Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Tuff City

Tuff City: Urban Change and Contested Space in Central Naples

Nick Dines
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Tuff City
    Book Description:

    During the 1990s, Naples' left-wing administration sought to tackle the city's infamous reputation of being poor, crime-ridden, chaotic and dirty by reclaiming the city's cultural and architectural heritage. This book examines the conflicts surrounding the reimaging and reordering of the city's historic centre through detailed case studies of two piazzas and a centro sociale, focusing on a series of issues that include decorum, security, pedestrianization, tourism, immigration and new forms of urban protest. This monograph is the first in-depth study of the complex transformations of one of Europe's most fascinating and misunderstood cities. It represents a new critical approach to the questions of public space, citizenship and urban regeneration as well as a broader methodological critique of how we write about contemporary cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-280-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Maps
    (pp. x-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xi)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xii-xv)
  7. [Maps]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    In his essay ‘Of Modernity, Garbage and the Citizen’s Gaze’, the Indian historian Dipesh Chakrabarty discusses attitudes about the public realm in nineteenth- and twentieth-century India. Colonialists and nationalists, he argues, were similarly repelled by the dirt and disorder perceived to predominate in the bazaars and streets of Indian cities. Both held fast the modernist separation between public and private and accordingly deplored the ways in which open spaces were habitually used for domesticated pursuits such as washing, eating, sleeping and defecating. Each sought to transform these spaces of unfettered urbanism into ‘benign, regulated public places’ (Chakrabarty 2002: 77). But...

  9. Part 1. Urban Change in an Ordinary City:: Naples during the 1990s

    • Chapter 1 The Centro Storico: History of a Concept and Place
      (pp. 29-39)

      Like the North American ‘downtown’ area with its skyscrapers towering over low-rise sprawl or the English ‘town centre’ with its motley mix of Victorian brick, reinforced concrete and postmodern bric-a-brac, thecentro storicois often a taken-for-granted feature of the Italian city. For many people it evokes instant images of ancient churches, palaces, piazzas and cobbled streets. Yet, in actual fact, ‘centro storico’ is a relatively recent term. Its first systematic use can be traced to the ‘Charter of Gubbio’, a manifesto for the ‘protection and renewal ofcentri storici’, drawn up by a group of administrators, planners and environmental...

    • Chapter 2 Between the General and the Particular: A Neapolitan Version of ‘Urban Regeneration’
      (pp. 40-56)

      The Bassolino era coincided with renewed international interest in the plight of cities. Urban development had returned to the top of social science and policy agendas and had migrated from specialist journals onto the front pages of the mass media (Amin and Graham 1997). It is commonly argued that a new kind of city emerged during the last quarter of the twentieth century which was forced to adapt itself to the effects of deindustrialization and a parallel shift towards a ‘post-Fordist’ political economy characterized by flexible capital accumulation and production processes (Harvey 1989b, 1990; Amin 1994). According to such accounts,...

    • Chapter 3 The Left, the Politics of Citizenship and Shifting Ideas about Naples
      (pp. 57-87)

      The regeneration of thecentro storicocoincided with a political and ideological transition of the Italian institutional Left. The traditional class analysis, which had always faced major stumbling blocks in central Naples, and the talk, rhetorical or otherwise, of imminent socioeconomic justice faded into the background.¹ To the forefront arose a liberal-inspired anthem about citizenship, which in turn provided the foundation for a range of interlinking concepts such as ‘democratic renewal’, ‘civility’, ‘civic pride’ and ‘urban identity’ that together informed narratives about progress and a new Naples.

      The idea of citizenship, at least in the West, is routinely associated historically...

    • Chapter 4 Public Space and Urban Change
      (pp. 88-112)

      On returning to the city in early 1993, after almost ten years spent in Rome, Bassolino claimed to be struck above all by the sorrowful state of the city’s public realm: ‘What shocked me more than anything else was that nobody protested about the level of ungovernability anddegrado[degradation] which the city had reached. Piazza Plebiscito, which had become a gigantic car park, was unrecognizable. … This and many other historic collective spaces no longer existed’ (Bassolino 1996b: 16). An immediate goal of the new administration was to eradicate the sense of disorder that had befallen the city. Following...

  10. Part 2. The Making of a Regeneration Symbol:: Heritage, Decorum and the Incursions of the Everyday in Piazza Plebiscito

    • Chapter 5 Enter the Historic Piazza
      (pp. 115-118)

      One of the largest piazzas in Naples, Piazza Plebiscito¹ is situated between the city’s main commercial and administrative district to the north-east, the crowded popular neighbourhoods of the Pallonetto to the south-west, and the Spanish Quarters to the north. It is enclosed by four buildings: the seventeenth-century Royal Palace, which presently houses a museum, the city’s main library and theSoprintendenza per i Beni Ambientali e Architettonici(the government body responsible for environmental and architectural heritage in Naples and its surrounding region); the Church of San Francesco di Paola, built in the first half of the nineteenth century at the...

    • Chapter 6 From Royal Courtyard to Car Park
      (pp. 119-129)

      An open space known as Borgo Santo Spirito had existed on the same spot as Piazza Plebiscito since the thirteenth century. The term ‘borgo’ (literally ‘village’) denoted its location outside the city walls, while Santo Spirito referred to one of four surrounding ecclesiastical buildings which were all demolished as the present piazza took shape. With the completion of the Royal Palace in 1602, the name of the space was changed to Largo di Palazzo. As the symbolic and physical centre of monarchical power, Largo di Palazzo provided the stage for royal pageants, weddings and funerals, papal visits and, above all,...

    • Chapter 7 The Regeneration of Piazza Plebiscito
      (pp. 130-147)

      A key turning point in Piazza Plebiscito’s history was July 1993, when Italian Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi chose Naples as the nation’s host city for the 1994 G7 summit. Ciampi’s choice took many people by surprise: the city’s administration had only recently declared the city bankrupt and would shortly be replaced by a government commissioner, while the Royal Palace – the designated venue for the summit – overlooked a car park and an impounded building site. In the meantime, however, Antonio Bassolino would be elected mayor, and with him a new climate of cautious optimism would emerge. In February 1994, a...

    • Chapter 8 Sous les Pavés, la Place! An Ethnography of the New Piazza Plebiscito
      (pp. 148-164)

      The various sources used thus far, from local press reports to accounts by members of the administration, indicate how Piazza Plebiscito was reimaged as a place of culture, tourism and civicness. The media’s portrayal of the piazza was largely framed by the definitions espoused by local politicians and recognized experts such as superintendents and architectural historians. Voices of dissent or alternative opinions were occasionally reported to enhance the newsworthiness of certain events – as in the case of the protesting shopkeepers during the closure of the piazza after the G7 summit – but these counter-arguments inserted themselves into a preestablished debate which...

    • Chapter 9 Exit Piazza Plebiscito: Rethinking ‘Civic’ Space
      (pp. 165-168)

      The Bassolino administration and its allies promoted the ‘new’ Piazza Plebiscito as an unequivocal case of urban improvement (Bassolino 1996b; De Lucia 1998; Marone 2002). Opposition parties such as Forza Italia and National Alliance, as well as left-wing social movements, accused the operation of producing a superficial ‘vetrina’ (showcase) (Ragone 1997; Officina 99-lo Ska 2000). This rather simplistic and ultimately unsatisfactory interpretative framework tells us little about Piazza Plebiscito as a public space. The ideological taking-of-sides merely added new and conflict-laden associations to those already accumulated in the piazza’s history. The selected interviews indicate the imbricated but often discordant ways...

  11. Part 3. Deprovincializing Urban Regeneration:: Piazza Garibaldi and Immigration during the Bassolino Era

    • Chapter 10 Enter the Station Piazza
      (pp. 171-174)

      Piazza Garibaldi, located on the eastern edge of thecentro storico, is the first place one encounters on emerging from the central railway station of Naples (see illustration 10.1). As well as functioning as a major road junction, this immense space is the hub of the city’s rail and bus network. Running down its sides are neat rows of late nineteenth-century buildings and the odd postwar block that houses an assortment of electrical stores, nondescript shops, hotels, bars and restaurants together with a few local institutions such as Bar Mexico, reputed to serve the best coffee in Naples, and two...

    • Chapter 11 Antechamber to the Southern Italian Capital (1860–1994)
      (pp. 175-184)

      The origins of Piazza Garibaldi are directly connected with the post-Unification development of the city’s railway system. The first central station, completed in 1866, was raised to the immediate east of the city walls on what was then open marshland.¹ This side of the city had historically been the point of departure of the main roads to Rome, Puglia and Calabria. During the nineteenth century, the same area was also a setting for the city’s sporadic industrialization and immediately after Unification was envisaged as a site for a major new working-class neighbourhood that was to alleviate the congestion of the...

    • Chapter 12 Piazza Garibaldi as an Unregenerate Space (1994–2001)
      (pp. 185-208)

      From the mid-1980s, the station area began to attract immigrants, firstly North and West Africans and later East Europeans and South and East Asians. Initially, this presence did not alter general attitudes to the area. Although the local press began to identify Piazza Garibaldi as one of the city’s principal ‘immigrant spaces’, reports of troubling incidents, such as the arrest of North Africans involved in fights or the closure of overcrowded boardinghouses run by unscrupulous Neapolitans, were connected, if at all, with debates about immigration and not about the piazza itself. The significance of Piazza Garibaldi changed entirely with the...

    • Chapter 13 Mapping Immigrant Experiences In and Of Piazza Garibaldi
      (pp. 209-222)

      In stark contrast to Piazza Plebiscito, public representations of Piazza Garibaldi were obsessed with everyday details. While disruptive elements were ejected from the prophylactic representations of a civic Piazza Plebiscito, in Piazza Garibaldi these were repeatedly amplified as part of a call for ‘regenerative’ action. Immigrants in the piazza were at one level extremely visible – as bodies that were described, imagined and censured – but at the same time were absent as protagonists in public debates about the piazza’s role as the gateway to thecentro storico. Moreover, such debates very rarely referenced available statistics (which, for all their limitations, indicated...

    • Chapter 14 Exit Piazza Garibaldi: (Re)connecting Immigration and Urban Renewal
      (pp. 223-226)

      The Algerian sociologist Abdelmalek Sayad’s incisive comments about the power of immigration to lay bare the workings of the nation-state can be scaled down to think about the city. If immigrants are simply considered figures of ‘integration’, the corollary is that urban regeneration was an exclusively autochthonous matter and that immigrants, at best, were the passive beneficiaries of any improvements. If, on the other hand, they are recognized as active participants in urban life, then this raises some serious questions about the urban order promoted in Naples during the 1990s. Piazza Garibaldi corresponds to the ‘broad daylight’ referred to by...

  12. Part 4. An Alternative Idea of Public Space:: The Centro Sociale in Montesanto

    • Chapter 15 Enter a Neighbourhood Park
      (pp. 229-232)

      In his 2007 bookI padroni della città,a candid diagnosis of Italy’s major cities, the Milanese journalist Curzio Maltese concludes his brief sojourn in a rubbish-strewn Naples waiting to interview the occupants of DAMM. Like many people before him, he finds himself unexpectedly struck by the picturesque surroundings.

      The true experts of Naples will laugh at this point, but the amphitheatre of thecentro socialeDAMM in Montesanto is one of the most magical places in the city. You get a glimpse of the gulf from the poor side of the port. And yet it is a serene, almost...

    • Chapter 16 The Popular Neighbourhoods in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 233-255)

      At the end of the nineteenth century, Matilde Serao famously argued that in order to improve the lives of the city’s poor citizens, it was not enough to simply ‘disembowel’ the most squalid parts of Naples – the whole city would have to be rebuilt (Serao 1994: 11). Yet the street plan and buildings of those neighbourhoods not involved in the Risanamento have hardly changed over the last hundred years.¹ Besides the construction of the Rione Carità district and the new buildings erected on bomb sites after the Second World War, other large-scale programmes of modernization remained on paper. For example,...

    • Chapter 17 Diego Armando Maradona Montesanto (DAMM): Collective Action over Public Space in Montesanto
      (pp. 256-280)

      On 25 August 1995 a group of local residents and students broke into the top end of the Ventaglieri Project and occupied the former deaf institute that had been saved from demolition. The three-storey building was duly declared a ‘centro sociale occupato autogestito’ (occupied and self-managed social centre), and the adjacent terraced park was hastily cleaned and prepared for an inaugural public party.

      In 2001 there were over one hundredcentri socialiacross Italy, from more than a dozen in cities such as Milan and Rome to single examples in small provincial towns.¹ At a very generic level,centri sociali...

    • Chapter 18 Exit DAMM: The Constitutive Role of Collective Action upon Public Space
      (pp. 281-283)

      The experience of DAMM in Montesanto represents an attempt at the collective self-management of public space in central Naples. As such, it sharply contrasted to the daily forms of informal negotiation and resistance, variously labelled under the maxim ‘arrangiarsi’, which were considered typical of the popular neighbourhoods. The occupation, without a doubt, made a positive impact on the abandoned post-earthquake project. It must be remembered that until August 1995 the structure did not exist as a public space. DAMM’s constructive presence attracted an array of users who would not have otherwise visited the site:

      A heterogeneous use has been consolidated,...

  13. Conclusion. Rethinking Urban Change in Late Twentieth-century Naples
    (pp. 284-298)

    By the end of the 1990s, the widespread optimism prompted by Antonio Bassolino’s election had begun to abate amid accusations of a concentration of power around the mayor and an overemphasis on symbolic policies (Esposito 1999; Allum and Cilento 2000). Nevertheless, after Bassolino left the helm of the city to run as the Centre-Left’s presidential candidate in the regional elections of April 2000, there was a general consensus among political observers and the mainstream media that his reign in Naples had marked a turning point in the city’s fortunes. Some argued that the city had reached its lowest ebb in...

  14. Glossary of Italian Terms
    (pp. 299-302)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 303-322)
  16. Index
    (pp. 323-347)