12 Mar 2018

Coffee, journalism and great women: The last wish for a woman sentenced to death? A cup of coffee!

Article by Michele Sergio published on L’Espresso Neapolitan of March 2018

In Naples, along the climb di Sant’Anna di Palazzo, there is a commemorative plaque of Eleonora Pimentel de Fonseca, post, where he lived, in 1999 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of his death.

La Fonseca was among the architects of the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, ephemeral (January-June 1799) but important democratic parenthesis during the Bourbon regime.

A Portuguese family, born in Rome, shortly after birth, her parents took her to Naples where they moved. Strengthened by a classical culture, literary and author of poems and compositions, she became librarian of Queen Maria Carolina, with whom she frequented the Neapolitan illuminists’ salons, initially supported by the same sovereign, then, later, by her unseen and contrasted. The link between the two women was strong, but it was interrupted drastically with the arrival, from France, of the news that made known the dramatic developments of the Revolution and in particular the death of his sister Marie Antoinette. At the same time de Fonseca had embraced the libertarian and democratic ideals and was among the protagonists of the movements that led to the institution of the Republic, of which the Monitore Napoletano, directed by her, became the real soul from the columns of the weekly magazine. Once the monarchy was restored, it was executed at the age of 47 along with other republicans.

To this extraordinary woman the writer Enzo Striano has dedicated the award-winning novel, “Il resto di niente” from 1986 which has been taken from the homonymous film directed in 2004 by the director Antonietta De Lillo.

La de Fonseca had a passion for coffee. It is said that as a child she observed with curiosity the Neapolitan coffee makers used by her mother and aunt, who was fascinated in the preparation of the drink.

Growing up the coffee became the excuse (next to biscuits, chocolate and tobacco) to entertain his guests at home and make friends, the same coffee around which the Neapolitan illuminists gathered in their living rooms.

During the months of the Neapolitan revolution, coffee accompanied daily feverish work in the editorial staff of Il monitore. It is said that during the creation of the first issue of the newspaper, the coffee break was the only moment in which Donna Lionora was able to reassure, to dilute doubts and fears about the impact that the newspaper and the ideas spread through it would have had on the Neapolitan people. Even the meetings with compatriots always took place in front of the hot cups of coffee, a true catalyst for socializing, ideas, thoughts.

The coffee will accompany the de Fonseca even in the dramatic day of his death. Before being executed, he met the priest to whom he expressed only one last wish: to drink a cup of coffee. Emblematic episode that confirms how the Neapolitan accompanies every moment of life with a coffee, even the last!