allied bombing, Arrigo Minerbi, beach, bronze doors, Cinque Terre, conch shell, Duomo in Milan, giant, Giant of Monterroso, God of the Sea, Gulliver, hiking, Il Gigante, Jewish ancestry, Jewish Italian, Monterosso, Neptune, Sampson, sculptor, sea, Seven Wonders.Hercules, trail, trident, Vernazza, Villa Pristine
If you found the giant in the photo on my previous post, here is a close up of him. Or, what’s left of him.
Arriving in Monterosso, the largest of the Cinque Terra towns, after hiking the trail from Vernazza, we walked out to the beach. Il Gigante caught my eye immediately with his huge hulking form riding the rocky outcrop. His leg and torso were knotted with muscle, looking like one of the Seven Wonders. I stood amazed and intrigued by his existence.
Is he Hercules? Sampson? Gulliver? Neither. He is Neptune, God of the Sea, sitting 45 feet high and weighing in at 1700 tons. Designed and fashioned out of concrete and iron in 1910 by Arrigo Minerbi, a Jewish Italian sculptor, Neptune holds the one-time dancing terrace of Villa Pristine on his shoulders. He became the symbol of the town in postcards of the era, decorating the seaward edge of the Villa while holding the waves at bay.
Minerbi, who is also known for creating the bronze doors on the Duomo in Milan, was forced into hiding in 1937 because of his Jewish ancestry. He survived and completed the doors after the war.
The Villa Pristine and Il Gigante suffered from allied bombing runs as well as being battered by the sea. As a result, Neptune is missing both arms, his trident, and a conch shell he held high above his head.
Supposedly a climber discovered treasure at the heels of the giant in 1982. Maybe so. Who can say for sure? However, a tale like this one deserves a rainbow and a pot, or heel, of gold at the end.