Whatever your real interest is in Campania, the chances are that you'll wind up in NAPLES - capital of the region and, indeed, of the whole Italian south. It's the kind of city laden with visitors' preconceptions, and it rarely disappoints: it is filthy, it is very large and overbearing, it is crime-infested, and it is most definitely like nowhere else in Italy - something the inhabitants will be keener than anyone to tell you. In all these things lies the city's charm. Perhaps the feeling that you're somewhere unique makes it possible to endure the noise and harassment, perhaps it's the feeling that in less than three hours you've travelled from an ordinary part of Europe to somewhere akin to an Arab bazaar. One thing, though, is certain: a couple of days here and you're likely to be as staunch a defender of the place as its most devoted inhabitants. Few cities on earth inspire such fierce loyalties.
In Naples, all the pride and resentment of the Italian south, all the historical differences between the two wildly disparate halves of Italy, are sharply brought into focus. This is the true heart of the mezzogiorno , a lawless, petulant city that has its own way of doing things. It's a city of extremes, fiercely Catholic, its streets punctuated by bright neon Madonnas cut into niches, its miraculous cults regulating the lives of the people much as they have always done. Football, too, is a religion here: frenzied celebrations went on for weeks after Napoli, with their hero Maradona to the fore, wrested the Italian championship from the despised north in 1987. Support is not as fanatical as it used to be, though the club is currently enjoying some success again in Italy's Serie A.
Music, also, has played a key part in the city's identity: there's long been a Naples style, bound up with the city's strange, harsh dialect - and, to some extent, the long-established presence of the US military: American jazz lent a flavour to Neapolitan traditional songs in the Fifties; and the Seventies saw one of Italy's most concentrated musical movements in the urban blues scene of Pino Daniele and the music around the radical Alfa Romeo factory out at Pomigliano. More recently, a distinctive style of Neapolitan rap emerged from the centri sociali or "social centres" - groups of left-wing urban activists who challenge the establishment. The most famous exponents of this kind of rap are 99 Posse, who joined forces with Bisca to record Guai a Chi ci Tocca ( Trouble for Those who Touch Us ), which documented a brutal police attack on a peaceful student demonstration in Naples in 1994.
Naples is a surprisingly large city, and a sprawling one, with a centre that has many different focuses. The area between Piazza Garibaldi and Via Toledo, roughly corresponding to the old Roman Neapolis (much of which is still unexcavated below the...
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