Naples - Horrors Of The Past and Future

In his book, Naples '44, Norman Lewis described a city ravaged by war and suffering terrible poverty.

By 1944 the inhabitants of Naples were so destitute that all of the tropical fish in the city's aquarium had been devoured. Olive oil was sold for a price similar to that of gold, there were no farm animals left alive within 30 miles of the city. The Mafia thrived.

Lewis, who was in Naples as an Intelligence Officer attached to the American Army, observed that even respectable women in the city had been driven to prostitution to make ends meet. He saw a young Italian boy who had lost three fingers - they had been chopped of by a bayonet when he tried to pilfer some food from the back of an army lorry.

Bandits ran wild, Italian, German and American army deserters hid in the surrounding hills. During the first half of 1944, half of all food convoys entering the city were ambushed.

In 2006, Naples is a city unrecognizable from the horrors of 60 years ago, but which still seems very much poorer than the thriving cities in the north of Italy. Naples is also well known for having the worst standard of driving in the western world. It has, perhaps unkindly, been described as "dangerous, filthy, the armpit of Italy"

The author of these words, a fan of quirky, out of the way places, contemplates a visit to Naples. He reconsiders when he remembers that the scene which will one day face the city will make the events of 1944 pale in to insignificance. Naples is sitting on a 400-square-kilometre reservoir of magma, just waiting to explode. One day, no one knows when but it will happen, Naples will be buried underneath the ash, just like Pompeii. The author, apprehensive of been in the wrong place at the wrong time, opts to stay away.

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