When you say you’re going to Italy, everyone’s excited. But if you say you’re going to Naples, people seem worried.
“Why would you want to go there?”
“Aren’t you scared?”
“I’ve heard there’s nothing to see – you really should just skip it and go down to the Amalfi Coast.”
Rumours about Naples have travelled far and wide. Talk of the mafia, or the Camorra as they are called locally, has become the topic of books and movies. Everyone seems to be frightened of crime in Naples, but from the times we’ve been to this beautiful southern city, we have to wonder how much of it is true or warranted.
There’s so much more to this magical city – it’s like a living museum.
Why you shouldn’t be afraid to visit Naples
Stories of the crime rate in Naples have had tourists worried for decades, but there isn’t really much to them anymore. I’ve walked around the city streets in the very early morning, on my own – camera in hand, and never felt worried.
To me, it’s no different to any other city.
In fact, I can go better than that: Naples is more like any other Italian city, where locals are just going about their lives and the ones you encounter are in fact so welcoming and friendly.
Of course, you should take as much care as you would anywhere else: don’t leave your handbag on the ground, be aware, don’t go with people you don’t know to places that feel ‘dodgy’, but I would advise anyone to do this if they’re going to any international city – from St Tropez to São Paulo.
Fear of crime isn’t a reason to not visit New York, and – just the same – it’s no reason not to visit Naples.
When you do get to Naples, you’ll discover a city that’s bursting with life; more than that, it’s the best museum you’ll ever visit.
The history of Naples goes back thousands of years to the Ancient Greeks, and it was once one of the richest cities in Italy.
While at street level you might notice the graffiti, you just need to look up to see doors that end six metres above you and you’ll realise what a grand city this is – and what it must once have been.
Naples – it’s a locals’ city
There are sights here that will leave you short of breath and little streets that will make you want to breathe. You never know what you’re going to find.
Like when I met Salvatore.
I was walking early in the morning – camera in hand. I found myself in a large piazza outside the old city walls when I came across a charming older gentleman named Salvatore.
He was sitting quietly in the square, waiting for his workday to start when I caught his eye and smiled at him. He motioned me over and insisted on showing me around the city. His city.
I’m lucky I speak Italian, though I think Salvatore spoke more Neapolitan, which is a language in itself!
As we wandered back into Napoli Vecchio, he pointed out the old city’s entrance gates, of which there are four in the original wall, and where you used to have to pay a fee to enter into Naples.
He took to me to his favourite café and introduced me to his local barista. Buying me coffee, he explained it is much better to drink it from a glass than a cup because of the flavour. I normally don’t take sugar, but he said I must try it as the locals do.
Each café will make up their own special raw sugar paste that’s added to the cup first to make a delicious, slightly sweet espresso.
He walked me back to my hotel and made me promise to come back to Naples so he could take me to Napoli reale – the real Naples.
It was Salvatore who used told me that “Naples is a living museum”, and having explored the city more, I now know it to be true.
But even without Salvatore, you don’t need a tour guide when you’re in Naples.
Every local there is a willing tour guide for a tourist that’s happy to listen.
But even then, there are fast and easy connections with Naples’ airport and rail from all over Europe. And from the moment you arrive, there’s no better way to explore this incredible city – especially the old part of town – than on foot.
It will also help to work off that famous Neapolitan pizza you’ll be eating too.
“Vedi Napoli e poi muori” – see Naples and die!
So many other Italian cities have been impacted by over-tourism, becoming cramped battlegrounds crossed with a Disneyland-like unreality. Naples still has that real Italian quality, and a visit does not disappoint.
The proverb “Vedi Napoli e poi muori!” (See Naples and die!) was famously quoted by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his Italian Journey:
“Once one has seen the Italian city of Naples, one can die peacefully, since nothing else can match its beauty.”
So if you – or your friends – are frightened by the thought of going to Naples, remember not to worry and to book that ticket – subito!
You won’t regret it and I can even give you Salvatore’s number so he can show around on your visit.