Claudio Velardi, 53, took the job of luring tourists to Italy’s dirtiest and most criminal city at a time when Neapolitans are rioting over the mountains of rubbish lying in the streets.
The crisis, which arose after the city’s dumps became full and collections halted, continues to worsen.
Last week, piles of rubbish reappeared on the streets of the city and the European Commission threatened to take court action against Naples for failing to resolve the matter.
The images of burning rubbish, together with the city’s crime problems, have led to a steep drop in tourism, with some hotels reporting a 30 per cent fall in bookings.
Mr Velardi, a public relations expert, has outlined a strategy to sell the city without gloss.
“Naples has never been a clean city,” he said. “It has always been a hotbed of viral diseases, of hepatitis. I am better off than many Neapolitans, but even I have a bad liver because I had hepatitis as a child.”
Mr Velardi said tourists should love Naples for the unexpected pleasure of finding beauty and filth crammed together.
He added: “If I go to Rio de Janeiro, I know there are favelas (slums). This city is also chaotic, but is beautiful and characterful.
“We have no intention of turning Naples into Frankfurt. What is more, the hoteliers say that no one complains about Naples when they come to leave the city. It provides happy memories.
“Of course, we cannot hide behind this as an alibi. There is a clear line that should not be crossed, beyond which conditions are unacceptable,” he said.
According to an investigation by La Repubblica, Naples will undergo another rubbish crisis on July 5, when a contract to send its rubbish to Germany for processing expires. The city produces 7,200 tons of rubbish a day.
“There is a concrete possibility of another crisis, worse than the last one because it will take place when temperatures are running between 32 and 36 degrees,” the newspaper said.
Mr Velardi said the city had a “decent plan” to solve the problem and hit out at the European Commission for its announcement of legal action.
“We hear a moan from Brussels every so often, but frankly they never actually do anything and this sort of statement doesn’t help. The last time they complained they managed to wreck our mozzarella industry, which we all know is extremely safe.”
The tourist chief also played down the security problems in the city, even though the army was sent into Naples two years ago to take control of the streets following a gang war in the Camorra, or Neapolitan Mafia.
“My wife felt unsafe when we were walking around in London last week,” he said.
“It is normal for a strange place to feel insecure.”
However, he said bureaucracy and union rules prevented him from putting more wardens on the streets to protect tourists.
“There is an absurd contract with the wardens. On any given Sunday, there are only 500 available, of whom 300 sit in offices and the remaining 200 either cry off sick or go to watch the football.”