Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Naples: the Capit Suda of Italy. When I remember Napoli, having just been there yesterday but still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I can only think of that line from writer Fran Lebowitz, wherin she said: "To visit Rome is to realize that Fellini doesn't make movies, he makes documentaries" Like the Roman god Janus it has two faces.

Naples has been described by many as "dirty".,

To say "dirty" does it a disservice. It is fabulously and completely filthy but like a dog who has just rolled in refuse she seems quite proud of herself.

C and I can't quite figure out where all the garbage comes from. We scratch our heads. Now people all take the garbage out and it appears to disappear but the next day further bags appear, falling and stumbling like a drunk out of the street bins set throughout the city.

Then there's just "the stuff": countless bits of paper, weird detritus such as pull tickets and endless thrown plastic single use espresso cups just strewn everywhere. Sometimes it seems like you might actually be in a garbage dump.

Next is the happily suididal driving habits of the populii. They zoom in and out in cars and Vespas in a fashion that makes the chariot race scene in "Ben Hur" look like a quiet drive in downtown Geneva. You come to realize that you can never cross the street, unless as in Cairo, you close your eyes and cross and hope that they stop for you.

In the old town or Centro Storico, the most fearsome of riders appear: countless Valkaries riding Vespas like leather clad bikers out of "Mad Max": they are invariably women and usually have some small toddler or baby standing on the front floor of the scooter like a dashboard decoration and happily sucking at a gelati. Their sister I imagine or or best friend rides shotgun on the back.

Helmetless, with a fierce look, sucking on one chain smoked cigarette after another, they race and weave through cobble stone streets oblivious to potential death, leaving behind them only a wake of swirling garbage

I can only assume it is the result of the Napoli experience of living eternally under the shadow of imminent death: Vesuvio ready to erupt at any second and throw half a million people into immediate danger or the threat of catastrophic earthquakes that creates a culture in which everyone appears to look at Death directly in the eye, and laugh at Her.

This is not to say Naples wasn't somehow fantastic. C would rise in the morning, go out from the hotel and say: "What a total dump this city is we have to leave right away".

However, as night would fall gently on the old town, its streets a warren of seemingly medievel buildings, so closely placed no sunlight could shine, we came to warm to Napoli.

In the dark all the garbage seemed to meld into the ancient grey of the buildings and people began to emerge and begin to live in the streets: children playing football giddily, oblivious of dog crap, broken glass or rotting fruit; everyone came out and stood at the corners of the street luminated under small fading "eco friendly lights", an irony given the garbage which made everything feel more medieval.

On our last night we sat on the steps of a church with Bianca, an archeologist with no funding for her work on ancient and medieval digs and her partner Lucca, a sociology student and their dog Sam. They refused to get him neutered, despite their very logical, Left and progressive views, for the reason that to take a man's balls away would make him listless and lazy. We would go to the shop to buy beers and wine and sit and talk about the problems of Napoli: the Camorra )mafia), the corrupution of Italian government, the strange beginnings of the fractured country and African immigration which has increased hatred for foreigners. The Neopolitans consider themselves the dirt workers for the North and now that the Senegalese have arrived they believe they are taking their conveted %shit jobs% away leaving them without any means. Funny to be jealous over the worst jobs but unemployment is rife as is the eduring presence of the Napoli mob who run the town.

At night Napoli had the Beautiful face of the two headed God Janus: in moonlight, with ample Campanian wine and conversation, you would love such a city.

But when the morning came out by the stacio termini hundreds peddling cheap soccer shirts, stolen I-Phones and Senegalese crafts, the filth and garbage swirling in the light of the morning, you just had to hate Naples.


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