I loved Naples – everything from the congested traffic that strangles the city in dead-end stoppage to the graffiti-strewn buildings. But I am a romantic. When I travel, I put blinders on, and insist upon seeing the beauty and uniqueness of a world that, in some ways, is so different from mine, and in other ways, so parallel. Sheets and shirts blowing in the wind off the balconies is almost a trademark of the city. This, I do not see in Manhattan:
On the other hand, a Farmers’ Market is a Farmers’ Market wherever the local growers set up shop. I felt right at home in the Piazza Dante, strolling among the locals ogling the sausages, cheese, honey and vegetables carted in for the day just like in Union Square on Saturday morning:
But underneath the red ripe tomatoes, lurks a dark side of Naples. Just before I left for my trip, I had read an article in The Times about 10 million tons of toxic waste that was buried near a region north of Naples, and the remains of the debris had likely leached into the soil. I arrived leery of fresh produce.
“The environment here is poisoned,” said Dr. Alfredo Mazza, a cardiologist who documented an alarming rise in local cancer cases in a 2004 study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. “It’s impossible to clean it all up. The area is too vast.” He added, “We’re living on top of a bomb.”
With that kind of publicity, who needs a tomato? (Even though they looked so ripe and luscious.) Instead, besides the pizza, there was lots of delicious seafood:
And there was the issue of the dog poop. It is scattered everywhere. I cannot say how many times Marianne saved my shoe, but it seems that Naples is on the cutting edge of dog poop technology by actually using DNA to track offenders.
The idea is that every dog in the city will be given a blood test for DNA profiling in order to create a database of dogs and owners. When an offending pile is discovered, it will be scraped up and subjected to DNA testing. If a match is made in the database, the owner will face a fine of up to 500 euros, or about $685.
So who knows if and when I shall return to Naples. But perhaps next time, the streets will be pristine. In the meantime, nothing will dim my memories of a city where I saw the sun rise over Mt. Vesuvius every morning, and a short walk led me through streets lined with baroque palazzi, and into churches and museums stuffed with some of the most beautiful art in the world.
And then there was the 45-minute train ride to the archaeological time capsule of Pompeii, where the remains of the day tell us that 2000 years ago, like today, its citizens elected their politicians,
relaxed in the gorgeously-ornate public baths,
attended regular sporting events, albeit gladiator matches, not soccer games, at the stadium,
and last, but never least, always enjoyed a romp in the hay.