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The Piazza dei Martiri

Naples is raucous, polluted, anarchic, deafening, crumbling and grubby. It's also a lot of fun. Superbly positioned on a bay, Naples has a little - and often a lot - of everything. It pulsates with noisy street markets and swarms of people buzzing around on Vespas with no regard for traffic rules.

'Naples is an ill-built, ill-paved, ill-lighted, ill-drained, ill-watched, ill-governed and ill-ventilated city', whinged Cook's Tourist's Handbook in 1884. Italy's third-largest city has made big strides forward since then but Cook's observations retain more than a grain of truth.

The old centre bristles with ancient churches, a medieval university and countless eateries and cafes. It also has a reputation for organised crime. But the city forges on, powered by the sheer zest and vitality of its inhabitants. Even Cook's begrudgingly admitted that, despite its faults, Naples might be 'the loveliest spot in Europe'.

Facts for the traveller
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