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Friday, January 27, 2012

Il Pedum -- The Head Of Napoleon

Take a look at the mountain range in this photo of Isola Pescatori:


Now, tell me what you see. And don't worry, this isn't one of those psychological tests. Take a look again, this time in this close-up, at the ridges along the top. The most snowy part:


If you still don't see anything, maybe tilt your head toward your right shoulder, so that you can look at the mountaintops sideways. Anything now? Starting on the right, can you see a forehead and bushy, curly hair, a distinguished nose, and a bit of beard covering the chin and neck? Because everyone here in Stresa was telling me that I should see these things. I thought they were pulling my leg. Come on, they said, don't tell me you don't see Napoleon III!
Yes, that's right, everyone around here knows that this particular bit of mountain looks EXACTLY like Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, otherwise known as Napoleon III, the president of the French Second Republic and the ruler of the second French Empire. Louis-Napoleon was the nephew of the Napoleon you are probably thinking of, the one who, with his wife Josephine, was a guest on Isola Bella in 1797. Take a look at this composite etching of both Napoleons:



Napoleon I (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821)  is standing behind Napoleon III (20 April 1808  – 9 January 1873).  I think the nose and beard on Napoleon III look a bit familiar, but it's difficult to tell from that angle. Here's a view more in profile:


In this photograph of Napoleon III we have an almost profile. And I started to see what people meant about the nose. But it was still hard to tell. I still thought it was a joke. Until I found this old coin:



And voila! Now I see it! There he is... Bonjour Napoleon! I'll never NOT see him now, and I bet you won't either.

The "Head of Napoleon" does have another name though... Officially it's known as Il Pedum, and it is a well-known geographic point of reference in Piemonte's Parco Nazionale Val Grande. Its location on this map, indicated by the red dot, shows the direction you'll see it in from Stresa:


I took this photograph, shown again here, while standing at the Carciano ferry stop. The 'nose' is about 20 km away, as the crow flies. It is in the center of the park, not accessible by roads, and of course, it looks very different when there. Not at all like either Napoleon. But here in Stresa it's just another of her little secrets, one that I now know, and now you too.


photography credits: wikipedia, ma-shops.com, the nevada observer,


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