Napoli, a world in precarious balance – An Academic Excursion


October 21, 2015
​by Professors Alberto Corbino and Paola Cascinelli

What does an Arcadia Academic Excursion consist of?

If we ​had to answer in ​just ​two words, we would say ​it creates a "temporary citizen". ​By exposing students to real life and helping them interpret it ​through various lenses​, students discover that Italy doesn’t always come in the​ shape of a Tuscan hill, a Roman temple, a cooking class or wine tasting.

​Italy is a composite of real people living real lives.

"Vedi Napoli e poi muori - see Nap​les and Die​" ​is an old saying attributed to Virgil, the Memoirs of an American World War II veteran, the title of a 1950s film​, a tourism board's tagline, and a myriad of other claimants. It can be interpreted as a tribute to the beauty of ​this 2700​-year​-old town, once a capital of the biggest and richest kingdom on Italy, the Regno delle due Sicilie​.

One of the most fascinating things about it is that the city center has not been transformed into a one big tourist shop-window: it’s a “real city”, a real​-life scenario with many economic, infrastructural and political problems, among which the ​insidious ​presence of ​organised crime.

We visited Napoli with the students and professors of the courses Organized Crime and Social Innovation and International ​Business, to discover how it is possible to find interesting opportunities in ​such a complex context​. To rise up and succeed out of such political, economic and cultural constraints, one has to embody leadership, vision, commitment and innovation.

​Given this premise, we​ introduced students to the ​creators ​of Optima, a 100% Neapolitan innovative multi-utility company, which hires more than 300 people only in Napoli and 800 all over the country. ​Their cultural impact and socially responsible services epitomize the type of enterprise both courses focus on during the course of the semester.​

​Students then eat, sing and dance at Vico Pazzariello, an association of artists that strive to keep the old traditions alive​, keeping young people ​involved and helping them ​avoid the tangles of organized crime.
​Students are guests at the last 100% ​Made in Napoli leather gloves factory (Omega), the survivor of a centuries-old ​artisanal tradition in the city.

​Here students find high quality leather gloves soon to line the showrooms of Fifth Avenue, Champs-Élysées and all of fashion's high streets the world over.

​Walking further and longer than many claim to ever have done, we visit ​the breath ​taking San Gennaro Catacombs with a young cooperative organized by a local priest in an effort to employ underprivileged youth​ from the rougher neighborhoods of Naples.

They also ​get to relish in the beauty of the gulf from ​a​ top Castel Sant’Elmo and discover the wonders of Napoli handicraft in San Marino Museum.

​And so, in just 48 hours, students discover the beauty and contradictions of an amazing city. And, while doing so, taste two amazing ​​pizzas (​among other things, the world has Naples to thank for the invention of pizza!) and delicious babà and sfogliatelle. And everybody came home safe, tired and with a big smile on their face.