By Angelica Perrotta and translated by Jack Davidson Walmsley
Naples is a city steeped in history, but also myths and legends regarding spirits and ghosts.
Each and every corner of the city has its own story to tell, but it is in the historic centre, the largest in Europe, that many tales have come to life over the centuries and still survive to this very day.
Among these alleyways you will find a very fascinating one named after La bella ‘Mbriana (The Beautiful ‘Mbriana).
According to Neapolitan folklore, La Bella ‘Mbriana, is a good ghost until you upset her.
The spirit of ‘Mbriana is an unidentified figure that quickly disappears when observed and apparently visits people’s houses only during the hottest hours of the day and hides in between curtain folds, blowing in the wind.
She is believed to resemble a gecko, regarded as a kind guardian of every household and it’s inhabitants, keen on tidiness, cleanliness, kindness and hospitality; But her appearance is so fuzzy that no one can see her clearly.
However, she can be very nasty and punish those who offend her, not tolerating grime, clutter and those who complain about their homes.
It is even said that she absolutely cannot bear renovations and that, if she hears about them or sees any work being done, in revenge she might even cause the death of a family member.
It was once custom to greet the Bella ‘Mbriana when entering and leaving any household, to make her feel welcome and appreciated and to not enrage her, for fear of the consequences.
Due to her short temper, there was never any talk indoors regarding relocation and a chair was always left free for her at the table so that she could sit and rest at any time.
But who was the Bella ‘Mbriana?
The legend perhaps originates from the story of a beautiful girl, some say even a princess, who was abandoned before her wedding and who, driven mad by grief at the loss of her beloved, began to wander aimlessly, in despair, through the streets of the city, wearing her white dress.
At one point she would slip into houses, many say to see what family life could have been like for her.
The Neapolitan people, who were always hospitable and ready to come to the aid of the needy, welcomed her into their homes, giving her refreshment and nourishment and letting her rest.
It seems that the girl’s father, according to some, a king, had her followed secretly and, grateful for the welcome given to his daughter, sent gifts to the houses where she had been hosted to show his gratitude.
Overtime, somehow, the myth regarding the girl shaped into a gecko, which is why it is believed that when one is seen in the house, it should not be chased away, because it brings good luck.
The origin of the name
The name may have originated from the term meridiana, due to the characteristic of the spirit to appear during the sunniest hours of the day. Others attribute its origin to the term mariana, a shadow under which it is possible to find shelter.
The first written traces of the story of the Bella ‘Mbriana date back to the Baroque era, by the writer Giambattista Basile, who mentions her in one of his stories.
The Neapolitans know that some stories are rather far-fetched or fictional, but in a city where spirits, ghosts and phantoms are everywhere, the charm remains intact over time and, even if with a certain amount of scepticism, “secretly”, almost everyone still believes it a little.
Benvenuti a Napoli e buona visita!
Angelica Perrotta: Molto curiosa, amante degli animali ed appassionata di viaggi. Cerco di coniugare pregresse esperienze con recenti passioni: Laurea in Lingue e Letterature Straniere, lunga esperienza nel settore alberghiero ed una recente passione per il Digital Marketing.
Il mio motto è “Always on the move”.