My next city in line does not have the best reputation ever. I arrived in Naples last night and walked straight to the youth hostel before seeing anything. After a good night`s sleep, I left the hostel this morning to find some locals to tell me about the city. Hoping to find out whether it`s really as bad as people in Rome and everywhere else wanted to make me believe.
Apart from everything positive or negative that I hope to find out, it doesn`t take a lot of effort to take out that Naples is at least slightly chaotic and anarchistic. Cars, scooters and buses fight for space and graffiti tags have taken possession of any piece of empty wall. The streets are full of people flirting, arguing, kissing, making wild gestures and incessantly using their mobile phones. While Rome elegantly leans back on its past as the capital of an entire civilisation, Naples seems to perfectly affirm all common stereotypes about Italy.
`There`s nowhere like Naples`
Pasquale (21) tells me about the many beautiful squares in Naples, filled with activity day and nights. `Neapolitan girls are beautiful and we have sunshine all year long. Unfortunately, Naples is sometimes more known for negative events.`
Before describing those, I will first name some of the good things in Naples. First of all, it is generally acknowledged to be the birth place of pizza. It used to be served as a cheap meal for poor workers in the region, back in a time when ordinary people thought tomatoes were poisonous. The original Neapolitan pizza is better known under the name Pizza Margherita, topped with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil. Only its similar counterparts Pizza Margherita Extra (with specified type of Mozzarella) and Pizza Marinara (with garlic and oregano but without mozzarella) are accepted as original Neapolitan pizzas.
Beside pizza, many other local Neapolitan dishes have gained popularity in other countries. The Naples Diaspora in the late 1800s, early 1900s, scattered 11 million Italians to locations all over the world. The United States of America absorbed a big part of the Naples Dispora and soon discovered the original cooking traditions of their new compatriots. Neapolitan cuisine, known for its relatively simple recipes and cheap ingredients, quickly spread out across the country and across the world.
It`s not only the local cuisine that gives Naples a place on the map. Beside many monuments in Naples itself, the city also serves as the access gate to the South of Italy, to the ruins of Pompeii, to the Vesuvius volcano, to the beautiful Amalfi Coast and to a range of neighbouring islands.
Carla (28, photo) was born and raised in Naples. Except for a short stay in London she has always lived in Naples and thinks the city is great. `There is no city like Naples. Or at least, I have never seen one. I like the slight chaos in the streets, there`s always something happening. Our local football club SSC Napoli was promoted to the Seria A after last season. The biggest victories date back from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Maradona was the striker of the team.`
Most of the positive assets of Naples suffer under the negative news coverage the city is getting. Both in Italy and abroad, Naples gets more attention for its garbage problem than for its pizza and more for the omnipresence of the Camorra than for the nice weather.
Tommaso (21) complains that everything in Naples is connected to each other: `The local mafia and politics are one, and if not, they are at least closely interconnected. This garbage problem is not a problem of today, it started 14 years ago when plans were made to build a new factory to process waste. In earlier days, the local authorities disposed waste on big dumps simply to burn everything afterwards. Fourteen years ago, the European Union put an end to the practice. Ever since, some dumps were closed, others reached their maximum capacity and instead of freely dumping the waste, it was now packed and brought to new locations. All in anticipation of the new waste processing plant, which up till today is not even close to being completed. Opening new dumps proved equally impossible, because nobody wants to have a trash dump near their houses.`
Luca (31) explains that the most recent crisis occurred when the last remaining dump was full and there was no more place to get rid of any waste from the area. Result: plastic bags accumulated at street corners. `In fourteen years time, even apart from building that factory, local authorities have not been able to come up with a system that allows people to separate waste. Such a system would have allowed them to at least burn a part of the trash. Right now, everything is stuck and no politician is able to solve it. A special commissioner, sent by Rome, resigned after not being able to find a reasonable solution in two years. In a next attempt to solve the problem, the national government assigned a superpower representative who can overrule any decision taken by a lower. This friendly man had an old dump near the city re-opened up ? one that was promised never to restart operations again.
The local mafia Camorra is considered to play a major role in the crisis situation. Luca says: `The Camorra are much more powerful than politicians. They can change things when they want to, but they earn money from the situation. Because they come up with the solutions in times of crisis, and they present heavy bills for it. Most of our local trash is now transported to Germany or to Sardegna, but how will that solve the problem on the long term. This is all one big political thing and not a single citizen has a clue of what to do about it. The worlds of politics and Cmorra are equally difficult to enter, so it`s impossible for ordinary people to help find a solution. In fact, we don`t even know if anybody really wants a solution. People make money out of this situation, so why would they want to see the problem solved.
Camorra is not only blamed for the recent garbage problems. The organisation is also believed to have buried chemical waste under the surface of the earth. The waste would have been delivered by chemical factories in the North, and the ecological consequences of this hide-the-waste policy can reach far. The soil has been poisoned for many years to come, the diary industry may be affected and drink water supply may well be contaminated, too.
Amalia (25) and Maria-Teresa (28) think that the Camorra is also responsible for other negative developments in the streets of Naples. `But not much more than politicians. They all make a mess out of everything, even though I am sure they don`t all have bad intentions. Drug abuse is very high in the street and it is probably kept alive by the Camorra to a big extent. Many people take heroine or cocaine, simply because it is cheaper and easier to get than marihuana.`
`Many parts of the city are thought of as unsafe`, Amalia continues. `You need to be very streetwise when walking around Naples. There are many pickpockets, who are usually not violent but will still leave you with a big hangover if they manage to get hold of your possessions. Scaglia is considered one of the most dangerous places of Naples, especially for people who are not from the area.`
Pickpockets and non-violent crimes are complemented by intra-mafial battles between different families, branches or gangs within the Camorra. Shootings take place on a daily basis. Civilian victims are neither targeted nor avoided, which means that the death of a Camorra member may easily involve the death of a random person who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Thanks to the Omert? code of silence which is well accepted among Southern Italian communities: it is an act of cowardice to appeal to the authorities to solve a case. It is better to stand up for your right and take revenge.
This is what Wikipedia says about Omert?: Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward. Whoever cannot take care of himself without police protection is both. It is as cowardly to betray an offender to justice, even though his offences be against yourself, as it is not to avenge an injury by violence. It is dastardly and contemptible in a wounded man to betray the name of his assailant, because if he recovers, he must naturally expect to take vengeance himself. Now try to compare that to the suing culture in Anglo-Saxon countries and decide for yourself which option suits you best.
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