Leave off your Rolexes ... Naples watches its visitors

Peter Popham
Monday 29 April 2013 03:11

The idea, cooked up by the city's tourist commissioner and the head of an amusement park, envisages a plastic watch adorned with a picture of one of the city's two most famous sights: either the Bay of Naples backed by Mount Vesuvius, or a pizza margherita, which was invented in Naples. The watch will be accompanied by a booklet giving tips on how to prevent a trip to Naples ending in tears. "You have arrived in the city of marvels," it says. "We advise you, however, not to add unpleasant surprises to the many splendid ones you will enjoy here. Leave your Rolex in the hotel."

Tourist bureau creativity is not the only reason Naples is on Italy's mind this week. The election of Giorgio Napolitano to the Italian presidency this week has thrown a powerful light on the city where the 80-year-old former Communist was born and which he represented in parliament for 43 years.

Referred to in the Italian papers as "Sir Giorgio" or "Lord Napolitano" on account of his rigid bearing and perennially blank poker face, supposedly reminiscent of an English gentleman, Mr Napolitano's home town has not acquired its unhappy fame for Rolex-snatching by chance. Although one of Italy's most magnificent cities, it is also arguably the most anarchic, with massive unemployment and an acute problem with its own version of the Mafia, the Camorra.

This week, Mr Napolitano, whose thesis at university was entitled "The absence of development in the Mezzogiorno [the south of Italy]", said his decision to join the Communist Party in 1945 "was prompted more by a desire to fight injustice than by ideology". Despite Mr Napolitano's four decades of service, however, injustice, poverty, crime and mayhem remain endemic to the spectacular city on the bay of Naples that for centuries was the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, ruled by the Bourbon dynasty.

Two weeks before the city elects a new mayor, startling posters highlighting its degradation have appeared on walls. Designed by Saatchi and Saatchi, they show a gilded, velvet-upholstered mayoral throne deposited among the city's slums, or amid its uncollected rubbish and disintegrating rubbish bins. The copy runs: "Our next mayor must work here."

The adverts are sponsored by "L'Altra Napoli" ["The Other Naples"], set up by Ernesto Albanese, president of the Italian Olympic Committee, after his father was murdered at the entrance of his home in the city last year by bandits who remain at large. Mr Albanese told La Repubblica newspaper: "The sense of our organisation is that the south of Italy should be on the agenda of national politics. The government has the duty to tap immense potentiality and resources of the south, which today are suffocated and frustrated." Of the election of "Lord" Napolitano, he said: "It's a great opportunity. Italy cannot go to work for the development of Iraq and forget about a place like Naples, which is sinking from a lack of opportunity and legality."

Meanwhile, a tourism official said the watches should get the official go-ahead next week. But fears were voiced yesterday that they may not work as planned. As they will not be available in the shops, they may become valuable collectors' items - and worth stealing in their own right.

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