A Good Place to Start

Red light zone

NAPLES -- Naples has been notorious for poverty and social deprivation since the days when wealthy Europeans visited the city as part of their Grand Tour.

 It emerged as a crucible of suffering, chronicled by Norman Lewis in “Naples 44,” at the end of the Second World War, and not much seems to have changed since then.

  Petty criminality is rife in the city today, from the blatant sale of counterfeit goods and contraband cigarettes to violent muggings liable to transfer visitors from hotel to hospital, if not worse. Behind the petty stratagems of the desperate – documented by the No Comment cultural association -- lurks the big league criminality of the Camorra, which recently embarked on a new bout of bloodletting in the ongoing battle for control of the city’s lucrative drug trade.

 In a sense, the city’s social problems encapsulate those of Italy as a whole, and at its worst; so common and familiar that locals no longer notice and authorities turn a blind eye. As the country wrestles with new and unprecedented national poverty, Naples could be a good place to start in the quest for virtuous social solutions.