As a child I sometimes cowered on my visits to Napoli. For a naturally quiet soul from the leafy suburbs of West London, the city seemed chaotic and frightening. People hollered from pavement to balcony, vehicles honked furiously and yellow canaries in cramped cages sang their tiny hearts out in a futile bid for freedom. The only relief from the suffocating heat in our apartment were the cool tiles underfoot, tiles which although chipped and worn were beautiful never the less. The memory of being robbed never quite escaped me either. We had decided to travel to Palinuro in an attempt to escape the city’s sticky humidity and just as we set off several mopeds blocked our car. Suddenly there were hairy arms grabbing at our bags through the open passenger window, just millimeters from my sister’s little blonde head. My mother scratched the arms until her hands bled and my father’s only victory was to close the electric windows. Fortunately their mission failed: we managed to keep the bags. The bandits sped off leaving us shaken.
Yet even from the youngest age Napoli fascinated me. It’s a land of contrasts steeped in history and legend; Chaos and beauty, pain and joy, abundance and poverty, light and dark, generosity and injustice. As for the people they’re the best people you could ever meet (Please come in, eat, eat!!) but if you’re unlucky, also the worst.
“Napule è nu paese curioso: è nu teatro antico, sempre apierto.” Napoli is a curious land: it’s an ancient theatre, always open. That’s it: its like an opera.
The people of Napoli have a distinction in the university of life, for wherever you go in the city it is expressed with a huge degree of passion, both joyous and tragic. There is a wild air about the city, its essence is both beautiful and dark. A streak of danger looms behind backs and lurks in the shadows yet the sunlight reveals such blinding beauty.