Day 2 – Saturday 23 December

A dry day, so I took the opportunity to check out what the street traders in the market area behind Garibaldi's statue on the Piazza had to offer. Shoes, textiles, fake designer labels, pirated videos and software, bootleg CDs – in fact some of the CDs have nothing on them at all! There's an old Neapolitan saying about con men: "He's selling the smoke of Vesuvius." The small narrow streets were packed with families seeking last-minute Christmas bargains, the air thick with hawkers' cries in the thick Napulitano dialect. "Dottor', capo, viene qua! Prego, signo'?" from all sides. They could understand me when I spoke Italian, but I could barely comprehend what they were saying in reply.

Garibaldi statue at Piazza Garibaldi


At lunchtime I dropped in to see my old friends at Ciro's on the Piazza, for my first pizza of the trip – "Naples is pizza and pizza is Naples," the Neapolitans say. The trattoria was unchanged from when I lived in Naples, six years ago. Like many places in Naples, it probably hasn't changed since it was built, sometime in the sixties: gruff Salvatore at the cash register, smiling Paolo behind the counter, impatient Antonio waiting the tables. Pizza is a Neapolitan invention – they say it was being made at the baker's in Pompei when the volcano erupted. The dough is freshly made and is baked in a hot wood-burning oven. Most Neapolitans eat the Marinara (the fisherman's pizza – plain, no fish or cheese) or the Margherita (tomato, cheese and basil showing the colours of the Italian flag). Pizza is usually accompanied by beer, probably the only time Neapolitans drink beer! I prefer pizza with shellfish. Which reminds me of something Dave Barry once said: "Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."

A pizza, a glass of wine, and thou
A pharmacy in the Centro Storico

Centro Storico

In the afternoon, on my way to the Centro Storico to look up a friend, I took a detour around the Porta Capuana, another of the ancient city gates, checking out some of the places I frequented when I lived nearby. Luciano's string of restaurants appeared to have changed hands – I often wondered whether they were related to Lucky Luciano, who returned to this part of the world after he was released from jail in the US (on condition that he never return!). Excitement was in the air because Naples were playing football against Parma that afternoon – the pizzerias were filled with men watching the game. Napoli had managed to return to Serie A, but were struggling to remain there. The result was 2-2.

Watching the soccer on TV outside a butcher's shop

Watching soccer on TV

Da Ettore

That evening, at dinner in Ettore's, situated next to the hotel, I saw on the TV news that an acquaintance from earlier days, Erminia Giuliano (known as Celeste for her startling blue eyes) had been discovered hiding in her daughter's apartment, after an 8-month manhunt by the police. She controlled the largest Camorra clan in Naples, that of the Forcello quarter. The quarter was only a stone's throw from where I lived in Via Foria. It was in this quarter, bounded by the Tribunale, the Greek Walls and the Porta Capuana, usually at the Gelateria Polo Sud, that I often came across Celeste chatting innocently enough to her friends (read more here). "A nice Christmas box for the security forces," a senior police officer commented after the arrest. His remark reminded me that two years ago the Neapolitan police had arrested another Camorra leader in similar circumstances. After spending more than five years in hiding, Franceso Schiavone was found in a secret apartment behind a sliding wall of granite at his family's villa. He had been living there with his wife and seven children.


Maschio Angioino

Later that evening, around the Maschio Angioino (on right) at Piazza Municipio, I saw some of the changes that were taking place: lots of construction on new metro stations and, unfortunately, a new McDonalds at the Piazza. A blight on this landscape, if ever there was one!

Maschio Angioino

To previous day Election poster with picture of Ciampi Next day