It doesn?t make any difference whether you are going by car, by foot, by bike or by the public means of transportation ? your motto should always be ?the journey is the reward?. About the big adventure of moving in Naples, the capital of chaos.
Chaos and disorder on the traffic lanes of this city are so absolute and all-embracing that one might even suspect a detailed and well-thought system behind it. Maybe all the car drivers, who take great pains to congest every imaginable street and lane of Naples every day, every hour, every minute, get paid for their hard work by the tourist office. Maybe it is a way to attract more tourists, to show the visitors all the clich?s that they expect, the hotly desired local colour, like chaotic streetscape, multicoloured clotheslines, happy Neapolitan greengrocers and noisy motor scooters.
Illustration: Hanna Zeckau
The cousin in the Tabacchi-shop and the vivacious lover
How would it otherwise be explainable that the inhabitants of this town venture to swarm out to the streets with their beloved Fiat Punto every day, even though they know that they will be irretrievably stranded on the next crossing? Do they seriously hope that on that very day nobody will have the cheek to double, or triple-park in central through roads, just to say hello to the cousin in the Tabacchi-shop? After all it would be really crazy to expect one’s fellow citizens to stop at a red traffic light. To the helpless car driver there?s nothing left to do besides honking and waiting and yelling a throaty strunz` e mmerd` (which signifies something like `asshole and bullshit`).
With all the jammed crossings of Naples the vivacious lover, who parked his Cinquecento in the middle of the important traffic junction to beat up his rival on the spot, doesn?t seem to attract much attention. Neither does the fossilised senior citizen from the third floor, who decided to throw his complete furnishings into the alley. Anyway, for rather adventurous drivers Naples can be a nice place – in which other city do you find old dented cars, used as garbage cans and parked in some narrow crossings, which serve as perfect buffers for turn-over-manoeuvres?
Should the stranger really continue to believe in the clich?s about this city? Up to a certain degree yes. You can sketch a quite clear picture of the ?typical? Neapolitan: extremely open, noisy, hospitable, chaotic, helpful, unpunctual, communicative, vivacious, impulsive, cheerful, importunate, long-winded, rather an emotional than a rational person. In one word: inefficient. It seems there is a clear connection between happy extroversion, impulsiveness, complexity and chaos, and lack of efficiency.
Funiculi Funicula! About the jobless on the crossings and the traffic-laundry-connection
It might seem quite a strange idea, but maybe the whole traffic chaos in the catalyst-free zone of Naples is explainable by the fact that people there just don?t want to live without the air impregnated by exhaust fumes? After all, they wouldn?t recognize themselves any more if freshly washed clothes suddenly really smelled like freshly washed clothes. The Neapolitan feels great in clothes saturated with carbon monoxide. In general, the densely packed clotheslines are everywhere, at all times. How is it possible that in one city there are so many clothes to wash? Or does the tourist office have its finger in this pie too?
Photography: Susanne Vangerow
Maybe the almighty office should also devote itself to other essential tourist wishes, such as the one for quick transportation, because actually there aren?t really any good alternatives to going by car. Going by bus? Forget that for the already described reasons; not infrequently will you have to wait for hours on a normal workday, because the bus is trapped in a crossing that is also used ? to top it all – for political purposes, for demonstrations and manifestations. Regularly the labor unions, the communist party, or most often, I Disoccupati (the unemployed) try to get sympathizers by contributing to the Neapolitan traffic chaos, until they are removed by the Carabinieri (the police).
Now you could succumb to the fallacy that one is on the safe side with the subway. All the more, since the hypermodern second underground-line was inaugurated just one year ago by President Ciampi in a ceremonious act. But let?s not be impatient! Of course you have to proceed carefully when introducing a new traffic lane; there?s nothing unusual in permitting only a few selected test rides a day in the first year! That?s what the administration of Naples did, so you should maybe bring something to read, since you will have to wait a little hour or so for the next subway ride. If you don?t like this idea, you could fall back on another transport possibility in the meanwhile.
On the funicolare (cable railway) for example. This means of transportation isn?t only quite famous ? the song ?Funiculi, funicula? was a smash hit 100 years ago -, but it really seems to work quickly and regularly. Only you?re a bit restricted when it comes to flat-hunting, it won?t be easy to find an apartment near one of the 4 or 5 cable railway stops.
Suicide in Naples – and why thieves are the only efficient inhabitants of this town
Or take the bike! You need bring nothing more than a certain tiredness for life – car drivers in Naples love to drive fast! (to compensate the long waiting in the traffic jams). But even if going by bike holds some drawbacks, as one of the two or three bikers in Naples at least you can be sure to rise in the shortest time to the dubious status of a slightly eccentric celebrity known all over town.
Finally there?s left only the option of walking. But once more you have to be patient, because Naples is the ?town of the slow foot?. Nobody seems to be in a hurry, after all unpunctuality is a sign of good address. As there are Bancarelle (stalls) all over the sidewalks, where you can buy everything from plasters to smuggled cigarettes, traffic jams happen even between the pedestrians. In the historic centre the movement of the passer-by is exposed to particular impediments: since the narrow alleys serve simultaneously as street and sidewalk, you have to constantly flee from mad scooter drivers. These, mostly young males, often maintain inventive hobbies, like throwing pistachios or oranges on defenceless pedestrians; in the carnival period possible substitutes are raw eggs and shaving-foam.
By the way, some of them, the so-called Scippatori (handbag-thieves), belong to the only Neapolitan profession field working efficiently. Sitting in twos on a motorino, the person in front is responsible for driving, the one behind for tearing away handbags or cellular phones. Scippatori connect work and pleasure, they invest hardly anything – the risk is very little – and the chances of success and profit are very high. How reassuring to know that in some way even in the capital of chaos efficiency has already arrived!
Link to a site with tourist information about Naples, where you can (some-times! This is a site about Naples!!) listen to the song ?Funiculi, funicula?: