Home

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Forums Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

naples italy Along with our slideshow of the 11 Best Italy Experiences, this post is part of an ongoing effort to help independent travelers make unique memories in both popular and undiscovered destinations around the world.

For Italian politicians, Naples sometimes seems like a problem that’s best left alone. It’s a tangled ball of social inequalities — a wriggling can of economic worms that, once opened, threatens to squirm out, all over one’s pristine Armani chinos.

For travelers, as well, Naples can seem like a place that’s better avoided than engaged with. Even we’re guilty of it. On IndependentTraveler.com’s recent roundup of 11 Unforgettable Italy Experiences, Naples lost out to neighbouring Sorrento, which offers a small slice of southern Italy without the bad attitude that Naples has (perhaps unfairly) become associated with.

But sometimes the most rewarding relationships are the ones that require the most work — and with this in mind, my travel companion and I set off for the south.

We boarded the high-speed train from Rome to Naples and sat down across from a surly-looking rail worker in mucky orange overalls who pretended to be asleep for most of the journey. We had plenty of time, while watching little terra cotta villages and impossible-to-reach green mountains fly past the window, to think about everything we knew about Naples.

Our guidebook was hysterical. Everyone we met in Naples, we were advised, was out to rob or shoot us. We should treat anyone approaching us as either a “hood” or a “swindler.” I think our guidebook had been written by a 1950’s cardsharp. I pictured him sweating in his zoot suit at the very thought of the mean Neapolitan streets, battering away at a typewriter in a dimly lit tenement building, waiting for the call from Bugsy.

Unfortunately, this seems to be where many people’s perceptions of Naples are stuck. But what else did I know about Naples?

It’s the third largest city in Italy — after Rome and Milan. It is also one of the poorest places in Europe, with an unemployment rate of almost 11 percent. Its Italian name, Napoli, is derived from the Latin Neapolis, meaning “New City.” Its historic city center, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, has long been renowned for its beauty, with generations of poets and artists coming from all over the world for inspiration. It also has an enduring and unfortunate association with organized crime.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers

One of my brother’s friends claims that upon visiting Naples for the first time, he witnessed a fatal shooting before he’d even left the train station.

This kind of thing has shaped Naples’ reputation — a reputation that gives visitors a kind of thrill. Naples has a sheen of danger that reassures travelers that here they are experiencing something real, something that hasn’t been laid on for them by the tourist board.

So what was Naples actually like?

The first thing we noticed was not the danger but the heat. Naples is definitely hotter than other major Italian cities like Rome. The streets seemed more humid, and despite the sun, there were fewer people wearing sunglasses. Everything, even the escalators, seemed to move at a slightly different pace.

We enjoyed the ramshackle mix of architecture and the blue sea in the bay. It is often said that Rome is Italy’s heart and that Naples is its soul. I can’t say whether you should be frightened of Naples or not, but I do know that you should visit it if you can. Keep an eye out, of course — as you would anywhere — but don’t go expecting trouble.

Trip Review: Naples

The guy in the orange overalls that had been sharing our table got his things together in a rucksack and made his way off the train into the crowded streets. He looked as though he was on his way home, along with the hundreds of other people who had made the hourlong commute from Rome. The city is eminently accessible — there really is no reason to be put off visiting.

Naples has a charm of its own, completely separate from that of bustling Rome and cosmopolitan Milan. Despite its distinct character, and despite what our guidebook may have had us believe, Naples is not so alien as to be impossible to negotiate. It is not, as it may sometimes feel when reading about it, a whole world apart.

For more trip ideas, see our 11 Best Italy Experiences.

– written by Josh Thomas

6 Responses to “Naples: Italy’s Scariest City?”

  1. Tom Woodward says:

    This is absolutely true!!! A huge public works truck ran a stop sign when I was there in 2010 and just crushed the little Fiat Panda I was driving. The driver came out and as soon as he found out I was an American, he got back into his truck and simply drove away.

    I tried to call their emergency number because I was hurt and the car was destroyed. I tried 3 times and let the phone ring until it just stopped ringing with NO ONE ever answering. Even the people standing around in front of a large church wouldn’t help me. I gave a kid 50 euro’s to watch my stuff and he pointed me in the direction of a hospital. Which I had to very painfully walk to.

    It ended up with me having to come back for medical treatment. The only good thing that happened was the kid did his job and none of my stuff was stolen. And the car rental company picked the car up with no charges to my account for anything other than the two week rental on the vehical.

  2. Roseli D'Agostino says:

    Unfortunately the reputation may be deserved!
    Two years ago arriving at Naples train station, my suitcase was grabbed out of my hands as I exited the train. I pulled it back very forcefully and yelled no uncertain tone of voice that I did not need the help! Yes, they “help” you than demand whatever they want from you, but I seriously doubt they would try to rob anybody’s luggage.
    After a few days in paradise,Positano/Sorrento/Ravello we returned to the train station to board our train to Rome. As the train pulled out of the train station – at 10AM! – we witnessed a very well groomed young man laying alongside one of the tracks, face up,obviously fainted, as another young man, disheveled, dirty-looking clothes, both hands firmly digging in his pants’ pockets slowly walked away.
    I immediately went to the conductor to report the sighting and was appalled when he shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes like “lady, this happens every day”. I asked him to call the police since the young man was too close to the rails and he finally said he would – perhaps just to get rid of me.
    Until this time I discounted all the reports, now I am a believer. I do not avoid going there, however, one must be aware of one’s surroundings at all times not only there but really anywhere!

  3. Roseli D'Agostino says:

    So sorry for the typos. Did not see an Edit box!

  4. Joanne G says:

    Too true. A month ago I was enjoying the architecture and old residential streets of Naples. Got some wonderful photos but when I went to open my backpack I discovered it already open and my wallet gone. Cash, credit cards, license and worst of all anirreplaceable photo of my dad. As a travel agent I will never send anyone to Naples willingly. Too bad the reputation is all too well deserved.

  5. Angela bray says:

    Myself, my husband and our four children have just returned from a two week italy holiday. One week in Rome and the second week in Naples. I feel naive now but Naples was not what we were expecting. Not because I ever felt threatened but because it is filthy. The people have no respect for their city or each other. They are lazy, even the police lent on a wall smoking watching a mother get on her scooter with TWO young children, one in front, one behind none wearing helmets and did nothing. Lanes of roads were cordoned off because there was so much rubbish piled up on them. Please YouTube Naples rubbish problem. I cannot stress enough how disgusting the place was. We all thought it smelled ‘fart’ like and put it down to Mount Vesuvuis 20 mins drive away. It wasn’t!! Iwas just Naples. My husband regularly works in third world countries but he thought Naples was among the worst places he has ever been (Angola, Afghanistan, Lao, C.A.R all came above). We feel cheated and cannot recommend Naples to anyone. Yes Pompeii etc was fantastic but even that has not been sympathetically restored. Just rebuilt in places, drain pipes shoved through original walls and we left there feeling despondent. I would never ever go back. It was awful!

  6. Richard I says:

    I’ve visited 5 times and love it more than anywhere else in Italy, beautiful buildings and surrounding areas, the best Italian food, a real buzz and simply very unique. I would recommend it to anyone.

Leave a Reply