NAPLES, Italy — Giovanni Marchitelli has something to show Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi when Italy's leader arrives Wednesday: a month's worth of garbage piled next to his pizzeria.
Marchitelli, 64, hopes that Berlusconi will force local officials to solve the continuing problem due to full landfills, or his family's pizzeria will be out of business.
"We can't stand to work anymore because of the garbage smell," he says. "People won't stop and eat because of the garbage."
Perhaps worse than the smell and the flies, he says, is when vigilantes burn garbage at night, leaving an acrid smell many mornings around Naples.
Uncollected garbage has turned many streets and alleys around this once-beautiful Mediterranean seaport of more than 3 million people into an open dump on many days.
The U.S. ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli, warned that Americans and other tourists could be frightened away unless the mess is cleaned up "once and for all."
The U.S. military in Naples announced this week that it is sampling tap water and soil to determine whether people stationed here are being exposed to pollutants from the uncollected garbage.
Around the corner from Naples' City Hall, any fragrance wafting from Maria Rosaria Virniechi's flower shop is overwhelmed by the stench of week-old kitchen scraps seeping from bags tossed from apartments into the street.
South of Naples, Salvatore Esposito eyes a mound of rubbish in an underpass next to the grocery where he works. Rain-soaked bags of food scraps and diapers have leached into puddles beneath the mound of boxes, old computer keyboards and discarded clothes that have accumulated.
"We're very worried," says Esposito, 40. "Summer is coming. We've already got very big rats."
Naples' garbage crisis became international news in December, when the region's landfills were full. That was the culmination of 14 years of inaction by local officials, corruption that involved the Camorra organized crime syndicate's grip on trash collection, and residents' complaints of not wanting new landfills or incinerators nearby.
A former Naples regional president, Antonio Bassolino, and 27 others are on trial accused of defrauding the region in trash-removal contracts from 2000 to 2004. He denies any wrongdoing.
A new incineration plant not far from Marchitelli's roadside pizzeria, about 24 miles east of Naples, remains unopened because of a shortage of money and health concerns about emissions.
Shortly before Christmas, then-prime minister Romano Prodi sent the Italian army to bulldoze away the garbage. He announced construction of three incinerators, urged other regions to take the trash and named a new trash commissioner to oversee the problem until the April election.
5 tons a minute
Sales of the region's famed buffalo mozzarella cheese — a $469 million-a-year industry — are now back up after several nations temporarily banned the cheese amid fears that leaching waste had contaminated dairy cattle feed.