The writer Matilde Serao (1856-1927) wrote twenty-nine novels during her lifetime and is best known for having founded the daily Neapolitan newspaper Il Mattino. The newspaper still is the most widely read daily of southern Italy.
At the age of twenty-six, Matilde left Naples to “conquer Rome.” There, she wrote everything from literary criticism to gossip. Her rather dumpy figure also managed to attract the attention of writer Eduardo Scarfoglio and the two were married in 1885. Their union was not only romantic, but also professional as they established a newspaper together called Corriere di Roma. The newspaper, however, wasn’t successful and landed the couple in serious debt.
Fortunately, the owner of the Neapolitan Corriere del Mattino promised to pay their debts if they came to Naples and wrote for his publication. Matilde and her husband agreed. They worked for the Corriere for many years, until their private life went public.
Eduardo began an affair with a singer and actress and two years later, his mistress became pregnant. When Eduardo refused to leave Matilde, his lover became so incensed that in 1894 she placed their daughter at Eduardo’s door step and fired a pistol. While the scandal was at first suppressed, eventually the Corriere di Napoli broke the story. A week later, Eduardo’s lover died in the hospital and Matilde began to take care of the little girl, Paulina. Although Eduardo and Matilde continued to live together, eventually Matilde couldn’t take his philandering and they separated.
Her popularity as a novelist occurred much before this scandal when she wrote Il Ventre di Napoli (1884), a realistic portrayal of life in Naples, which criticized the government for its handling of the cholera epidemic and detailed the appalling living conditions of the poor.
Ardently against feminism and against giving women the right to vote, Serao’s early fiction, including Cuore infermo (1881) and Fantasia (1883) explored her dissatisfaction with heterosexual relationships and seemed to say that fulfilling relationships could better be found between women.
Matilde Serao died in 1927 of a heart attack seated at her writing desk.
Places To See: You can pick up Il Mattino throughout the city and also visit Piazzetta Matilde Serao, located just off Via Toledo near the Augusteo funicular.