There are few cities that generate as much bad press as Naples, and this in turn generated a curiosity that would only be satisfied by going there and finding out for myself. What would the world be like beyond the terminal building at Capodichino Airport?
Well, getting off the aircraft and into that building brought its own taster, as the ground staff had decided to strike. Fortunately, some of them were still prepared to bring steps up to the plane, and I had no checked baggage. For some of my 137 fellow passengers, it was shaping up to be a frustrating day.
So what of that bad press? Well, the warnings of choking traffic, few green spaces, streets strewn with rubbish, dreadfully maintained roads, incessant noise (if not from all that traffic, from the interminable construction projects intended to alleviate it), horribly overcrowded public transport, poverty, mass unemployment, and graffiti on a post industrial scale are all true, and in spades.
But to be repelled by all of this is to miss the point: all Naples’ flaws are also part of what makes it so fascinating. Here is a city that is in your face: there is no pretence otherwise. And there is a lesson for all: the joining of corrupt local government and organised crime into the public-private partnership from hell does not make for happy outcomes.
So it was that, after a slow and bumpy bus ride, I alighted at Piazza Garibaldi, an uninspiring, sprawling, filthy and cacophonous part of the city centre, ready for a very different city break experience.
Welcome to Naples.