where did nietzsche stay, where did brecht live and who discovered the blue grotto?

journalist and art historian dr. stefanie sonnentag wrote “walks through literary capri and naples”.

coming out of the hall, one steps onto a balcony, which presents the viewer with a splendid panorama of the entire island, just like an amphitheatre with all of naples opposite. norbert hadrawa gave the palazzo canale on capri its name at the end of the eighteenth century according to the typical pathos of the time. hadrawa was an austrian scholar of antiquities and secretary of the austrian embassy in naples. the exact address of the magnificent building: via lo palazzo 24 in marina grande. hadrawa accompanied ferdinand IV on quail hunts to capri. the state-owned, eye-catching stone edifice is also commonly known today as “palazzo inglese”, english palace.

a small but fine example from the gargantuan study-, the monumental work of a gmünd or, more precisely, a mutlang author. it derives from her “fourth walk”, entitled: “light from the depths of the sea”. this deals with the castiglione hill, marina grande and capri’s world-famous blue grotto. all this can be read up in the volume “walks through literary capri and naples” of the arche verlag (zurig-hamburg). it was compiled by dr. stefanie sonnentag.

a true treasure trove: for several years she undertook incredibly meticulous research in naples and on capri. the book is a treasure chest for all those who want to see naples and capri with eyes other than those with which the common tourist regards the world. it is one of those absolutely exquisite travel guides: written by someone who knows, appreciates and loves art and history, literature and naturally also the country and its people.

for this she pursued questions such as: who discovered capri’s famous blue grotto, and in which hotel did f. scott fitzgerald complete his novel “the great gatsby”? where did joseph beuys finish his “capri battery”? why did goethe, who was in naples twice, twice skirt around capri (it was the sea current)? where in naples did ingeborg bachman and hans werner henze live?

the reader discovers that the painter karl wilhelm diefenbach had his studio in via roma in marina grande. we see francesco spadaro in a photo at the beginning of the last century on the local piazzetta, making himself out as a fisherman, whose stately appearance served as a blueprint for pictures, postcards and photos. the man did so to feed his family. we discover where nietzsche, i.e. lawrence and frieda von richthofen lived on capri, what they did and created there. stefanie sonnentag even spent quite some hours in cemeteries in order to document which great spirits found their rest here following the perils of their existence.

on a motorbike through naples in summer, the author will present her work in the context of a book-reading in schwäbisch gmünd, on her next visit to her homeland, which is “always somehow present” in her new homeland, too. when she clatters through the narrow alleys of naples on her motorbike, thoughts of her home in swabian climes do come to mind at times. Mind you, it is also true today, as she confirms, that “i feel at home, when i drive through naples”.

perhaps her life then appears somewhat unreal. in the past, when she stepped onto the road, she had the swabian alp before her eyes. today she steps onto the balcony of via concordia in the mornings and sees the sun-flooded gulf of naples with the vesuvius behind it. and for years she looked onto capri “without ever having been there”. when she did finally visit the island, on whose rocky shores the small ship carrying the german prince of poets, goethe, once almost came to pieces, she quite suddenly realized that capri… is the island of writers. literature, reading, writing - and italy, all this has, ever since she was young, been just her cup of tea.

born in 1968 in schwäbisch gmünd, stefanie sonnentag grew up in mutlangen. having completed her school leaving exams at the parler-gymnasium, she undertook her first journalistic efforts as a free-lance collaborator with the rems newspaper. she began her studies (in art history, leading to her doctorate) in stuttgart and milan. through people, who she met in italy’s industrial metropolis, her connection to naples developed. and, in the south of italy in the 1990s, she then also began to work as a freelance journalist – for the ard, for radio stations (sdr and swr1), but also for travel magazines (merian, adac-reisespecials) or for sonntag aktuell.

no easy life, surely, but undoubtedly an interesting one. and, as may happen in such circumstances, dr. stefanie who – it is tempting to say “as one might expect” – is married to an italian gallery owner, came up with some rather original ideas. for a special feature on south italy, she transported a group of models in 50s dress to the sicilian hometown of fashion tsars dolce&gabbana. childhood travel companions told stories of times gone by thus shedding light on the surrounding countryside and its people. she has not forgotten the people and country of her childhood but says: “i can no longer live without the panorama of the gulf of naples.”

helmut bredl, rems-zeitung, 23. april 2003