In November 2015 I took the train from Naples to Caserta to visit the Royal Palace of Caserta which had been built to house the Bourbon Kings of Naples. It was a beautiful and restful outing.
What I had not realised at the time is that I was visiting an infamous area to Italians. Caserta lies in the geographical home base of the Casalesi clan.
They are a powerful southern Italian Mafia group which in the Campania region is referred to as the Camorra.
The other reason this Caserta area is infamous is for the toxic pollution.
The Camorrah win contracts to dispose of the toxic waste from Industry in the north such as the Lombardia, Toscana, Piemonte, and Veneto areas.
Yes, by avoiding the south you are not avoiding the problem, the waste is coming from the north.
The waste is then spread across fields like fertiliser, dumped in caves, bailed and stacked indefinitely for miles, or burned. Over time substances such as dioxin and arsenic are released poisoning the surrounding area and people.. Columns of smoke rise from the paddocks and roadsides in the area as the toxic waste releases into the air. The land is called Terra dei Fuochi or land of fires.
This toxic waste is now embedded in the soils, waters, air, animal stock and ultimately the food cycle, and has produced horrendous health stats in the local people. Cancer and malformation rates in this area are well above the rest of Italy and the area is referred to as the Triangle of Death even in scientific journals.
You might want to think about where your next Buffalo Mozzarella is coming from.
This all started in the 1980s under the Berlusconi government and following a huge earthquake in this region at the time. Aid money poured in, often into the wrong hands. It continues to this day. I have listed some further reading links below if you would like to read more. The problem is not finding information about this but finding out about the places this toxic waste is coming from. I am guessing it is boat building and car manufacturing and the like but it is very difficult to get exact details on this. It would make one wonder if the companies trying to dispose of their waste cheaply may be being protected and the Mafia blamed as they are the Mafia after all and we all know they are bad.
Naples is not alone is shouldering these catastrophic problems. While in Sicily I discovered that the ocean between Syracuse and Catania can’t be swum in due to petrochemical contamination. The sea bed and fish life are contaminated with cadmium, lead, chromium and mercury to toxic levels. The locals are at significantly higher risk of cancers. This is medically verified. Due to the high levels of unemployment the locals don’t want to rock the boat. The petrochemical plant is their big employer.
Italy also has a nasty history of being identified by Greenpeace as a toxic waste exporter, shipping waste to underdeveloped countries or dumping at sea.
In 2012 Italy was named the country with the worst air pollution in the EU. Milan and Turin are both cited as two of the most polluted cities in Italy with regard to air quality and not far behind, Florence .
I still love Italy, I love it’s people and it’s geography. Mountains to sea is it a stunning country with a huge population to support and all the problems this brings. Every country has it’s ugly underbelly and Italy sure has its too. I do think it is important to recognise the issues though and where we can attempt to do our bit as you deem it. Myself, I try to support the businesses with an Addiopizzo sticker on their shop window when in Sicily. http://www.addiopizzo.org/index.php/who-we-are/. Everywhere else I try to shop from local small scale food producers, use public transport and stay in accommodation that supports locals or I use Monasterys and Convents. I don’t know if I am doing well at having my tourist spend stay out of the hands of the Mafia or if my actions are a little lighter on the environment but I am doing my best.