alive until 1871 unicum southern. The newspaper had an output ten times a month, at a price of 7 cents: the subscription, on the other hand, cost 18 tarì for a year or 10 tarì for six months.

Il "Don Marzio": il giornale-bollettino della Grande Guerra a Napoli
Enrico De Nicola and Benedetto Croce

Don Marzio and his pens

Characters such as Raffaele Villari, Stefano Ribera, Michelangelo Bottri, Giuseppe Romeo Pavone, Placido Luca Trombetta (who took care of the images) contributed to the success of Don Marzio. But not only that, even men of the caliber of Enrico De Nicola, Giovanni Artieri and Carlo Nazzaro e Peppino Turco (1846-1903), author with Luigi Denza of the famous Funiculi Funicula, written in 1880 a Castellammare di Stabia or perhaps in the back room of the Ricordi di Music House Via Chiaia.

Turco's legacy was heavy: to his sudden death, during a banquet in Rome, Naples responded by playing his most famous song for a whole day, from the pianos of the whole city.

Subsequently to Turco, editor of "Don Marzio" was Roberto Pansini. Perpetually indebted, he proved to be an ingenious, broad-minded publisher. The legend is famous (but that would not seem so) according to which one day, warned of the imminent arrival of a bailiff, he hurriedly had the printing press bricked up in a closet, being that the only valuable asset and strictly necessary for survival of the newspaper.

Another episode that sees Pansini as its protagonist, was that on the occasion of the meeting with the Interior Minister, who, having received him in Rome, asked him for news about The ship by Gabriele D'Annunzio, which in those days was in Naples. Pansini, who was not interested in certain events, replied: "Your Excellency Excuse me but I don't deal with commercial matters". Well, but not great.

On the first issue, on the front page, a sort of editorial read:

"In the midst of so much waste of prints, and among so many soaked tongues that wriggle and flicker like the flames that invoke Bertramo in Roberto the devil, you my people will not want to give sweet eyes to a new cynical creature who in general redemption wants to invest in the name by Don Marzio? Do you people and my populace know who this Don Marzio is?

He is not yet forty years old: he has a large pan-shaped hat, and a nice pair of lenses with new glasses, which sharpen his eyesight and superbly pierce his wide-nosed nose. - The spirit gushes from his eyes, and perhaps even from his breeches, and there is everything in him: of the bourgeois, of the provincial, of the idiot, of the know-it-all, less than the dishonest and trivial!

With his little English frock coat he will be held here and there, he will ask everyone and everything to account. He will not make noose antechambers to the established or pre-established authorities, but he will sit cynically and coldly near their caskets, and their curved chairs… .. or not !!… ..

The fishmongers who insult you, the pastajuoli who steal the small people without anyone noticing them, the Fruttajuoli, theerbajoli, the pizzicagnoli, the bakers, the printers who do what they want, and what we do not want!“.

Il "Don Marzio": il giornale-bollettino della Grande Guerra a Napoli
The first page of the first issue of Don Marzio

Don Peppì hurry up!

The editorship of the newspaper therefore passed to the Vasquez, even if to deal with practically every facet of the newspaper was Giuseppe Rossi. He, during the First World War, had the merit of inventing a large billboard which, displayed on the balcony of the present piazza Sette Settembre, but which was then called Largo dello Spirito Santo, informed citizens about the war news. In short, a forerunner of teletext, Facebook and newsletters.

Rossi used to hang up the latest news from the front, so that every day the Neapolitans could gather and learn about the progress of the war. But, when the billboard was not yet posted, the people, from below, shouted loudly: "Don Peppì hurry up!". Incredible how much the Neapolitans were the precursors of rudiments of modern technologies.

Small curiosity: it was Giuseppe Rossi who compiled by hand the latest war bulletin, that of victory, dictated by none other than by Armando Diaz in person.

The end of an era

Eventually Don Marzio was taken over by Francesco Bufi (1887-1932), one of the most famous pens of Neapolitan journalism. First as a reporter for "The Morning", Then among the founders of"The South“, His irreverence was immediately seen badly by the Fascist regime. Having founded the biweekly on green paper 'O seje e vventidoje, kidnapped forty-five times by order of Mussolini, who also ordered his removal from the professional register in 1931, he did not have an easy life.

He could not keep any of his newspapers alive, so he decided to close forever.


Andrea Jelardi, Streets, characters and stories of Naples, from Posillipo to Toledo, Alfredo Guida EditoreNaples, 2007

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