Day 7 – Thursday 28 December

Stopping costs more than a fine!The city had come back to life after the Christmas break, and the streets were again full of traffic. Neapolitan drivers (there are 400,000 of them, plus 2,186 taxi drivers) sound their horns regularly as a matter of course, just to see if they are still working. Red lights and stop signs appear to be only suggestions – the cartoon on the right says: "Neapolitan drivers take no notice of traffic lights ... stopping at one costs more than a fine!" They have 1,700km of roads to drive on, more than Dublin but less than the 3,000km in Rome or Milan.

While we're talking statistics, here's a few more (from 2 to 3 years ago): Naples has an area of 117 sq. km., compared to Dublin city's 114, but has a population of just over 1 million, compared to Dublin city's 482,000 (however, Dublin's is growing fast, while Naples' is decreasing). Naples has 430,000 unemployed, compared to around less than 20,000 for Dublin. Dublin received about 3 million tourists in 1998, compared to Naple's 1.8 million. There were 171 homicides in 1998 in Naples, compared to 40 in Ireland in 1999.

A couple of buddies on a Vespa PX A family on a Vespa PX Naples is Scooter Heaven, but scooter owners don't like to be alone on their Vespas. On every street you see at least two on a Vespa, and often the whole family is squeezed up there on the PX model.

Most of today was spent around Piazza Municipio. Visited Feltrinelli's excellent bookshop near the Via Roma, where I spent a couple of hours. I read recently that the founder and owner of this chain of bookshops was found dead beside an electricity pylon, back in the seventies, apparently having fallen while trying to blow it up with explosives. Left-wingers claimed that his murder was engineered by extreme right-wingers, and his body dumped there. The truth may never be known.

A relaxing evening in the notorious Bar Rose After lunch at a nearby cafe, I headed to Cafe Gambrinus on Piazza Plebiscito, reputedly a haunt of the local intelligentsia, for coffee ( "tazzulella e cafè") and a quiet read of the paper.
That evening I went to one of the few late-night bars with some friends (right). Up until a few years ago this bar was, among the cognoscenti, a popular late-night meeting place for night-owls. This attracted drug-dealers. Neighbours complained, first to the police, who clamped down periodically, but most of the time did nothing, and then to the Camorra, who effectively got rid of not only the drug-dealers but every one else who came here for a good time. Now those times are just a fading memory.

Later some Somalian friends from the old days came in, and as is often the case, after a few beers an argument broke out among them, so I had to leave them to it, arguing as only Somalians can.

To previous day Naples' intractible traffic problems Next day