Check Out Torrese

Torrese is the Neapolitan dialect spoken on the Italian coast 10 miles southeast of Naples. This is a port city with a very unique dialect. The hardcore Torrese does not even appear to be completely intelligible in Torre del Greco 5 miles to the north or in Castellamare di Stabia 5 miles to the south.
The video above, apparently from Naples TV, is making the rounds with Italians on Youtube, mostly because no one seems to be able to understand what these women are saying. For sure, this is one wild, over the top dialect all right.
There are also a lot of comments about people who can’t even speak proper Italian, about low-class, slummy, scummy, uneducated people, and about the slums of Naples. It’s true that the Naples region has a lot of run-down housing, especially in suburbs. There is also a tremendous amount of corruption, and the Camorra, or the local Mafia, is simply everywhere. They have even heavily infiltrated the police. For a while there, trash was piling up all over Naples because no one wanted to collect the garbage.There is not a lot of random violent crime, but there is a lot of property crime. Be careful even parking your car on the streets.
The women in the video are apparently complaining about cockroaches in their building. They appear to be saying that they are as big as rats, which is dubious.
The “Southern Question” has long been a problem of Italian politics. It’s a question that is heavily tinged with the racism that Northern Italians feel towards Southern Italians. A frequent comment, along the lines of “Africa begins at the Pyrenees,” is, “Africa begins in Naples.” Northern Italians often say that Naples is part of Africa. Southerners are said to be criminal, rude, belligerent, hot-tempered, violent, corrupt, stupid, uneducated and poor. In addition, they can’t even speak proper Italian.
Drawing a line at where the South begins is difficult, but an argument can even be made that Abruzze is southern in culture. Where Rome fits is anyone’s guess. Perhaps a more proper division is North, Center and South Italy.
The Southern Question shows no sign of resolution in my lifetime.

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0 thoughts on “Check Out Torrese”

  1. Hi there, only the woman in the second half of the video is speaking a Neapolitan dialect. The one in the first half speaks plain Italian.
    The way the second woman speaks sound very Neapolitan. I can’t tell the difference from the Neapolitan spoken in Naples, then again I don’t understand any Neapolitan.
    I’d say that “racist” is not appropriate to describe the way Northern Italian feel about Southern Italians, because many people in the North are of of southern descent and they are never look down upon by othern northerners. Northerns of southern descent are often anti-south themselves. It’s the South itself that the northerners dislike, not the race of the people. They resent the South for being a welfare basket case which drags down the economy of the rest of Italy. They don’t want to pay for the welfare in the South which they blame for the economic problems. Also, they don’t like it that stereotypes of southern origins such as the image of Italians being mafiosi are applied to them by foreigners. Umberto Bossi himself, the leader of the Northern League party which epithomizes northern secessionism, is married to a Sicilian woman. Many leaders in the League are of southern descent.
    The borders of the “South” are very clear and they match almost exactly the borders of the former Kingdom of Two Sicilies. That is the region where various dialects of the two southern langauges, Neapolitan and Sicilian, are spoken. Some consider dialects of neapolitan to be langauges in their own, but it’s clear that all these dialects are related to each other, and the various regional cultures in this areas are also very similar. You can see this in the folk dances which are similar throughout the South, but completely unlike anything in the rest of Italy.
    Yes, it’s a very good idea to think of Italy as North, Center and South. That is also the way most Italians think of themselves: northerners, southerners, and centrals. Look up the wikipedia page called “Central italy” – now those regions are exactly what we mean by Center; the regions above are exactly what we mean by North, and those below are exactly the South. This geographic division matches very closely the cultural and ethnic divisions within Italy.
    That being said, I feel that there is a furthern division within the North, between Emilia Romagna (south of the Po) and the rest of the North (north of the Po). The ethnic character, culture, and languages of the former are completely different from those of the latter, in many ways polar opposites. So that’s FOUR types of Italians. Five types if you count the Sardinians.

  2. I want to make it clear that when I say That is the region where various dialects of the two southern langauges, Neapolitan and Sicilian, are spoken” I’m using “Neapolitan” as an umbrella term for all mainland southern dialects. The word is sometimes used for all mainland southern dialects, sometimes only those of Campania.

  3. Dear Robert
    If you keep it up, I’ll start believing that nobody in Italy speaks Italian. Surely, the role of dialects today must be much smaller than 50 years ago, for two reasons: people stay in school much longer and everybody has much more exposure to the mass media, which functions in standard Italian. Is anything ever written or broadcast in dialect?
    On the other hand, many parts of Italy could be like German Switzerland, where diglossia is the norm. I knew a German Swiss, who was from Zürich, not some village. He told me that at school everything would be taught in standard German, but as soon as people were out of the classroom, everybody, also the teacher, would revert to Swiss German.
    Regards. James

    1. Every single one region in Italy has a language of its own. In some places it is dead and forgotten, in other places it is only spoken by the elderly; in other places everybody speaks the regional language at home and Italian only at school like in your Zurich example; in some places yet Italian is little used. “Italian”, the language that was imposed upon the peninsula upon the imperialistic “national unification” and had previously been the lingua franca for the cultured elites, stems from the literary language of Renaissance Tuscany and used to be called Tuscan. However, it doesn’t match the way Tuscans spoke at the time of the unification; it’s an ossified, literary, artificial version of it. While Italian isn’t the native language for any one region of Italy, most Italians nowadays speak it as a native language, precisely for the reasons you listed: school and mass media. Some of Lindsay’s posts can be misleading, such as the one about the Roman language, which in reality nobody speaks anymore.

      1. Well, according to my research, some dialects of whatever the Hell they are speaking in Rome these days are difficult to understand for other Italians, especially from the north but also Sicilians have a hard time with it. So even these Italianized lects spoken by at least some Romans are hard to understand for quite a few other Italians.
        I don’t believe there is one region of Italy where dialect is completely dead. It’s furthest gone in Lazio and Tuscany, but even there, you have strong regional dialects among the old at least. And I have been told that there are still Tuscan dialects that even other Tuscans have a hard time understanding. I read an anecdote on the web about an Italian professor from Naples who saw two old Tuscan men on TV and he said he wanted subtitles.

        1. Let’s just say, to answer James, that there are many places where the regional languages, while not dead, are seldom used and/or highly Italianized.

        2. By the way I’m not an authority on the subject, only an Italian and what I say is only based on superficial personal experience not serious research. I had often looked at your nice blog in the past but I had seldom commented and started commenting a lot only now because you’re posting many entries about Italy.

        3. I would say that Rome and Tuscany are where the dialects are the furthest gone. They are pretty far gone in some big cities of the North too. And not doing real well in Genoa. They are a lot more alive in rural areas than in big cities.

        4. Yes of course. But a lot of them are just headed right on out. Yet I am surprised at how many younger Italians speak dialect. They get it from parents or grandparents. But a lot now are speaking odd mixed dialects of say Milanese from Mom and Sicilian from Dad. The languages will change, but I do think they will be around for a very long time, and there seems to be a resurgence of popularity in them with the young.

  4. I just went to the Italian Wikipedia to check some figures for per capita income for Lombardia, Abruzzo and Sicilia. Respectively, they are: 43,510, 21,574 and 17,488. It seems then that, economically, Abruzzo is much closer to Sicily than to Lombardy. Those figures are at PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), so they take cost of living into account.
    Cheers. James

    1. If you look at regional averages, there is a sharp halvening gap in average incomes between the North-Center and the South. The gap follows the former borders of the Kingdom of Two sicilies – that is, Abruzzo and Campania align with Sicily, Lazio aligns with Lombardy.

  5. @Francesco your English is excellent! Your writing is no different at all to the writing of an educated native speaker. I can’t spot a single clue that English is not your first language. Well done signore. I am most impressed.

  6. I recognized the Torrese dialect as a non-standard dialect of Italian that I heard some elderly people speaking in New York City about 20 years ago. At the time I couldn’t place it.

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