If you've been planning on taking a trip to Italy this summer with the intent of visiting Naples, you may want to reconsider the length of your sojourn there: the U.S. Embassy in Rome has just issued the following warning to Americans traveling to the city and its surrounding areas:
''U.S. citizens traveling to or through the area may encounter mounds of garbage, open fires with potentially toxic fumes, and/or sporadic public demonstrations by local residents attempting to block access to dumps.''
While Naples has often had difficulties dealing with overflowing landfills and people dumping trash on the streets, the situation has gradually worsened over the last few years and reached a crisis point in May when collectors stopped picking up the garbage, simply because there was nowhere left to put it. As a result, residents took matters into their own hands and started burning hundreds of piles of trash, releasing a cocktail of potentially toxic vapors. To make things worse, communities around the city actually resisted efforts to build new dumps or storage sites by blocking railways and organizing protests. While the situation has slightly improved since May, the southern region of the city, Campania, remains plagued with piles of trash strewn about the streets.
Perhaps fearful of the loss of tourism and bad publicity the U.S. Embassy warning would engender, officials in the city staged loud protests, arguing that Campania's streets and town were clean and that there were no discernible health risks. ''Any kind of alarmism is baseless and founded only on emotions, amplified by the international media,'' said Rosa Russo Iervolino, the city's mayor.
As the New York Times' Mike Nizza noted, a long-term solution, which would have to involve recycling, more incinerators and more dumps at the very least, will be difficult to reach given the residents' vehement disapproval of any move taken to clean up the situation. Visit at your own risk!