Francesco Schettino's hometown initially closed ranks behind the Italian captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia when tragedy struck, but as the case returns to court new doubts are creeping in.
The man dubbed 'Captain Coward' in the tabloid press for apparently abandoning the luxury liner before passenger evacuation was complete is still seen by locals on the Amalfi Coast as a 'scapegoat' although not without some blame.
'We're not all Schettinos!' said Antonio Cafiero, owner of a beachside restaurant in Meta near Naples, a town of 8000 souls on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean, where seafaring is a way of life for much of the population.
'He's put us in a bad light,' said Cafiero, a former crewman on an oil tanker whose family are the last builders of wooden boats in the town - heirs of a proud local shipbuilding tradition going back to the Middle Ages.
Schettino is to attend a series of court hearings starting on Monday that will decide whether he, six other crew members and three managers from ship owner Costa Crociere should face trial for a disaster that claimed 32 lives.
Arrested and held for a few days after the January 13 crash on a ship with 4229 people on board, Schettino has since been released and has been living in Meta for the past nine months - first under house arrest and now on probation.
As he sipped an aperitif at a local bar, Antonio Ferraiuolo, a former teacher at the nearby Nino Bixio Nautical Institute at the time Schettino studied there, said the incident had cast a dark shadow on the town.
'I'm bitter about the way the whole sector has been treated in these months. We're not some little fishing village!' said Ferraiuolo, who is now retired.
'He was a captain who took risks. There's a character problem there. He went right up to the edge of the cliff and this time he fell down,' he said.
Ferraiuolo said the 'salute' manoeuvre that Schettino was trying to perform close to the shore of Giglio island that night was common enough - it is a cherished religious-inspired tradition in tribute to the Virgin Mary in Meta.
But he said the Costa Concordia was going five times the speed it should have been doing and pointed out that while advances in technology had made steering large ships much easier, they had made crews 'less attentive'.
Carlo Sassi, a retired captain and ex-mayor of Meta who has appeared on several talk shows to defend his town, conceded that Schettino was 'a bit of a show off' but said he did not deserve the trial by media he has endured.
While there is a deep sympathy for the victims of the tragedy in a town whose churches are filled with emotional commemorations of accidents at sea, there is also a sense of shock at the media frenzy surrounding Schettino.
The perma-tanned captain with a mullet hairdo quickly became the butt of many jokes both in Italy and abroad, some of which tapped into hackneyed stereotypes about Italian men as relentless womanisers and bumbling cowards.
The onslaught of criticism and wisecracks has scarred local sensibilities.
'Everyone rushed to judge him,' said Carmine, a waiter at the Panorama hotel bar just a few steps away from the apartment where Schettino has been holed up for much of the year, hounded by paparazzi tracking his every move.
'He's a lovely person. He's the kind of person who would pull out five or 10 euros and give them to you if you were in need,' said Carmine, a burly man with several gold chains around his neck who sees Schettino on a regular basis.
'Sure, he had some faults but he's become a scapegoat,' he said, drawing an analogy with mafia bosses imprisoned while their political backers walk free.
He said the crash was not so much Schettino's fault as 'the hand of God'.
Supporters of the curly-haired captain have also taken to the internet to defend someone that one Italian daily described as 'Italy's most hated man'.
One Facebook page with 1783 'likes' calls for: 'Truth, fairness, humanity and freedom for Francesco Schettino'. Another page, purportedly the captain's own, carries hundreds of tributes from well-wishers - many of them women.
'Anyone can make a mistake,' said one supporter, while another invited Schettino to 'be strong because the truth will eventually come out'.
Some of them referred to Schettino as 'our beloved captain'.
Outside the old doorway of his home in an alley called San Cristoforo - the patron saint of wayfarers - wary neighbours peek out of their windows at outsiders. A large graffiti on the wall reads: 'Press + Television Shame'.
Another scrawl invites visiting journalists to: 'Get the Hell Out'.