Peppeniello and Me

“My existence has always been an oxymoronic symphony, a dance of unresolved contradictions.

If I were to pause and gaze with the curiosity of an amused observer, I would discover the manifold facets of my life.

I would begin by reflecting on the image of Peppeniello, a son of a wayward family afflicted by poverty.

 Do you know how many times I shouted my daring theory of double-step pizzas to Peppeniello!

With unsatisfied desire, I would tell him, panting and obviously paraphrasing, ‘Peppeniello, those pizzas pass in two!’ I wondered if such a rare and delectable opportunity could ever suddenly appear in my life. But in the meantime, I placed the order.

And the pizzas?

How many arrived and how many did we savor?

In the end, that pizzeria order never arrived, transforming into an eternal call for those still experiencing hunger.

But who is Peppeniello really?

Only a Neapolitan soul could truly unveil the hidden meaning of what Peppeniello did or, even better, couldn’t do. Peppeniello is an eternal hungry one. And I am sure that there is a Peppeniello in each of us.

There is a destitution that concerns us all. I too am hungry.

However, inaction and persistence in fasting, one day finally, pushed me to move. Something was calling me, becoming irresistible. Between the desire to be like Mattia Pascal and the preference for Don Quixote over Hamlet, I finally turned my gaze to the windmills.

These fascinating illusion fans began to exert a more powerful attraction than a skull between the fingers of a solitary thinker, closed in a secluded room. I changed course, lightening my step, freeing myself from my past life.

But how did it happen? An epiphany tore through my reality. It was a book. Again.

An insert from the Corriere della Sera lay on a shelf in the Bar del Sole in Praiano, right in front of Li Galli, the island of the sirens. Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligia intoned a secret harmony among the waves caressing the pages of the paper, a call for those who listen with their souls.

Amidst the freshness of lemon granita, the interval of intermittent headaches after each icy sip, and the chatter of American tourists busy drinking Campari Spritz, the whispered words of those ‘feathered virgins’ of water reached me, intertwining with the title on the white, orange, and black cover.

 ‘Ulysses, The Journey of Reason.’ The glance at that writing was like sipping tea with Proust’s madeleines and instantly recovering all my lost time. Indeed, a sensory arousal was created. Those three words resonated as: adventure, discovery, wisdom. In this sudden emergence, hidden truths surfaced, and the yet un-lived past returned intact. What was Parthenope trying to communicate to me?

 What did the Sirens want to convey? Perhaps my end, the end of my aspirations, or perhaps comfort for things left unfinished?

It is said that faced with these words sung by the Sirens, Odysseus tried to loosen the bonds that held him. But instead, what was holding me back? What continued to grasp me in my hands? *

The powerful voices, trapped in this necessary narrative disguised by chance, urged me towards a bold step. Homer and Dante, in a timeless dialogue, challenged each other to solve an enigma that had remained unresolved for centuries: the Song of the Sirens. For many, this is still an open question. The song of the sirens, a spell reserved only for Odysseus, the only one who did not allow himself to be swallowed by the melodic abyss, the only one who tasted its sweet poison.

What did the melody of the Sirens truly convey? What did those notes whisper in Odysseus’s ears?

Was it that music that triggered the mad flight, the journey that followed, and that not even Dante, recounting it in his ‘’Commedia’’, fully understood, while simultaneously condemning it? But I know what the Sirens said.

 And was Dante’s, truly a condemnation to Hell? Or did it only condemn the imprudence of Odysseus and not his purpose? ‘To know more’ – this was Odysseus’s ardent desire. A call to omniscience. Dante was Odysseus.

The temptation to know everything. I know what the Sirens said. This is the great secret.


Homer already knew it. An invitation to go beyond known boundaries, to embrace the unknown.

Courage is beauty.

Beauty manifests in the daring of action, a deep courage that wells up from the depths of the soul. Satisfying this desire could have severed family ties, distanced from the social and civil world, even lead Odysseus to death itself.

It was an audacity so excessive that Homer’s ancient wisdom disapproved. It was exactly what the hero had to avoid, a call not to interrupt the return home, the ‘nostos’. But the Hero’s Journey sometimes implies a different return: A return towards the future, passing through the past that was not lived.

Many souls have their ears sealed and blocked not by wax, but by earthly obstacles and affections. This is our challenge, the intricate knot to untie. The call of the Sirens is an invitation to liberation, an incitement to overcome the obstacles that hold us back, including the heaviness of guilt.

This guilt, generated by social norms, cultural values, personal expectations, and even individual consciousness, represents an intrinsic and universal element of the human experience.

To Odysseus, bound to the mast of his small ship, this liberating song revealed the truth of the soul.

Despite Homer’s assumption of his return to Ithaca, and the gods coming to his aid to save him from the Sirens, Odysseus crossed the West to the furthest edges. In his absence, as Ernst Jünger reflects, the West would not have had the same existence.

On the terrace of the Bar del Sole, I see Li Galli emerging from the blue. Leucosia, Parthenope, and Ligea now live on the shores of my imagination. Here, on earth, a faint whisper of that music captures me, soul and mind, with new words: ‘Liberate yourself. That inner self holds your destiny in its hands. Be authentic, reveal who you want to be.’ These clear words led me to reflect. I realized that I had long lived under unjustified guilt, imprisoned by the custody of my being which is also my jailer. Iamblichus, a Neoplatonic philosopher, recounts that Pythagoras would have his students listen to the song of the Sirens in the evening to purify them. This gave them a peaceful and sometimes prophetic sleep, freeing them from the worries of the day. I needed to purify myself. Just like everyone. But which prophet was Plutarch referring to? Within each of us, alongside the sense of guilt, dwells an inner prophet, a secret voice that acts as a companion on our soul’s journey. This silent companion requires no invocation, it is always present, illumining ing the path to be taken. It uses different means to communicate, sometimes harnessing our talent, other times using pain as an instrument of awakening. In any case, its intent is to bring us back to awareness. Let me guide you in a reflection: the call of the Sirens fits into this context as one of the various forms in which this inner voice, this guide, manifests. The Sirens, with their enchanting melody, can be interpreted as messengers of the Daimon, announcing the presence and influence of this deep voice. Just as the ancient Sirens attracted sailors with their song, so does the Daimon sing through the nuances of our experience, inviting us to discover and follow the unique path that belongs to us.

Do you want more clarity on the Daimon? As a natural outcome of the human experience, each of us feels an inner call to a unique path. According to the philosopher James Hillman, it is an internal annunciation: having a clear understanding of what we should do, seek, and who we are meant to become. The Daimon is like an internal map, a beacon that illuminates our unique path. That “who I am” was written in that book. My Daimon took the form of Parthenope. And Parthenope gave me a clear message: Seek the second day. There is no longer a need to flee, nor to nurture fears. The voice was whispering: “Seek the second day.” But what does this “second day” represent? When does it come? I turned again to my timeless friends, the philosophers and literati. In the end, I gained understanding. In the world according to Platonic philosophy, everything converges towards the creation of beauty. Living in a universe imbued with aesthetics, it is the aesthetic response that allows us to adapt best to this reality. The search for the “second day” becomes a tangible symbol of the search for the beauty of Aphrodite. Here, beauty takes on the Platonic meaning of authentic harmony, the serene and genuine manifestation of every aspect of the universe. The key to everything lies in authenticity: Discovering our role in the world, embracing our uniqueness, and welcoming every element in its original form and context, with grace and belonging.

To achieve this state, it is essential to have the courage to listen to the voice of the Daimon. Aphrodite constantly keeps an eye on Eros. For this divine union to be realized, it is essential to have the courage to dare. Now I know what Parthenope said to Odysseus. I am aware of the sirens’ enchantment. Odysseus did not rush his journey, nor did he await riches from Ithaca. Instead, he recognized the gift of adventure that had been granted to him. Odysseus, setting out from the Pillars of Hercules, reached the Moon and even today steadfastly treads his path. This ancient archetype, painted in the poetic cave of the mind, persists in its role as an eternal guide, living in every traveler, keeping their journey alive. Odysseus is journeying with each of us. I know what the Sirens said. The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes, or the fury of Neptune, I no longer fear, like Odysseus: “I set out for the open sea.” I dared, and in that flight, I truly flew.