Naples - fast faded glory...

Naples is quite a shock. Having been in Tuscany in June, Naples feels like a different world - poorer, shabbier. The faded elegance of eighteenth century glamour is covered with graffiti as far as arm can stretch and on virtually every available space. Litter covers the streets and many things look as if nature bids to reclaim it - grasses and weeds emerge from between the cracks even on obviously used buildings. People linger begging - the obvious Roma - but also at a supermarket entrance a young Italian woman in stretched cardigan and sagging T-shirt. The shops are antique - much sold from behind counters (including the bookshops) and every one over-manned. Manned being the right word - even at the hotel, apart from the woman who cleared up at breakfast, they are all men (even the 'chamber person' who brought me a second pillow. It is different here.

I went to the Archaeological Museum which was beautiful - a converted Neopolitan palace with a striking collection from Pompeii. I especially liked the early paintings - so vivid, complex and realistic. The latter true even when dealing with the worlds and behaviour of the gods - they were simply part of the mental furniture of the world. Their stories, our story; however, that was configured in the mind of the beholder (metaphysically or culturally). The mosaics too - refined products carefully constructed out of minute stones and both intimate scene and grand display. I saw the famous mosaic of Alexander pursuing the Persian king in victory and it tastes battle, triumph and fear. There was also rooms of erotica - no shrinking violets here - I especially liked the clay lamp of an ageing scholar reading a text from the underneath of which emerges a (relatively) vast phallus - as if his unconscious dreams of past opportunity, faded hope.

I am in Naples for UN Habitat's World Urban Forum - 11,000 people discussing cities for four days and networking furiously (and moonlighting I expect too).


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