City's ex-cons to help Naples touristsJun 15, 2009
Tourists in Naples are being welcomed by ex-convicts who help them cross the streets in the hair-raising traffic, offer information and even escort them through the city's more dangerous alleyways under a initiative by the Campania region.
Wearing yellow jackets, caps and ID cards, around 70 former prisoners have been posted at points around the city including the port and the station.
Campania's education chief, Corrado Gabriele, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica the escorts had followed a 60-hour theory course in preparation.
"It's true that we're entrusting tourists to former prisoners ‑ but who knows the risks of the city better than they do?" he asked.
But hoteliers and tourist agencies are not convinced the project promotes the right image for Naples, whose reputation took a bashing from the international success of last year's Cannes award-winning film Gomorrah, a gritty expose of the city's Camorra crime syndicate.
"This service requires a certain politeness, a bit of language knowledge and people skills," warned the city council's tourism head, Valeria Valente.
One of the course trainers, Vincenzo Minopoli, admitted to teething problems. "In the first few days we had some issues with getting [the escorts] to be a little less brusque with tourists, but … they [do] have a great desire to work," he said.
Pietro Ioia, of Naples' ex-prisoner association Don, said he hoped other former convicts would get involved. "The region needs to give them work before the Camorra does," he added.