Aside from Sicily, the most mob-ridden and dangerously depicted city in Italy was depicted as Naples. In “The Sopranos”, when Tony wants to whack someone and leave no trail to himself, he requests some boys “direct from Naples” which is pretty much seen as a place with endless numbers of potential thugs.
This summer I went to Italy. Given that I have seen the popular perception of Italy, I was astounded when Frommers insisted that Naples was a great place to visit, with many fine shops and fabulous museums. The guide books said that parts of Naples were indeed dangerous, but overall there were many nice areas of the city and that the attractions were enough to overcome the perceptions.
I spent a couple of days in Naples and I was only able to see a small part of the city, but the part of the city that I saw did seem to be vibrant and filled with high-class stores that would not be out of place in River North here in Chicago, except that the shop owners seemed ever present and they make much of the shoes and clothes nearby instead of importing them across the ocean. The cab drivers told us to stay out of dangerous parts of town and certainly parts of it were noticeably decrepit, but overall I would recommend staying there.
Recently the violence in Naples is making news. From this article
“Extra Police Sent to Fight Naples Crime Wave”
Italy said on Tuesday it was sending hundreds of police reinforcements to Naples to combat a bloody crime wave that has prompted some calls for the army to be sent in to restore order.
Three more people were killed on Tuesday in and around the southern city, which is home to a branch of the Mafia, bringing to seven the number of people murdered in the area since Friday.
Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said he was sending 1,000 more police to Italy's third biggest city which, according to media reports, currently has a security force about 13,000 strong.
Many Americans would read this and feel smug. This fits right in with their perception of Italy. But let’s look at the facts…
- Naples 1 million
- Chicago 2.9 million
Murders per year
- ALL OF ITALY 710 murders (2004)
- Chicago 448 (2004)
- Naples 13,000
- Chicago 16,000
Note – I wish that I could find better sources for crime rates in Italy… I searched the web but came up empty – if someone has suggestions or can improve on this data please put it in the comments
If you look at the statistics, it seems more appropriate to bring the army to Chicago than to Naples. We have less police per capita and a far higher murder rate.
The sad part are that we are used to it here and it isn’t news… but we certainly shouldn't be smug about Italy. If only 3 people were killed on a summer weekend in Chicago that would be a "quiet" weekend here. Sigh...