“The homeless who camp out and sleep under the arches of the San Carlo theatre, one of Naples' jewels, are emblematic of the degradation of this city”
And with this twittered comment, Italian dancer Roberto Bolle set off an avalanche of angry tweets yesterday. The temperatures throughout a snow-covered Italy are low, and many homeless (though not in Naples' milder climate) have died in the last week.
”It would be better if you danced and didn't speak” wrote one angry Neapolitan. Another added “Dear @RobertoBolle, the “degradation” of a city isn't its homeless people, but VIPs totally deaf to the real problems in a country that is going through hard times”.
Naples' Green party were angry because,
Bolle shows he cares only about the appearance of a city that has always given him a warm welcome.
The tweet was quickly eliminated from the timeline. Bolle responded, saying,
I am sorry to read that my words were misunderstood
and his press office tried to set things straight with a release,
Roberto has always been active on behalf of the needy and has taken part in many solidarity and charity initiatives. The message was misinterpreted. Bolle was struck by the deprived conditions of these less fortunate individuals, who at present are suffering more than anyone else from the snow and ice. Roberto's intention was simply to draw attention to them.
My attack was not aimed at the homeless, who are most in need of help. This is not part of my sensibility, as I think I have always demonstrated.
The Mayor of Naples joined the fray. Luigi De Magistris assured tweeters,
We are monitoring the problem closely.
To which Bolle replied,
Good to read all the initiatives for the homeless. At this time of cold and crisis, these are more important than ever.
His last tweet was yesterday.
Certainly I expressed myself badly. And in 140 letters it isn't always easy.
It all seems a bit of a storm in a tea cup. Neapolitans themselves complain about the way their city is kept, and anyone who has been to Naples will have seen for themselves that this noble city is spoiled by uncollected rubbish, poorly kept roads and suspicious car park attendants. However a tweet is certainly not the best place to express such opinions, especially if someone is in the public eye. As for the homeless, it seems obvious that Bolle's comments didn't have anything to do with their plight.
So why all the indignation? Well nobody likes house-guest criticising their wallpaper, and Bolle has such a squeaky clean reputation that maybe it was just a good excuse to have a go at him. In a period when jobless levels are rising – especially in Italy's south – a beautiful, successful and well-paid dancer probably grates if you're a middle-aged man who has been made redundant.
Photo: Roberto Bolle's current Twitter profile pic
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.