I just got back from a wonderful trip in the South of Italy. It’s not the first time I have the chance to see such beauty, in those lands kissed by the sun. This time though I felt a bit anxious because I was with my American host family (I am so lucky to be still in touch with them, even after 8 years). So being with foreigners, who came from very far away, made me feel like I was in some way responsible of their experience in my country.
Well, everything went smooth in beautiful Frascati, a small and beautiful city up in the Roman hills, in Sorrento, Capri and in the amazing Amalfi coast. Sure there were some signals that we weren’t in a perfectly secure area when we visited the Reggia of Caserta: like being literally assaulted by beggars of any kind before entering, having to park in a supervised parking lot in order to protect our luggage or just looking around town while my American visitors kept saying: “This place looks like Mexico” (not as a compliment). But the beauty of the Reggia simply blew our minds, so we easily forgot the sketchy surroundings. Since I lived in Paris for a while I had the chance to visit Versailles more than once. Every time the queue was huge, but worth it. Seeing the Reggia, which is even more beautiful than Versailles (and bigger), so empty made me feel sad.
Anyways, our trip had to end in Naples where they would have taken their flight back to the US. I already had the opportunity to visit this AMAZING city, lucky enough to have an incredible view with a volcano close to the sea. The problem is that it’s unbearable to visit or to stay there more than one day. First you arrive in a chaotic and crowded train station, with no one who knows how to speak some decent English. Then you go to the metro and you already have 3 or 4 beggars trying to “help” you with the tickets which in Neapolitan language means: “I’m trying to rob the shit out of you”. When you arrive at the hotel, which is in the safest area of the city and still looks like Tijuana, of course your room is not ready so you have to leave your luggage in the hallway waiting for the staff to finish your room.
But then you go out and you make a terrible, the-worst-you-can-make, mistake: you take the bus. It had been 30 minutes we were in Naples when, on the bus, my host dad got his wallet stolen. BY PEOPLE FROM NAPLES. They went up on the bus in a group of 5-6 people, they created the chaos they needed to get the job done, by pushing each other and talking loud, and in a matter of few seconds… puff their work was done. What’s worst is that the wallet had been carefully put in zip pocket, almost impossible to open in such a small time. Almost.
I never felt so humiliated in my life, it’s like having guests at your house and someone makes a really really bad joke. Silent sink in while everyone feels a little embarrassed. I was ashamed because this is my country, they were because they thought they didn’t paid enough attention looking after their things. So my question is: is it normal in a civilized country to have to pay attention EVERYWHERE in EVERY HOUR of the day to your belongings? Is it normal to have to feel constantly unsafe in a city in ITALY, not Colombia? Is it ok that tourists have to fear for their lives after 6 pm, or that they have to be trained in order to survive in Naples?
The best part was arriving at the police station, where they told us to come back after an hour because there wasn’t the person who was in charge for complaints. It was very nice to come back and he still wasn’t there. But it was even better to wait one more hour just to hear that the computer and the printer were out of service so we wouldn’t be able to report anything. “That’s how it works here folks, go find another police station. By the way on the bus R2 they always rub around”. Oh well good thing the police knows and doesn’t do anything about it.
In short, I was supposed to leave the same day and I never been so happier to leave a city. I had to say goodbye to my host family in a police station, not knowing when I’ll see them again.
They left Naples one day earlier.
I hope this short story will make us all think about this situation in one of the most beautiful cities I ever seen.
Thank you for reading.