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NAPLES, Italy — The much anticipated “Notte Bianca a Napoli” descends on the southern Italian city Saturday, transforming the metropolis into a cultural hub of music, art and festivities.

Notte Bianca, or White Night, is a concept sweeping through various Italian cities, drawing spectators to city squares for a variety of celebrations.

Through its theme, “The Mediterranean: A sea of culture,” organizers will exploit the beauty and uniqueness of Naples, from its palaces and city squares, to the beachfront and the tiny streets synonymous with the aged city, according to Dino Di Palma, the provincial president.

“Unique and extraordinarily open to all forms of culture, here the music, the theaters, fashion, the foods all feature colors, smells and tastes that elsewhere don’t exist,” Di Palma said in a statement.

The city has been plagued with a rash of muggings and picked pockets lately, some of which have been violent and deadly. But organizers are putting a positive spin on this year’s event, promising that the second annual White Night celebration will be bigger and better, according to Naples’ current mayor, Rosa Iervolino Russo.

Last year’s event gave visitors an opportunity to shop and enjoy entertainment until dawn.

The festivities will take on an international flare, as organizers emphasize the positive aspects of other cultures, the region’s president, Antonio Bassolino, who once served as Naples’ mayor, wrote in a statement.

“I still have visions of the crowded public squares of people coming from all of Italy, the streets illuminated during the festival, music and voices, the enthusiasm that you could breathe a year ago in the streets of Naples,” he recalled.

There are several “pre-events” planned for Thursday and Friday, but the main festivities begin at 10 p.m. Saturday in the main city square, Piazza del Plebiscito. The popular radio station Radio Kiss Kiss is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and performances by famed Italian musicians Pino Daniele, Francesco de Gregori and Ivano Fossati are planned.

Lebanese artist Rabih Abou Khalil will perform at 9 p.m. at Galleria Umberto.

A 60-page brochure detailing the schedule of events for the various sections of town is available, in Italian, on the Internet at: http://www.nottebiancanapoli.com/pdf/progamma2006.pdf.

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