I must admit that burial grounds have always had a sort of fascination for me. I can never resist the temptation to go in and have a look round when I pass by a village cemetery. Cemeteries are an ever present reminder of our own mortality and that is precisely why most people shy away from visiting them unless they absolutely have to. Deep down none of us wants to be reminded of our finity and most of our actions are taken in the false belief that we will be here forever. However I would like to think of cemeteries as at worst a reality check and at best as unique outdoor sculpture gardens offering a different dimension of history.
Our own Addolorata Cemetery is quite a masterpiece in its way. Its architect Emmanuel Luigi Galizia made exceptionally clever use of the hill on which it sits - siting the Gothic chapel at its very peak and with all inner roads winding their way from the beautiful entrance gateway up to the same chapel. Some of the private family chapels on the side facing Garibaldi Road are quite astounding in their originality and use of funerary motifs. In Malta we also have a host of military cemeteries, most of them impeccably maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is hard not to be moved when you go round these and see the many graves of British airmen who lost their lives here especially around April 1942 when the blitz on Malta was at its worst. We certainly owe a lot to these brave men.
So visiting Staglieno while in Genoa was a must of course. It is a very sad place and quite frankly after an hour the atmosphere got me, though the day's cloudiness and high humidity must have had an effect as well. The monuments are quite something - not least the Closer grave (actually the Appiani family grave). Close by is the fallen angel reproduced for the cover of Joy Division's single Love Will Tear Us Apart. And up near Staglieno's main chapel is the beautiful angel on the Oneto family grave. The most gruesome sculpture must be the Death and the Maiden grave sculpture.
A very "popular" grave locally is the one of Caterina Campodonico (despite my best efforts I could not locate it) - a woman who sold nuts on the streets of Genoa and invested her life savings to have a statue of herself here among the rich and powerful. She wears a shawl decorated with all sorts of er...nuts. I strongly suspect that having one's statue here was something of a fashion in days gone by and cadavers-to-be must have vied to engage the best sculptors before starting their afterlife.