The other night when we were having our dinner (that’s tea to fellow northerners), we got chatting to a family next to us. They spoke English but we worked out that they weren’t from England. The mother and grandmother in the group were fluent in Italian, so we assumed they were of Italian origin. When we got talking to them we found out they were Australian and from Melbourne. They asked us what we had seen since we had been here. We explained it was only our second day. I asked how long they were here for. They said they had been doing a tour of Europe.

“We’ve done France all of Switzerland, and we are now doing Italy. We have done the Amalfi Coast, and are heading up to Rome tomorrow“.
Impressive, I thought.
“How long have you been travelling for?“ I asked.
“A week and a half“.
Very impressive, I thought.

She then continued, saying how much she enjoyed the Amalfi Coast, then in a more secretive tone she leaned into us and uttered “but Naples is very dirty“. To be honest she has a point. Naples is not a pretty city, shall we say. It has some beautiful buildings, it has an amazing history, but it’s also a bit grim in places.

Now I am not doing down Naples in any way. In fact if you take the open top bus tour, there is a whole section where a lady tells you about the fact that Naples is a hotch potch of cultures, architectural styles and is basically just a bit of a mess. To be honest it’s no worse than many other European cities which I have visited but it is a bit rough around the edges. When I first looked at coming here, a comment was made in the guidebook about pickpockets. So far I have not felt in any way more or less threatened than in any other European city. The streets are no dirtier than any other city I have visited; but the place does have a certain down at heel field. Saying that, I quite like it. It’s not pretending to be anything special for the tourists. It is a working city.

I suppose one thing that has struck me as slightly different to many other cities is the rubbish situation. In our apartment we have copious notes about recycling. We have a recycling bin for cardboard and paper; we have a one for metal and plastics and we even have one for organic waste which goes in the composter in the garden of the apartment. We also have instructions on where we need to take the recycling. On virtually every street corner you will see recycling bins for glass, metal and cardboard. This morning we took our empty beer and wine bottles to one such bin (I made Karen carry them as she hadn’t consumed any of the beer and wine and so it felt somehow better having her clank all the way to the recycle bin). This does mean that on the one hand the city is green, but on the other hand quite messy.

The Metro is quite graffitied. I already mentioned about the graffiti on the walls,so you can see how a tourist thinks that the city is dirty. Today we went to Sorrento, the beautiful coast resort about an hour outside of Napoli. We took the local train which was covered in graffiti, had plastic chairs and the air-conditioning consisted of having the windows as wide open as possible. These trains made the Pacer trains which Northern are finally getting rid of, look like Pendolinos.

Once we had arrived in Sorrento it was a different story (well once you had got past the train station). The streets were beautifully clean; there was no litter anywhere to be seen; all the buildings appeared to be beautifully whitewashed. In fact Karen commented that it had an almost Greek feel to it. However, every other voice that we heard was English. It was also full of English tourists.

A few years ago we went to Sri Lanka. When we were there we were quite taken aback by the poverty and the state of the roads and general amenities. Talking to other people who seemed to do long haul holidays in the winter on a regular basis, many of whom had been to Goa in India, they commented how clean they thought Sri Lanka was compared to India. I suppose it all depends what you are used to. Sorrento is obviously geared for tourists and so a lot of effort is made to keep it pristine and beautiful; not that much care has been taken with Naples, But that doesn’t seem to bother the Neapolitans.

I guess what I’m saying is “when in Rome” (or in this case “when in Naples”) you have to accept a city for what it is. Anyway, I need to finish now as we can only deposit the recycling between 19:00 and 23:00 and I have a few more bottles that I need Karen to take down there for me.

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