Barely an hour after arriving in Naples, a swarm of hormone-hyped teenagers on whining scooters almost send me flying as, like thousands of tourists, I make a beeline for the Quartieri Spagnoli - the messy, thronging "Spanish Quarter" of narrow alleys between high tenements strung with washing - that forms the classic notion of Naples.
Undaunted, I weave deeper into a jumble of drunken steps and tiny squares. I find darkened bars, lurid shrines and tiny shops selling sugary pastries or tubs of writhing live eels. Locals yell at one another in an unfathomable dialect.
I sense an exciting, though slightly sinister energy resonating through the district. Yes, Naples really does live up to its exuberant, darkly romantic reputation.
All the same, no one can deny that this city has a glorious setting. I stay in a waterfront hotel with views over the bay and looming Vesuvius.