The following post is a translation of this webpage:
The King of Poggioreale, originally known as Giuseppe Navarra, is a personality who rose to fame in Naples during the second world war and in the years that followed. His adventures have inspired newspaper articles, books, and even film screenplays. We spoke to someone who knew him during his golden years, his name is Mario Bevilacqua and he has many wonderful memories.
“I met the King of Poggioreale during the second world war: I was working for the Ottieri construction company, the same one that went on to build a lot of those big houses and buildings in the 1950’s… like that famous one by Piazza Mercato. Ottieri won the contract to manage the waste created by the bombardments. It might seem strange but even the bombardments could turn into a business… . My company took advantage, subcontracting the services of the King of Poggioreale, Peppino Navarra: His task was to go through the rubble, separate the wood and transport it by horse-drawn carts to his warehouses in Poggioreale. Sometimes other things were removed by accident, along with the wood, including a more valuable product: metal.”
It was a time when you rarely saw the authorities so it’s easy to imagine how this activity could turn into such a lucrative business. I was often in contact with Mr. Navarra: a very kind person, a physically robust and athletic man: among other things he spent many years as a deep-sea diver in his youth.”
A king must have a queen by his side, his wife, Mrs Navarra. She was a strong woman and the King delegated her many tasks; among these, to receive the many visitors who came asking for help and support from the King of Poggioreale. Sembrerebbe che la Regina accettasse di buon grado le tante relazioni che il consorte avrebbe intrattenuto con generose ragazze dell’epoca.
Tragedy struck Navarra when his son was killed in a bombing raid; from that moment on he always wore black. His car was also black but with one unique characteristic: the writing on the bodywork made it very clear who the car belonged to.
The episode the King of Poggioreale is most famous for relates to the recovery of the treasure of San Gennaro; At the outbreak of the war the treasure was relocated to the Vatican to shield it from any danger during the conflict. At the end of the war the problem then arose of how to bring it back to Naples. This was 1947 and despite the fact that the war had been over for two years and there was a functioning police force, nobody would take up the challenge of bringing it back to Naples because it was considered far too dangerous, especially in the areas of Fondri and Itri which were still under the control of armed gangs.
The King of Poggioreale was recommended for the task and subsequently received the authorization and blessing of Ascalesi, the Cardinal of Naples. He arrived in the Vatican, after having crossed Volturna (in piena) and once the treasure of San Gennaro was loaded into his car he left on the incredibly dangerous return journey. Little is known about what happened on the way back, we know it lasted many days as he tried to avoid the most dangerous areas; it appears the King of Poggioreale even had to resort to gunfire to clear the roads. His only traveling companion was the 19-year-old Prince of Colonna. He certainly succeeded in returning the immense treasure to the Cardinal of Naples! Navarra celebrated declaring: “I don’t want anything, I just want to kiss the sacred ring.”.
The King of Poggioreale’s deeds were celebrated in a story by Marotta; In 1961 his stories also inspired a film dedicated to his escapades entitled “The King of Poggioreale”, directed by Duilio Coletti: his role was played by Ernest Borgnine.