Flirting with Disaster

Naples is chaotic, beautiful, ungovernable--and plans carefully for the worst


A fireman checks a building in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.

Day-to-day life in Naples, Italy, a city that defines world-class municipal malfunction, can seem like "one long emergency," to borrow a phrase from Bruce Springsteen. Narrow streets. Buildings in disrepair. Pickpockets on the prowl. And we haven't even gotten to the Mob hits and trash heaps. Naples has attracted the global spotlight in recent years for a recurring emergenza of uncollected garbage piled along city blocks, the result of a toxic mix of dismal political leadership and organized crime's muscling in on the trash-collecting business. It must also be said that there is much beauty to behold in this bustling Mediterranean...

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