Dines, N. 2012. Tuff City: Urban Change and Contested Space in Central Naples. New York: Berghahn. 344 pp.

Ah, Naples! Capital of the Italian South, historical port city and Italy’s third largest metropolis. Sprawled beneath the looming shadow of the slumbering Mount Vesuvius, it is the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza, Capodimonte porcelain and actress Sophia Lauren. Exports aside, the name brings to mind a chaotic, but vibrant, street life. One envisages a tangle of narrow, cobbled streets hung with linens and densely packed with tourists and locals; a loud hum of activity from animated, gesturing Neapolitans; and the disorienting buzz of Vespas dodging and darting between impressive ancient piazzas. In the tourist literature, from guidebooks to newspaper editorials, foreigners love to wax poetic about Naples.

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Congratulations to Francine, a marvelous review of a book I will now have to buy and read. Two years ago, I spent two nights in Naples. I was traveling with a member of my Japanese chorus and we stayed in a marvelous non-luxury hotel, a modern haven for frugal travelers enclosed in the shell of a Bourbon palace, on a small square with an active night life and one unforgettable bar. I remember the city feeling very Chinese to me, the crowding, the bustle, the smells. The Cathedrals with their statues and reliquaries felt very much like Chinese temples. In our kitchen spice drawer there are still some packets of saffron I brought home as a souvenir.

Thanks, John. I tried to lend the review some of the mood/ambiance that one pictures when they think of Naples, so I'm pleased it struck a chord with your own experience. What I really liked about the book is how it turned a "well-known" tourist city over and shook out its pockets, so to speak. The Catalan city I did my fieldwork in was also a tourist city in the Mediterranean - albeit much smaller - and I was continually struck by a multitude of ethnographic similarities with Naples. The text is certainly a prime example of how good ethnography can shine new light on places that people presume to know all about.

This is a wonderful read. I hope it gets picked up more widely.

It brought to mind Norman Lewis book 'Naples 44' documenting the chaotic exchanges between allied troops and neapolitans at the end of WWII.



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