Naples is a fascinating city to visit, both quintessentially Italian, and yet deeply aware of its Greek heritage. It is high energy and spontaneous, and because it is a less popular tourist destination, it is more authentic and complex than other destinations in Italy. It is still a place where local workshops and artisans outnumber franchise boutiques, food is made in the traditional way, and daily life is lived amongst the treasures of centuries of history. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your first visit to legendary Naples:
Naples is served by a seemingly disorganized array of metro, tram, bus, and even funicular transport services, all operated by different companies, offering a sometimes bewildering array of route options. And Naples is hilly, meaning that many visitors will definitely want to avail themselves of these transit services from time to time.
We always recommend private transport when possible. We have excellent private drivers that we hire for transfers but if people want to venture out on their own and travel with the locals, the public transport is fun and a unique experience. If you opt for public transit, then the Unico Campania consortium provides a fairly consistent ticketing service that can be used on most forms of local transport.
In-city travel: Within the city, purchase transit tickets at tobacco shops, magazine stands, or from ticketing machines at metro stations and most tram stations. A single 1.50€ ticket is good for 90 minutes, and covers most forms of urban transit (except for airport and sightseeing busses), including the funicular railroads. Naples also offers weekly transit passes, and also has a tourist pass that includes combined local transit and museum entrance fees.
It should also be noted that Naples has a program of incorporating art and architecture into the Metro system, and in 2012 the Daily Telegraph awarded Naples’ Toledo station as the most beautiful metro station in Europe, while the Materdei station came in at 13th. Even if you don’t plan on taking the metro, the Art Stations incorporate 180 works of art by more than 90 international artists, and are well worth checking out.
Italy uses the Euro, and ATMs are widely available. Many transactions are still cash-only, with bank cards not as widely accepted as they are in other place, so it’s a good idea to carry some cash or check ahead of time to make sure.
Locals often speak Italian and/or Neapolitan, which is sometimes considered a dialect of Italian, but with so many distinct characteristics that it can be incomprehensible to an Italian speaker. While some people, particularly in the service trades, have some basic English, it is not widely spoken. However, the people tend to be warm and engaging, and if you have patience (and a translation app on your phone), basic communication is not typically a problem. If you can, pick up a few words of Italian before you go, to ease communication and because Italians love to help you pick up vocabulary. Keep in mind that conventional wisdom is that you will always have a better meal at a restaurant with no English on the menu.
Naples tends to get a lot of bad press. Every once in a while a garbage strike or organized crime story hits the headlines, and the city has accrued a bit of a reputation among some people. While there is an organized crime problem in the city, a visitor is much more likely to be impacted by petty crime: purse-snatching is common, but it’s common in most other major cities around the world as well. Naples has some of the unsavory characters and neighborhoods one might expect from any city its size, but, just like in any city, most people are safe if they simply keep their wits about them. Naples is an incredibly rich place, full of history and diversity and culture, and has a lot to offer for a visitor, so don’t be worried about its undeserved reputation.
Naples is a demographically young, vibrant city that is steeped in history and culture, and offers visitors a sweeping range of sights and experiences. It’s a city of contrasts and beauty, and a fantastic experience. Visitors frequently fall in love with the striking contrasts and incredible culture of Naples, and you could be one of them.