Naples a way of Love

On my one and only visit to Naples, to my shame, I was so brain-washed by others, locals included, into believing that Naples was THE most dangerous city on the planet, that I tiptoed around the edges - keeping just to the waterside road, the ferry terminals, my hotel overlooking it all. 

I missed all the raw and ravishing life so close to me, the world that Carla Coulson and Lisa Clifford have spent years meeting and embracing and learning about and photographing, just so that the rest of us timid people who have not dared to tread the cobbled streets of the ancient city will realise with regret what we have missed. 

It's a bittersweet revelation, for here, laid out in full-page colour and black and white images; in personal stories and family tales; in the crude and the weird, and the often unlovely side of Naples, is a portrait of a city which could only be painted this way, in word and picture by those who are not afraid to love it unreservedly.

Coulson and Clifford were never going to be mainstream tourists. Carla left corporate life in Sydney, photographing her life in Florence for Italian Joy, her first book. This was followed by Paris Tango and Chasing a Dream. Lisa, also from Sydney, worked as a journalist in Australia while maintaining her unchanging love for Italy. She has written several books, but this is her first with Carla Coulson.

Despite their obvious love for Italy in general and Naples in particular, this is not a warm and fuzzy, advertorial book at all. The hero-shots are missing, replaced by skull-crammed crypts, toothless smiles, rain-slick cobblestones, gloomy alleys and saint's shrines on every corner. Yet you could swear you're picking up on sugary aromas from fresh pastries, the tang of oranges, a waft of baking pizza.

The people are not from central-casting either. Meet Fortuna, the banana seller, her lined face etched by a million smiles; Luigi, the friarielli man, Mario the umbrella man, Antonia the mandolin man and dozens more. There are chefs, a harpsichordist, a barber, a model, a luxury shirt maker, a tailor and many more - even a hunky member of the police flying team posed with his Ducati. Turning the pages of this book is like having someone come with you to a party and introduce you to half acity.

To settle the visitor in even more, there is local wit and wisdom and helpful hints such as the welcome news that women never pay for their coffee in Naples. It's a code of honour amongst men here. A man must always pay for a woman's coffee.

 

This book is a gritty, yet graceful portrait of a city that has lived a lot; one that has been loved and feared in equal measure. A city with still, so much to offer.

Naples: City of Blood, City of Miracles. City of Contradictions and Secrets, Luck and Superstition, Danger and Incredible Kindness. Thank you, Carla Coulson and Lisa Clifford for telling the world that it is also a 'way of love'. 

Naples: A Way of Love, Photographer Carla Coulson, Author Lisa Clifford, published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin, 2013, hardcover, rrp A$49.99, ISBN-13:9781921382994

- reviewed by Sally Hammond

 

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