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The air in Naples filled with fireworks along with blue, green, white, and red flares on May 4th when the city’s football team tied with Udinese. This is because the team won the Scudetto, meaning that Napoli became national champions. The season is not yet over but it is now statistically impossible for another team to catch up with Napoli’s lead. Napoli continued to increase its lead over the other teams with a 1-0 victory over Fiorentina on May 7th. While the celebrations may seem extreme to outsiders, it has been 33 years since Napoli last became national champions with the help of the famed footballer, Diego Maradona.
Back in 2004, the situation was dire for Napoli. The team went bankrupt causing the team to drop from the middle league Serie B to Serie C. Napoli failed to do well enough to be promoted during the 2004-05 season and would have to wait until the next season to move up to Serie B. During the 2006-07 season Napoli came in second and was promoted to Serie A. This is because the top 3 teams in Serie B are promoted each year to Serie A meanwhile the lowest 3 teams in Serie A drop down to Serie B. In just 19 years, Napoli went from being bankrupt to becoming national champions a third time, and the only southern team to do so in 33 years.
City’s Economic Troubles
When compared to the rest of the European Union, the region of Campania and the Italian south is still behind economically. The region of Campania had the eighth-highest youth unemployment rate in the EU in 2021, with 37.7 percent of residents between 15-29 years old being unemployed. At the provincial level, Naples has the second highest unemployment rate in Italy. At the same time, unemployment for those between 15-64 years old decreased 12.5 percent in one year from 24 percent unemployment in 2021 to 21 percent unemployment in 2022. While still very high, this shows promising signs for the province’s economy. This is also below the province’s unemployment in 2019, when the unemployment rate was 23.9 percent, showing that the province has not only recovered since the pandemic but currently has lower unemployment. Investors have been returning to the region and the region’s economy grew 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 0.5 for Italy overall. Naples for the first time last year was amongst Italy’s cities with the most job listings online. In Naples, the most common job openings were for engineers, promoters for real estate firms, and workers in call centers.
While economic development is necessary for jobs, Naples has to be careful that it does it in a way that does not harm its residents. As tourism has been booming, the number of Airbnbs has been increasing in the city. This is an issue for residents who face an increase in rent prices. If it continues, people may be forced to leave their neighborhoods as more apartments no longer house workers but instead are used as short-term rentals for tourists. The city could restrict Airbnb like it restricts Uber. The Uber app works in Naples, yet only registered taxis respond to ride requests received on the app in order to protect the taxi drivers. Naples is opening several new subway stops and lines in the next couple of years, yet these will be unenjoyable for Neapolitans if they cannot afford to live in the neighborhoods.
Redeveloping Naples’ Infamous Neighborhoods
While the city still faces various difficulties, it is not all bad news. Besides the success of the soccer team, there have been other positive news for the city as well. In San Giovanni a Teduccio and Scampia neighborhoods, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (the oldest public university in the world) opened two new departments in these neighborhoods, known for their struggles with poverty and crime. In San Giovanni a Teduccio, the university complex includes an Apple Developer Academy, the only one in Europe. The location of the universities in poorer neighborhoods was purposefully chosen to indicate to children from these poorer areas still can choose to continue their studies instead of being caught up in a life of crime. In Scampia the opening of the department was particularly important as it represented the redevelopment of one of the buildings that was part of Le Vele.
Once originally planned as a large public housing complex, Le Vele fell into difficulty when the original plans were changed to save money and the public spaces in the complex were not constructed. It got worse when construction was not finished yet in 1980 when the Irpinia earthquake hit. This resulted in 300,000 people left homeless by the earthquake with no choice but to squat on the unconstructed floors of the complex. Le Vele also, unfortunately, gained a negative reputation for being associated with Camorra, the mafia group in Campania. Scampia also became known as Europe’s largest open-air drug market. This along with the deteriorating conditions of the complex led to the decision for all the buildings to be torn down apart, from one which will be turned into a museum.
While more Italians speak Standard Italian over dialects, the region of Campania has stayed firm. In 2015, 75.2 percent of families in the Campania region spoke in dialect with their families instead of Standard Italian. This differs drastically from the rest of the country. Overall, only 14 percent of Italians spoke mainly in dialect with their families. Neapolitan has grown in popularity grows thanks to music and TV series. Liberato is a singer who maintains anonymity, yet has helped spread the dialect through his music. He sings mainly in Neapolitan occasionally singing some phrases in Italian, English, Spanish, and French. For his song Partenope (the original name for the city), the music video is filmed in Palazzo Reale which was one of four royal residences in the metro area. Mare Fuori, a television series focusing on youngsters in juvenile detention in Naples uses dialect, as did Gomorra, another television series that previously aired focusing on the Campanian mafia.
While Naples has many challenges, things are changing for the better. Even for residents not as interested in watching football, the winning of the championship is a proud moment for the city. Campania and Southern Italy are moving in the right direction, but they have to watch out for the pitfalls that other regions/member states have run into with economic development. There is reason, however, to be optimistic based on the data and the efforts being carried out to help the city’s economic development.
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