Calabria: Home of the Paparazzi

Did you know that the paparazzi have their origins in Calabria, one of the poorest regions in Italy?

No, not the actual cadre of photographers who follow around celebrities waiting for them to do something embarrassing or otherwise tabloid-worthy, but the term “paparazzi.”

By the Ionian Sea by George GissingIn his 1908 travelogue, By the Ionian Sea: Notes of a Ramble in Southern Italy, George Gissing mentions the owner of the Hotel Centrale in Catanzaro, a man who unabashedly left notes on guests’ doors strongly encouraging guests to eat in the hotel’s restaurant instead of going elsewhere.

The hotel owner’s name was Coriolano Paparazzo.

Fast forward half a century, and beloved Italian director Federico Fellini was trying to pinpoint the perfect name for his overzealous photographer in the classic film, La dolce vita.

Legend has it that Fellini’s screenwriter Ennio Flaiano opened Gissing’s book “at random” and loved the name Paparazzo. Indeed, the celebrity photograher’s last name in La dolce vita is “Paparazzo,” and that’s why we call his modern, real-life colleagues “paparazzi.”

La dolce vitaAnd to think it all started in a humble hotel in Catanzaro, Calabria!

By the by, the Hotel Centrale went out of business in the 1970s, but the building is still there and, in 1999, Catanzaro officials added a plaque commemorating the “paparazzi” tale.

Perhaps Cherrye can hook us up with a photo?

Now go impress your friends with this knowledge, and if you haven’t seen La dolce vita yet, here’s a great excuse to enjoy the Fellini magic.

Do you know any interesting word etymologies?

I just love that kind of thing, so do share!

P.S. Be sure to head over to Cherrye’s My Bella Vita and Robin’s My Melange where I’m sharing Travel Tips from a Lawyer!

14 Beans of Wisdom to “Calabria: Home of the Paparazzi”
  1. I love reading about things like this too.

    Vespa is the Italian word for WASP. It fits.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Is there a patron saint for passing the written exam for an Italian Drivers License?

    *So* true, and the Ape trucks? Bees! Love it!

  2. Gil

    You are a walking encyclopedia of knowledge! I have to say it amazes me on how much I learn about Italy just by reading your blog and the blogs of a few others.

    Time to dust off the telephoto lens!

    Lots of celebs hang out in NE don’t they Gil? 😉 I love these weird little facts, so it’s a pleasure to share them 🙂

  3. 01.27.2009

    That’s totally cool! And I thought to myself, “Catanzaro, isn’t that where Cherrye is . . . ” Thanks for confirming so I didn’t have to wonder.

    Glad we didn’t keep you guessing Kim!

  4. 01.27.2009

    I love La Dolce Vita, esp. Marcello! I wanted to name my son after Mastroianni but my husband didn’t agree. I don’t have any linguistic
    tidbits to share but I do know that Nico from Velvet Underground had a small role in the movie as did a young Adriano Celentano. Pretty cool.

    Milanese Masala’s last blog post..I wish I was Wonder Woman

    I didn’t know those tidbits…love those too! I like Marcello too but my cognato is named that so I couldn’t really use it. Loser 😉

  5. 01.27.2009

    Well, sepia photography got its name from the “seppia,” or cuttlefish in English. They have a sack of brown or black ink that was used in the original sepia process. And, actually, you can read about that on my blog today!

    saretta’s last blog post..Fish Market, 2

    Ooh that’s cool; will come over as soon as I can, I promise!

  6. 01.27.2009

    Never liked Catanzaro much (sorry Cherye!), possibly because of the “suoceri” lol?
    But now this is definitely a redeeming feature – thanks for that Michelle!

    anna l’americana’s last blog post..Limoncello cocktail instead…..

    Hah, well P actually rather hates Catanzaro but shhhh…..

  7. 01.27.2009

    What a great new piece of knowledge. And congratulations on your nomination – I voted 🙂

    City Girl’s last blog post..Beauty Musings – Crabtree and Evelyn’s Naturals Products in Milk, Soy and Sugar

    Thanks so much!

  8. 01.28.2009

    You know, I actually knew this but it was buried somewhere in my long-term memory. There’s a restaurant here (or there was, I don’t know if it still exists) called Paparazzi, and the waiter told us the origin of the name. The only other thing I remember about the restaurant is that a friend of mine told me she had eaten there, and when I said I had too, for some reason she kept insisting that I must be mistaken. She just refused to believe that I had, and she was really adamant about it. I never did find out what her deal was over that.

    flurrious’s last blog post..Grace Not(e)

    Oh that’s too funny. I can’t imagine that’s something easily mistaken…the name *is* rather distinct. Mah.

  9. 01.28.2009

    Hi Michelle

    Glad you got computer service back! I do believe I remember reading the origins about Paparazzi once, most likely from a fabulous free, daily e-mail newsletter of word etymology that comes from the web site If you enjoy etymology that is a wonderful website to explore.

    I read George Gissing’s book about 8 years ago after we visited Calabria. It was fascinating to read his accounts of southern Italy from a hundred years before!

    Ciao, Pat

    Pat’s last blog post..Have Another Cup!

    Oh my service isn’t back, I’ve just been being creative as to how and when I could get some Internet access; luckily my computer still works fine so I can do a lot offline….

    And thanks for that link!

  10. 01.28.2009

    I’m definitely adding La Dolce Vita to my queue. I haven’t seen a Fellini movie in way too long!

    Interesting etymology lesson!

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: Why I Love Mark Bittman

    Glad you enjoyed Jen, and yes, get that movie!

  11. Great find! Very funny to consider the origin and development of words.

    Gennaro @ Enduring Wanderlust’s last blog post..Things To Do In NYC (For Free)

    And the word “paparazzi” is such a fun word in and of itself, isn’t it? Fun to say at least…not fun to be chased by them I wouldn’t imagine….

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Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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