Why No One Goes to Naples
The New York Times
By BEPPE SEVERGNINI
April 11, 2014
NAPLES, Italy — Spring is here. In southern Italy, the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the weather is balmy. Orange blossom fragrances mingle with wafts of jasmine. The food is good, the wine is inexpensive, the locals are friendly and beauty is all around. But where are the tourists?
The Amalfi Coast, south of Naples, is still a magnet for wealthy Russians and romantic Americans. Yet Naples itself is a tourist wasteland, and the rest of southern Italy is largely vacationer-free.
Only 13 percent of tourists who come to Italy go to the Mezzogiorno, as the south is known. The rest head for the center and north of Italy, or other Mediterranean countries altogether. German airports sent 223 flights to Spain’s Balearic Islands in one week last summer, and only 17 to southern Italy.
Defensive Italians, particularly from the prosperous north, will tell you that no one goes to the south because there’s nothing worth seeing (they’re wrong). But the lack of tourists in places like Sicily or Calabria is indicative of a larger, nationwide failure by the country to take advantage of its most precious resources — in this case, the region’s natural and cultural beauty.
Poor marketing is one problem. The Italian Tourist Board spends an astounding 98 percent of its budget on salaries, with basically nothing left for its actual job of tourism promotion. The Italian government tried to boost interest in the southern region with its $50 million Italia.it website, but it still debuted with glitches and inaccuracies.
Or consider how little regional tourism authorities in Italy coordinate with one another. Years ago in Shanghai, I came across three separate delegations representing the same part of Sicily. They also spend wildly: Until recently the Campania regional authority had a palatial New York residence on Fifth Avenue.
Infrastructure is another issue. Italy has wasted time and money fantasizing about a bridge to Sicily. It was the pet project Silvio Berlusconi would wheel out during every election campaign. Yet high-speed rail services stop at Salerno, just beyond Naples, 300 miles to the north. There are trains in the Mezzogiorno that travel at an average speed of 8.7 miles an hour.
Last year I took a rail journey from the far northeastern city of Trieste to Trapani, on the southwestern tip of Sicily. Once I was past Rome, I found another world.
Metaponto in the Basilicata region east of Naples, has a five-track, marble-clad rail station, paid for by $25 million in European Union funds. But the last train out is an 8:21 a.m. express to Rome. If you want to go anywhere else, you have to take a bus. Farther south, the small locomotive coughing its way along the Ionian coast has to stop as ice-cream-toting teenagers cross the track on their way to the beach.
Nor are the roads any better. Upgrades on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway have been going on for 29 years amid a tangle of inflated costs, corruption and Mafia threats. There are stretches where construction work has had to be protected by the army.
This isn’t a regional failure; it’s a national one. Tourism ought to be to southern Italy what oil is to Norway: a blessing and a source of wealth.
And the south could certainly use it. Annual gross domestic product in the south is just over $21,000 per capita, compared with $43,000 in the center and north. Nearly two out of three young southerners have no job. Across Europe 64 percent of women work; in Campania, only 28 percent do.
What does this sorry tale say about Italy as a whole? Across the country, tourism is going from being a given to being a missed opportunity. In the 1970s, Italy was the world’s No. 1 tourist destination. Today, it has slid to fifth place behind France, America, China and Spain. As late as the early 2000s, 6 percent of the world’s tourists came here. Now only 4 percent do.
It also highlights Italy’s poor state of coordination across sectors of society. Despite still being a major destination for vacationers, Italy doesn’t even have a minister for tourism, as other European countries do. Infighting is the norm. Hotel owners argue with vacation rental agencies. Public enterprises and the private sector wage war. Neighboring regions don’t speak to one another. Do you know why flights and trains to Calabria fail to hook up with the ferries that cross the Strait of Messina? Because Calabria doesn’t want to see tourists siphoned off to Sicily.
Finally, the story of southern Italy’s tourism-fail illustrates the country’s inability to grasp how scattershot public funding means waste, not investment. Since World War II, the government has poured $550 billion into the Mezzogiorno, to no avail. By almost every measure, it is actually worse off relative to the rest of the country than it was 60 years ago.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, can follow through on his promised reforms. The same things that would make Italy good for Italians — efficient transport, lower taxes, fairer prices, respect for the environment — would also transform southern Italy, and the rest of the country, into a paradise for vacationers.Beppe Severgnini is a columnist at Corriere della Sera and the author of “La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.”
ITALY TO DEPLOY ARMY TO COMBAT ‘TRIANGLE OF DEATH’ MAFIA DUMPS
(AFP) – Rome, Jan. 14 – The Italian government has agreed to send in the army to fight the mafia, which it blames for illegally dumping tonnes of toxic garbage in an area dubbed the “Triangle of Death”. Toxic waste has been buried in Campania province for decades, ever since the local Camorra crime syndicate decided to branch out into the lucrative waste disposal business in the 1980s. Instead of paying exorbitant sums to have it disposed of legally, companies paid mobsters a fraction of the cost to dump it in fields, wells and lakes.
Defence undersecretary Gioacchino Alfano says the army can be deployed “to deal with in the most efficient manner the phenomenon of the environment mafia in the area between Naples and Caserta”. Parliament is due to examine the decree but Mr Alfano says that “for the first time, all political forces are in agreement to offer concrete solutions to resolve a specific problem”.
The smoke-choked area north of Naples dubbed the “Triangle of Death” includes the towns of Acerra, Nola and Marigliano.
It is a grim sight – a short trip but a world away from the postcard images of the city’s bay and its famous cuisine.
Hidden out of sight down dirt tracks in the countryside, vast mounds of illegal and hazardous garbage, from broken sheets of asbestos to car tyres and containers of industrial-strength glue, lie rotting next to farmed fields. Periodically set alight, they billow black fumes towards neighbouring towns, but locals say the real killer lies in aquifers feeding tomato, cabbage and broccoli crops which are poisoned with chloroform, arsenic and heavy metals.
Environmental groups say the toxic garbage could affect one-and-a -half million people living in the Naples and Caserta provinces. According to environment protection association Legambiente, 10 million tonnes of industrial waste were burnt or buried in the zone between 1991 and 2013, all trucked in at night.
NSA Naples Public Affairs Office; “ITALY TO DEPLOY ARMY TO COMBAT ‘TRIANGLE OF DEATH’ MAFIA DUMPS”, January 15, 2014.
Photos from Google Images.
“…Archaeologists from the University of Cincinnati have spent the past decade excavating a row of building plots in a non-elite district of the ancient Roman city. Some of the buildings, which represent 20 store fronts, date back to the 6th century B.C.
According to a Steven Ellis, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of classics who presented his team’s findings at an Archaeological Institute of America conference in Chicago on Jan. 4, many of the ancient establishments were once restaurants. Researchers recovered mineralized and charred food contents from the buildings’ drains and toilets, and analyzed their content. What they found surprised them.
“The traditional vision of some mass of hapless lemmings — scrounging for whatever they can pinch from the side of a street, or huddled around a bowl of gruel — needs to be replaced by higher fare and standard of living, at least for the urbanites in Pompeii,” Ellis said in a statement.
Archaeologists discovered remnants of food that would have been widely available and inexpensive in ancient Italy, like grains, fruits, olives, lentils, local fish, nuts and chicken eggs. They also uncovered evidence that Pompeiians enjoyed a variety of exotic foods, some of which would have been imported from outside Italy, including sea urchins, flamingos and even the butchered leg joint of a giraffe. According to Ellis, this was the first giraffe bone ever found during an archaeological excavation of ancient Roman Italy.
“How part of the animal, butchered, came to be a kitchen scrap in a seemingly standard Pompeian restaurant not only speaks to long-distance trade in exotic and wild animals, but also something of the richness, variety and range of a non-elite diet,” Ellis said….”
Ancient Pompeii Diet Consisted Of Giraffe, Flamingo, Sea Urchin And Other ‘Exotic’ Delicacies
By Philip Ross, International Business Times. Jan. 5, 2014.
When you think of Italy do you think of fresh produce and local markets? The talk of the past few weeks is all about the unsafe soil and air that have led to a cancer surge. There have been a handful of articles and studies done by local companies and the military basically informing us that we should not eat local produce. It has led to a protest, not the first and most likely not the last. There was one a month ago in our town of Gricignano, but this one was much larger and article worthy…sums up what we’ve been hearing so much about nicely.
THOUSANDS IN NAPLES PROTEST OVER ILLEGAL WASTE DUMPED BY MAFIA
(AFP) – Rome, Nov. 17 – Thousands protested Saturday in Naples over illegal waste dumps blamed on the mafia that generate toxic fumes.
Between 30,000 and 100,000 people braved heavy rain for the protest, according to varying estimates from police and organizers.
Demonstrators chanted “No to Camorra” in reference to the Neapolitan mafia and some protestors carried photographs of relatives who they said had died from cancer.
The protest movement is calling for the decontamination of polluted land and water and blames the mafia for creating hundreds of illegal dumps in the area.
Locals call the zone between Naples and Caserta the “Land of Fires” or “Triangle of Death” due to the toxic fumes produced by burning waste.
Among the protesters were the mayor of Naples, environmental groups and local figures including the singer Nino d’Angelo and Father Maurizio Patriciello, one of the first to hit out against the problem.
Three tons of bread baked using ingredients from “clean” fields in the region were distributed to protesters.
The organization Legambiente said that in 22 years some 440 businesses located in central and northern Italy have buried around 10 million tons of industrial waste in the area.
San Gennaro ‘miracle’ repeated in Naples
Neapolitans see event as good omen
San Gennaro ‘miracle’ repeated in Naples 19/09/2013
Naples, September 19 – The Miracle of San Gennaro was repeated on Thursday when the blood of Naples’ patron saint liquefied at 9:41 Italian. A huge crowd of faithful, who had been pouring into the city’s cathedral and the square outside from the early hours of the day, greeted the announcement of the miracle recurrence with warm applause.
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples, held up a phial containing the blood of the 3rd-century saint while a traditional white handkerchief was waved. For religious and superstitious Neapolitans, the ritual’s success is a good omen for the city. The miracle takes place on the anniversary of the martyrdom of San Gennaro (St. Januarius) in September 305 AD. The dried blood of the saint is preserved in two glass phials and traditionally liquefies three times a year, the Church says, thanks to the devotion and prayers of the faithful.
Aside from the anniversary of the saint’s beheading, the miracle also takes place on December 16 to commemorate the 1631 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, believed to have been halted by the saint’s intervention, and again on the Saturday before the first Sunday in May. On this occasion, there is a procession through the city’s streets to recall the many times the relics have been moved over the centuries. The liquefaction process sometimes takes hours, even days, and on occasions fails to happen at all. When the miracle does not occur it is seen as a sign of impending disaster.
In fact, disaster has struck on at least five occasions when the blood failed to liquefy, including in 1527 when tens of thousands of people died from the plague and in 1980 when 3,000 people were killed in an earthquake which devastated much of southern Italy. The phials will remain on view in the cathedral for several days before being returned to a vault in the chapel of the cathedral’s treasury.
The first historical reference to the liquefaction of the martyr’s blood is dated 1389. Although now a headline-making saint, little is known about San Gennaro except that he was bishop of Benevento to the south of Naples and was martyred during the persecution of Christians spearheaded by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The bishop was beheaded for refusing to bow down to his ‘pagan’ persecutors. According to legend, his body and head, still dripping blood, were gathered up by an old man and taken to a safe place while a local woman filled a phial with his spilt blood.
A group of Italian scientists has analysed the contents of the phials, establishing that they do contain blood, but have been unable to explain the phenomenon. Some sceptics believe it is due to the shaking of the containers or the penetration of warmth from the holder’s hands.
Obtained from Gazzetta del Sud at http://www.gazzettadelsud.it/news/english/62147/San-Gennaro–miracle–repeated-in-Naples.html
Garbage traffickers busted outside Naples
(ANSA) – Rome, Dec. 6 – Police outside Naples uncovered 21,000 tons of unregistered garbage and arrested two people for alleged illegal trafficking and fraud, including the CEO of a front company. The bust took place in the town of Agropoli, where police said the garbage traffickers had made 240 million euros over the course of seven years by masquerading as legitimate trash-disposal firms and filing taxes for trash incinerators that did not exist. Police seized 14 million euros in assets.
Italian police recover stolen Egyptian sphinx
(AFP) – Rome, Dec. 6 – Italian police on Thursday said they had recovered a 2,000-year-old Egyptian sphinx statue that was stolen from a necropolis near Rome and was about to be smuggled out of the country.
“The investigation began with a random check of an industrial vehicle during which police found a decorative ceramic object from an excavation as well as many photos of the Egyptian sculpture,” the police said in a statement.
A search of the driver’s residence turned up the statue from the Ptolemaic era (4th-1st centuries BC) packed into a crate and hidden in a greenhouse.
The statue is believed to have been stolen from the Etruscan necropolis of Montem Rossulum near Viterbo, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Rome.
The police “prevented the sculpture, as well as a series of ancient objects from being put on the clandestine international market,” the statement said.
The granite statue measures 120 centimeters and 60 centimeters.
Egyptian sculptures began to be shipped to Italy following the Roman conquest of Egypt in the 1st century BC.
Wall collapses at Pompeii amid wave of bad weather
(ANSA) – Pompeii, Nov. 30 – A stone wall collapsed at the Pompeii archaeological site on Friday, probably due to the wave of bad weather that is currently battering Italy. The wall was in an area of the site that had been sealed off from the public for work to make it safe.
The collapse involved roughly two cubic meters of the wall, which was part of the Regio VI archeological area uncovered in the 19th century. Frescoes were not reported to be damaged.
After recent collapses in the past two years, there has been growing concern about Italy’s ability to protect the 2,000-year-old site from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra.
In April this year a wall surrounding an ancient Pompeii villa collapsed just two weeks after the Italian government launched a joint 105-million-euro project with the European Union to save the UNESCO World Heritage site.
In February a yard-long piece of plaster fell off the ancient Temple of Jupiter.
In late December a pillar collapsed in the garden of the House of Loreius Tiburtinus, famous for its extensive gardens and outdoor ornamentation, in particular its Euripi, fountains that feature many frescoes and statuettes.
In November 2010 there was a collapse in the House of the Gladiators which drew criticism from UNESCO and the European Union.
It was followed soon after by a collapse at the famed House of the Moralist, spurring further criticism from international conservation groups.
In October 2010 there were another three minor cave-ins, including one at the House of Diomedes, after a fresh bout of heavy rain and an outcry when an eight-square-meter section of a wall fell near the Nola Gate.
Pompeii was destroyed when a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Vesuvius buried the city in ash in 79 AD and it now attracts more than two million visitors a year.
Polemics about looting, stray dogs, structural decay and poor maintenance have dogged Pompeii in recent years.
Taken from NSA PAO Italian News Clips, Dec. 4, 2012.