Angelo Forgione – Cristian Martini Grimaldi, scrittore e giornalista, è romano ma divide la sua vita tra l’Italia e il Giappone. In pieno ottobre 2015 ha scritto un pezzo per L’Huffington Post dal titolo “Napoli criminale? Ci sono stato e ora lo posso dire. È tutta invidia!”, cronaca di un’esperienza personale di un operatore dell’informazione, identica a quelle della stragrande maggioranza dei turisti che scoprono Napoli e la sua verità sperimentata di persona, dopo esser stati riempiti di pregiudizi e luoghi comuni dal carrozzone mediatico. “Che razza di napoletani ci raccontano i media?”, si domandava Grimaldi, prendendo a discuterne anche sui social network appena resosi conto che l’articolo era diventato virale. A distanza di tre mesi, continua ad essere rilanciato da siti e portali informativi napoletani, e l’autore è tornato a parlarne sul suo profilo facebook, esternando con un post la sua amarezza per un’immagine di Napoli che resta sempre la stessa per i media italiani: “esiste una sorta di inconfessato accordo tra giornalisti che condanna questa città [Napoli] a fare la parte della strega cattiva (ma le streghe non erano brutte?) anche contro ogni evidenza (ci sono tre volte più furti in appartamento a Roma che a Napoli e quasi sette volte tanto a Milano; le rapine aumentano al nord ma diminuiscono al sud, Napoli in primis)”. Grimaldi ha chiesto di rilanciare la versione tradotta in inglese del suo pezzo, affiché sia sdoganato anche all’estero. L’immagine di Napoli è distorta da più di un secolo, e di certo non possono bastare tre mesi per curare un problema storico accentuato dalla nascita della televisione. Io, per evidenti motivazioni, accolgo al volo e volentieri il suo invito.
NAPLES A CRIME CITY? NOW I’VE SEEN IT AND I CAN SAY IT, IT’S ALL ENVY!
Cristian Martini Grimaldi
Type on Google “Napoli pizza” (Naples’s pizza) and you will get 24 million and a half results. Now type “Napoli criminalità” (Naples’s crime): 650,000 results. A figure forty times lower. But if even the Internet certifies this distance in terms of numbers then why crime has become the universal symbol of this city not only in Italy but also abroad?
No, it has nothing to do with Gomorrah (the TV series). The inhabitants of Naples who have a tad of common sense would never complain about a popular TV series that makes the name of Naples circulate all over the world as the location of a successful thriller (ask the people in Albuquerque if they complain about Breaking Bad). Instead the culprit should be searched among the tidbits of crime news, those who pretend to describe faithfully the every day reality, they lightly cross the borders of our Italian peninsula, travel far, so far they even reach the Far East: these are the ‘Chinese drops’ that reinforce the prejudice of “Naples as the crime city” (we can’t ignore that it exists a type of journalism that promotes the spreading of clichés: the Japanese vagaries, the Chinese corruption, the Latino laziness).
A shootout in Scampia, an execution at Torre del Greco, the passer-by wounded by a baby-killer (all boroughs of Naples). And then you happen to ask a Japanese passer-by who’s resting on the parapet of Castel dell’Ovo just overlooking the gulf of Naples and you would realistically expect that he would immediately run off for fear of you shoplifting him. That doesn’t happen. What happens is that he actually listens to you, and what does he has to say?
“We had booked three days in Rome and only one in Naples, intimidated by what we heard in the news. We regretted it”.
The reasons are obvious. Try to take a ride on the subway named University in central Naples and then hop in the one in Rome called ‘Bologna’ near the University area: the comparison gives a whole new meaning to the expression “mind the gap”: dirt-free, warmth, colour and imagination in the first, filth and stench in the second.
A Korean girl strolling along the promenade blurts out: “Here in Naples people approach me without ulterior motives, in Rome they are sociable only to the extent that you’re attractive or a tourist sitting duck to be plucked as a chicken. Often in Rome they stop me on the streets much older gentlemen, they ask me where I come from, but it’s just an excuse to flirt, here in Naples is different, they are really curious people, a human curiosity, not the false one that always ends up with ‘can you give me the Facebook contact?'”.
I head to Herculaneum which these days has been swallowed by another incandescent avalanche, but this corrosive magma does not come from behind the city itself, where the Vesuvius peak stands tall and strong, but these fire bullets are the pyroclastic blasts shooting out from the raging open spouts of the most persistent stubborn tireless Italian Army: the media. The ammos? The defensive reaction of a jeweler in Herculaneum that ends up killing the robbers.
I get off the train and by instinct – a survival instinct, a genuine reflex bourn out of the media conditioning – I glance immediately behind. I notice a sinister guy that appears to follow me, he pulls out from his pocket what appears to be a… revolver? No, it’s a lighter. Only a false alarm?
Better not risk it, I stop and let him go. He leans to the wall and lights his cigarette. I pass him trembling in fear of being pulled by the arm and taken into a dark basement to be left there in my underwear. To my amazement, the fellow there doesn’t even seem to notice me. There he smokes his cigarette calmly, taking full puffs.
But the unheard of comes right next. I reach half way of Via IV Novembre, the main street that leads to the famous Herculaneum Ruins, and no one has yet tried to shoot me in the legs (a typical Italian gangster’s warning). I stop. Riders in their scooters dribble the traffic as smart lizards. Who said that in Naples riders don’t wear a helmet? Everyone has it. I convince myself that they do it not so much to get in line with the law – as in Naples, so they say, no one respects it – but so to have a clear conscience. Not the common-man consciousness of course, but that of the street thug. The helmet guarantees total anonymity: under those helmets anyone can hide their identity. It’s all clear now. I almost look forward with relief to the moment when a hand will stretch from a scooter to grab my backpack and disappear in the next corner. I go back and forth on the street, a little I even lean from the sidewalk, at this point I really make an easy catch. Nothing happens. There’s even a driver that instead of cutting my way as it happens regularly in Rome gives me the right to pass. I am convinced now: it is a sign that indeed there is something sinister beneath all this! It must be a plot to better deceive the tourist by giving him false securities.
I head to a kiosk. A guy in his fifties is serving coffee to an American couple. I smile bitterly imagining the overpriced bill. I walk over to enjoy closely the villain, now momentarily dressed as a bartender, while he ‘extorts’ the poor happy couple from overseas who come a long way to be ‘burned’ by that deceiving bastard of ’O sole mio!
Two coffees: one euro and forty ?! I must have caught the only honest man in the whole Herculaneum!
I make twenty steps downhill and order a coffee myself in a café right on the corner, just opposite the entrance of the Ruins. Here I am the perfect tourist to squeeze: I carry a typical Roman accent and a backpack on my back. I order a croissant and a coffee. I expect at least four euros (the comparison I do it with the cafes in front of Piazza Venezia in Rome). The bill? Coffee 80 cents 1 euro the croissant.
Panicked by all the prejudices and biases I nourished for years over Naples that now I can’t seem to corroborate in any way – in fact they are literally dissolving as snow under the sun – I decide to take the train back to Naples immediately.
I go downtown. I enter a bar on Via Toledo, that is a stone’s throw from Piazza del Plebiscito. I ask for an orange juice. I observe with suspicion the waiter while he grabs a short glass containing two fingers of orange juice – glass that is there to pick up the drains of the machine for juices – and I expect the rancid swill to end up in my order. But what does he do instead?
He moves the glass to the side and makes the machine squeeze two laps of pure fresh juice into a brand new crystal cup! I am used to the cafes in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome where the waiter gives you his back to cover your vision while he ‘cuts’ with water the half withered orange he serves you instead of the fresh one you ordered. And so, I find myself lost. Totally disoriented. I do not know what stereotype to cling on to anymore. Everyone always told me that the napoletani (Neapolitans) will cheat you for good! Be careful, they will rob you and strip you naked of all your belongings! I was in Naples indeed but it went all right. Not a shoplift I suffered, a petty theft, not even mugged.
Two questions now arise spontaneously: what kind of Neapolitans I met?
The other is: what kind of napoletani do the media always talk about? While returning to Rome I knew what was the right question to ask. And while I’m at it, I also wanna apologize to the napoletani because for years I went telling that the coastline with the most beautiful sky-line in the world is in Hong Kong. Until I saw the Bay of Naples sitting on the small bus number 140, the bus that goes from Posillipo to Mergellina and then straight up to Vittoria Square. Naples a crime city? … Give me a break! Is all envy, that’all.