Simon Calder: The Man Who Pays His Way

A one-man crime wave - with the receipt to prove it

Respect local laws. Whether you wish to avoid a ticking-off for picking oranges from the trees in Portuguese squares, or to be spared the inconvenience of capital punishment for dabbling in drugs in Singapore, obeying the prevailing rules is a good strategy for any traveller. But this week, Naples led me astray.

Respect local laws. Whether you wish to avoid a ticking-off for picking oranges from the trees in Portuguese squares, or to be spared the inconvenience of capital punishment for dabbling in drugs in Singapore, obeying the prevailing rules is a good strategy for any traveller. But this week, Naples led me astray.

Don't get the wrong idea. I have not started to drive homicidally, or taken to depositing horses' heads in rivals' beds, or even started smoking in bars (which now incurs a €30 fine). But on at least half a dozen occasions, I have transgressed Italy's tough tax laws.

The capital of southern Italy has been a much misunderstood place for generations. In the 19th century, British tourists arriving at the port were hurried around the bay to the more genteel surroundings of Sorrento. Even in the 21st century, your first sight of the traffic, traders and trash that characterise the poorer quarters of the centre may convince you that the only thing remotely organised about Naples is its criminal class . I found myself aligned with this body so often that I fear I have become a one-man crime wave.

Naples has a reputation for a certain disdain of legal niceties. This is immediately apparent not just in the inventive and ambitious techniques of the city's drivers, but also among the large number of cigarette traders at the market on Vico Sopramuro. As you know, each European country places a health warning in its own language on cigarette packets. Smokers who reside on the Bay of Naples, though, are cautioned about the risks of smoking in Polish, Slovak and Russian - countries where the cost of a pack of Marlboro or "Benson e Hedges" is way below the prevailing €2.70 (£2) price in Italy.

Still, as a weekend destination, Naples has few rivals. You can hop from the Farnese Marbles at the National Archaeological Museum into one of the many churches whose foundations can barely support the weight of the Baroque interior; skip from there up a stairway to the heavenly Certosa di San Martino, a delicate monastery floating above Naples; and jump, with the help of the city's funicular railways, down to Via Chiaia, a retail thoroughfare for those with armour-plated credit cards.

The city enjoys the most spectacular location, where the essence of Italy seeps into a strip of land between the bay and the hills. And while at almost any time of the day or night Naples' street life is a good definition of the word "hectic", many citizens are well-to-do, sophisticated and intensely culturally literate. Last Saturday the Maradona Museum opened, celebrating Naples' favourite adopted son and a footballing career that proved magica e triste. On Sunday, the queue for a Caravaggio exhibition at the Palazzo Reale stretched for hundreds of metres, as citizens willingly waited two hours to pay their respects to the master of chiaroscuro.

When confronted with such crowds, the average visitor may opt instead for a gastronomic tour of the city. Reckon on putting on a pound for every waking hour of your stay, as you eat your way through the weekend.

Naples was the birthplace of the pizza marinara, topped only with tomato, olive oil, oregano and garlic. (Its pescatorial name arises because it was given to fishermen to sustain them, rather than being filled with their catch.) WITH A repertoire of civic cuisine from flappingly fresh seafood to sfogliatelle (pastry clams overflowing with ricotta), Naples is a city of pure indulgence. But I found it impossible to snack or dine without breaking the law.

Every time you visit a café or restaurant in Italy, even if you pause only for the briefest espresso, you have a legal obligation to get a receipt and take it out of the establishment. The reason: not every trader in Italy, you may be surprised to learn, is scrupulous about declaring every cent of his or her takings. So desperate has the finance ministry become to collect the value added tax that is due to it that the law requires customers to collect a ricevuto fiscale - an official-looking document detailing your consumption - and carry it a minimum of 10 metres away. A team of officials from the Guardia di Finanza is liable to pounce on any errant tourist who leaves the receipt on the table.

I managed to evade the Receipt Squad (not as glamorous-sounding a division as the Flying Squad) all weekend. This was just as well, because whenever I asked for a receipt, the waiters and patron became, well, evasive.

At an interesting Irish-Arabic place called O'Talebano's, I was charged for the beer with which I washed down my meal, but it did not appear on the bill. At the Giada gelateria, the ice-cream made it on to the receipt but not the coffee. And at the end of an evening at Antonio's Trattoria, the response to my request to stay on the right side of the law resembled a Bateman cartoon.

A huddle of waiters, chefs and fellow diners conferred urgently about how to deal with The Tourist Who Demanded a Receipt. Finally a page was torn from a school exercise book. The repast was itemised in flowing script, before the patron formally presented this meaningless document on a silver platter.

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Manager - Global Leisure Business

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in their fiel...

    Investigo: Senior Finance Analyst - Global Leisure Business

    £45000 - £52000 per annum + bonus+bens : Investigo: My client, a global leader...

    Investigo: Financial reporting Accountant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: One of the fastest growing g...

    Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luton – £25k

    25,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: CRM Executive – Global Travel Brand – Luto...

    Day In a Page

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?