Here is the Villa Donn’Anna, lapped by the Bay of Naples. It was built on or around a palace where Queen Joan I (1326–1382) reputedly had beautiful young fishermen brought to her boudoir for nights of medieval passions, then thrown from the window at dawn. Or perhaps it was Queen Joan II (1373–1435) who did this. Or, perhaps it was Anna Stigilano who inherited the villa in 1630. Or all three. Or none of them. Good story though. For centuries it loomed in ruins, the empty rooms occupied by squatters or fishermen, perhaps used by gentlefolk for less gentle purposes.
When I knew the villa it was because my first Italian teacher, Masa Lamberti, grew up there in a palatial apartment, strangely built with rooms inside rooms, vast oil paintings, ponderous Venetian chandeliers, Roman vases, marble busts, exquisite 18th C figures for Nativity scenes and high windows looking out to Vesuvius. In the grand salon a gilt picture frame encased the window, the most beautiful “painting” a mind could conceive. Once Maurizio and I spent a weekend with Masa when there was no water in our town.
The Villa Donn’Anna is visible from the palazzo of my book in progress, which is why it comes so vividly to mind. Also Masa, a marvelous teacher and sociable, generous friend who never did wrong to a fisherman.