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When I booked my ticket to Naples, I didn’t know of its terrible reputation being one of the most criminal cities in Italy, and in Europe. From what I remembered reading about the South of Italy earlier was the general antipathy of the Northern (and Middle) regions of the country towards the South. Italians consider people from the South to be lazy, backward, opportunistic and prone to crime, as well as rude, and lacking in manners. About a day before my trip to Naples I decided to do a quick research on this city online and what I read there did not sound too optimistic.
If you read the experiences and the thoughts of other tourists that traveled to Naples you will quickly find out that most of them did not like this city, and some of them have had a very bad experience there (mostly due to pickpocketing). However don’t let that convince you to avoid this city at all costs.
Regardless of its negative reputation I personally think that you should visit Naples at least once for a day just to see what it’s all about.
Naples is a major hub from where people go to explore other famous Italian sites such a Pompeii, Capri and Amalfi Coast just to name a few. Naples is also one of the largest, well-known, historic cities in Italy, and it’s the birthplace of… pizza!
So if you’re currently thinking of visiting Naples, below are some of my personal observations and experiences to help you make your trip to Naples as painless and successful as possible:
1. Don’t judge Italians by the people of Naples
One Italian recently advised me not to “judge the Italian food by the food in Venice”, and I am now asking you to do the same for the people of Naples. You might run into some ‘not very pleasant people’, and if you’re used to the kindness, friendliness, and the general hospitality of Italians be ready for a minor shock.
Be prepared for a rude service in a restaurant to the point where a waiter might bluntly ignore your presence for the first 30 minutes before they finally decide to approach you. Don’t get upset when you say “Buon Giorno” to a lady at the check-in desk in the Naples airport twice and get no response (or even a glance) back. Don’t react when a 10 year old boy screams violently at people and then tries to hit you and throw something at you. Sorry, but that’s the way things are there so just go with the flow to avoid any disappointment.
2. Watch your surroundings every second, every minute of your time
Having been to Brazil, India, South Africa, and other ‘dangerous’ places, on the scale of 1 to 10, I would give Naples between 8 and 9 for its criminal situation. If you don’t want to become a victim of pickpocketing – always wear a cross-body bag, put your phone (or wallet if you have to) in the front pocket, and cover your front pocket with your bag in front while placing your hand over it in the crowded places – it’s the ONLY way to avoid getting robbed.
While I was wandering the streets of the historic center I saw the same guy on a motorcycle passing me by several times while eyeing my bag. But… my hand was tight on my bag, my eyes were on him, my attitude was fearless and so he stood no chance. Adopt the same strategy and you will get out of Naples safe and sound. Also, read this interesting article to be aware of the different tricks and scams that can happen.
P.S. Watch out for little kids (and of course, the crazy people on the motorcycles) – they are the best pickpockets, as you would least expect that from them.
There’s not much to see in the city itself: 6-8 hours are enough to see all of the major sites. Some of those sites include: Museo Archeologico Nazionale (an important archeological museum), Castel Nuovo (once the main royal residence), Duomo Church (the main, central church), Castel Capuano (once a royal palace now a courthouse), Castel dell’Ovo (a beautiful castle situated on a small island), and some others.
4. Splurge on a hotel if staying overnight
Don’t save money on accommodations in Naples – pay a little more to stay in a safer, cleaner and a nicer place. My 2-star hotel in Florence was a LOT better than my 3-star accommodation in Naples. The non-smoking room smelt and looked like a giant ash tray, it was disgusting, and I was literally counting hours before I could leave at 6:30am the next morning.
Naples is not famous for nothing after all, and the local mafia (which goes by the name Camorra) is very much alive and kicking there in addition to the regular, small-time opportunistic criminals. When I was leaving to Naples from Florence, I asked the lady at the front desk of my hotel for her thoughts on this city – she put on a weird look on her face and then said: “just don’t leave your hotel after dark, it’s not like here, in Florence”.
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Have you been to Naples? What experiences did you have?