Commerce on the streets of Naples

“The alleys are a self-sufficient microcosm.”

My previous posting of the umbrella repairman reminded me that there are countless other ways that people made a living in Naples, many of them without license or government sanction. Whatever you could do, you could probably find a market for your services.

These photos depict Naples in the 60s. Unless otherwise noted, quoted text and images are from “La Città Parla – Napoli” (1969, Casa Editrice A. Morano di Napoli)

Mattress Maker


Knife Grinder.jpgj

Knife Grinder

Bra Seller

Bra vendor



The “scaccia-malocchio'” (or “guastafatture”) drops by various retailers to practice a ritual with his censer in order to ward off the evil eye. He is sometimes paid for his interventions.

Lighter Repair

Repairing cigarette lighters

Scrivano pubblico

Scrivano pubblico – the public scribe. Many Neapolitans remain functionally illiterate, and these people serve a valuable function.


Selling home-made kazoos.

Water Seller 2


Water Seller



“The ‘pizza oggi ad otto’ (pizza today to eight) is eaten today and paid for in eight days. The wandering pizza vendor is also the bill collector. In eight days you can eat another pizza, which you will pay for sixteen days later. The vendor requires no written invoices – he trusts you… or rather, he trusts that you will be hungry again in eight days.”


Cigarette black market in the alleys – all tobacco and salt trade is regulated by the government. “American Cigarettes” are manufactured from recycled cigarette butts.


Wandering paladins singing historical ballads.

Candy Seller

Candy Vendor


“Impaglia-seggie” – re-caning chairs

Shoe market

Used Shoe Market

“For those who know that elegance begins (not ends) with shoes, buying used shoes for an entire lifetime can be an all-consuming frustration. This is why the sun of the wildest ambition is sometimes seen reflecting brightly from the shiny toes of a pair of patent-leather shoes… brand new ones.”



Graziella was born in 1864. She is seen here 100 years later, selling taralli in Santa Lucia.
Image from The Italians, Face of a Nation by John Phillips.

Naples - da Zio Vincenzo o Piscatore


Back-alley trattoria – “Uncle Vincent the Fisherman.” Photo ©1970 by Old Wolf Enterprises

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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