‘Florence is a test,’ says a character in Allan Massie’s novel The Last Peacock. ‘If you like Florence, at any rate if it’s your favourite Italian city, you don’t really like Italy.’ The Tuscan capital is safe and respectable and full of art, perfect for British visitors who can admire the Uffizi and the Bargello without having to meet too many Italians.
People who love Florence do not usually love Naples. Peter Nichols, The Times’s correspondent in the 1970s, observed that people either love or hate the southern city, adding that ‘those who do not like Naples are afraid of something’. Well there has been quite a lot to be