'Naples Now Known as City of Garbage'

Commandant Aldo Sabatino, the fire chief for the city of Caserta, has had to double the number of firefighters on shifts to deal with the arsonists.

At the height of the problem there were as many as 60 fires a night in Caserta and as many as 20 a day.

Even his own fire headquarters has become a dumping ground; long lines of putrid food, Christmas wrappings and scores of plastic bags surround his building. His office smells like the inside of a trash can.

Sabatino hopes the new measures announced by the Prodi government will solve the problem, "but, it will take time," he reminds people.

Ugo, an 84-year-old resident of Caserta, knows that there is no quick fix. "It goes back 20 years," he said. "They should have built the incinerators then."

To those living knee deep in garbage and trying to run businesses where their customers have to fend through trash to get in the door there is little optimism too.

"The constant smell is depressing," Rosa Paresi lamented, while waiting for customers in her pastry shop. Outside the door huge piles of different colored trash bags are piled up on top of the burnt remains from earlier arson fires. She is worried about the economic crisis this is causing, and frets that tourists will stay away.

Not every square inch of the sidewalks are covered with waste. Most are piled in front of businesses or down side streets. It is estimated that more than 100,000 tons of rubbish lies uncollected. While health issues are a constant concern, the effect on residents to date is still mostly psychological rather than economic. "People feel demoralized," said Paresi.

But Esposito thinks the pollution is taking a daily toll. The soil is polluted and you can taste it in the fruit, he says. And tourism, a big staple of the Campania region, which includes the Amalfi coast and Pompei, is threatened.

"Naples is now known as the city of garbage," Esposito said with a sigh.

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