Some landowners in Italy claim that they pay nearly sixty per cent. of their income in taxes to the Government. An American who owns property in Italy states that he pays on the assessed income from a few acres of land forty-two per cent.; on the assessed rent of his house over twenty-three per cent.; and there is no limit of estate, real or personal, below which taxation is not applied. One bad result of this excessive burden is the enormous emigration from Italy; and another, equally disastrous to the welfare of the country, is the immense area of farm land which is confiscated by the Government for unpaid taxes, and can neither be sold nor cultivated.
Interior Of The Royal Palace, Naples.
In viewing the splendor of the Royal Palace in Naples, which presents such a striking contrast to the misery of the people, one naturally asks, "Is the King popular with his subjects?" Undoubtedly. If things go wrong, the blame is laid not upon him, but on his ministers; and, while he is admired everywhere in Italy, in Naples he is adored. The Neapolitans, poor and wretched though they are, know that the King at least is thoroughly devoted to their welfare. They can never forget his conduct at the outbreak of the cholera in 1884. He was in his bed, at Rome, ill with fever, when he was awakened at midnight by a dispatch informing him that cholera had begun to rage with violence in Naples. He rose at once, despite the protests of his doctor, ordered a special train and in two hours was on his way to the plague-stricken city. He had expected to go next day to Monza, where a magnificent reception was awaiting him; but he telegraphed to the authorities there: "Banquet at Monza; cholera at Naples; I am going to Naples. If you don't see me again, good-by." "When I read a copy of that telegram," said a Neapolitan to me, " I shed tears like a child; and I pray God, if any anarchist ever throws dynamite at my King, that I may be there to receive the blow and give my life for him".
On reaching Naples, King Humbert found only the common people at the station to receive him. The rich, the aristocracy, and even most of the officials had fled. The King, however, did not care for that. It was the people he had come to save. For weeks he worked incessantly to check the plague and to relieve the sufferers; he entered the hospitals, took the hands of the sick and dying in his own, and by his example shamed others into duty. After a week, one of his ministers said to him: "Your Majesty, there were three thousand, four hundred cases yesterday. This is getting to be alarming. Ought you not to return to Rome?" "You may go if you like," replied the King, "I shall remain till I see Naples free from cholera." And he kept his word.
Fortunately, the tourist does not always see the mournful side of Naples. Wandering minstrels, for example, greet him everywhere. Our ocean steamer had not come to anchor in the bay, before some boatloads of musicians were around us, making the air resound with the familiar songs of "Santa Lucia," and "Faniculi-Fanicula." A new relay awaited us beneath the hotel balcony; and on the boats to Capri and Sorrento, accordeons, violins, and mandolins were kept busily at work; while now and then a plaintive voice sang an air from "Trovatore," or murmured in pathetic tones, "Addio, bella Napoli." Nor was this all; for, after the singing, words and music were offered for sale by the musicians with a proud confidence that this could never do them harm; much as a "lightning calculator" sells his books, to show how to accomplish what in reality he alone can do.
Another interesting feature of popular life in Naples is the story-teller. I do not now refer to liars. I fear that such a category would include pretty nearly the entire population. I mean the man who reads or recites for the amusement of the crowd; and even in Naples there are those who deem themselves sufficiently rich to pay half a cent to be thus entertained. Whenever the story-teller is a man of ability, the scene is sure to be dramatic, because every Italian is a natural actor. His gestures form a language in themselves. No sentence seems complete without them; and when excited a Neapolitan, especially, gesticulates so fast that he appears to be boxing with an unseen foe.