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I traveled to Bella Napoli on business a number of times, both before and after we moved to Europe. We were supporting a US contingent working for the NATO Allied Forces Southern Command (AFSOUTH), in the northern section of Naples called Bagnoli. We would stay at the San Germano hotel and walk to the AFSOUTH headquarters in the morning, working all day, and then walking back to the hotel in the evening. After work we would either walk to a nearby restaurant or take a taxi to one a bit further away.

I enjoyed Naples a lot. It was definitely different there. Traffic was sheer anarchy and chaos. There was a saying that in Northern Italy, traffic lights were the law, in mid-Italy they were a suggestion, and in Naples they were a decoration. We didn't rent cars often (they were stolen too frequently), but one time we did I remember being passed on the right by another car doing well over 50 mph, while I was stopped at a red light!! The main road in downtown Naples followed the shoreline along the harbor. It was undivided, and painted with 3 lanes in either direction. During the morning rush hour when the vast majority of the cars were traveling north into the city, no-one stayed in lane and the result was that it was one-way north, with 8-10 cars abreast in those 6 lanes. Anyone trying to legally drive south would be driven off the road. In the evening the process reversed!

Every restaurant was a delight. The local vegetables flourished in the volcanic soil (Pompeii is only a short ride south, and there are active steam-vents all through the hills around the city) and they were out-of-this-world. We would sit down to eat around 8-9 at night, and we would be the only ones in the restaurant. By eleven, the place would be packed.

The every-day process of living was different too. Crime was quite common, almost rampant, but it was not bodily assault type of crime, it was theft. The Mafia controlled everything, so you paid your "insurance" money to the local neighborhood representative, and your house was not burglarized. If you didn't pay, your apartment would get cleaned out regularly. Once we heard about one American who paid his insurance regularly but got cleaned out one day anyway. He complained to the neighborhood rep, and the next day all his stuff was returned - plus some extra!

The neighborhood representatives even had a retirement plan - when they got old they worked the street outside restaurants taking payments from the patrons so their cars would not be stripped. You could spot them easily because they wore white caps - they were the capos. Pay them 200-400 lire (about a dollar at the time) when you parked your car and it would be there waiting for you when you finished eating. Ignore them and the car would be up on blocks when you came out.

The group inside Sbrescia Ristorante - Naples Italy, circa 1990
Rampe de San Antonio a Posillipo - Naples Italy

The photos are from an early trip. One is of a group of us in a spectacular restaurant on a hill right in downtown Naples, called Sbrescia. We had to stop in earlier in the day to let them know how many of us would be having this one particular dish because it was made to order and took a long time to make. It was the most incredible seafood stew I have ever had. The second photo is of the street that the restaurant is on - a street that goes down the side of a hill so steep its a series of hair-pin turns zig-zagging down the hill. Lombard Street in San Francisco is a piece of cake compared to this street!!



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