What You Need to Know About Naples
Is Naples worth a visit? It’s funny you ask that. I was there a few weeks before writing (or, should I say, rewriting) this post, and I was struck by how exciting and unique it still felt to me. This despite the fact that almost a decade passed between my two visits to the city, a decade that saw me visit almost 100 countries.
Naples is a spectacular city and one of the most unique places in Italy, although it is certainly not for everyone. Let me explain what I mean and more.
How I got to know Naples
One of the reasons I’m convinced Naples is worth a visit is because I always have been. My first impression of the city, which I enjoyed via my local friend Francesco, was absolutely flawless. After spending several days in the city center, we visited the ruins of Ercolano, walked along the Amalfi Coast and even traveled to the island of Ischia, Capri’s less famous but more beautiful sister.
Contrary to what happened in the peninsula in Puglia, my return to Naples was exactly what I expected given the time that had passed since my maiden voyage. As an older, more traveled person, I was able to appreciate the uniqueness of the city – and yes, its imperfections – all the more deeply. Coming back there humbled me: if you can go around the world a dozen times and still be in awe of a place, it must be… wow!
5 reasons to visit Naples
Stunning views all around
One thing most people love about Naples (current business included) is the fact that you can clearly see Mount Vesuvius from many points in the city. Of course, that’s just one of the visual highlights of the trip here. As you make your way to the famous Fontanelle cemetery, for example, the view from the top of the stairs is absolutely breathtaking.
The best pizza in the world
Food is definitely one thing that makes Naples worth a visit. While pizza isn’t the only cuisine the Naples region is famous for, the Neapolitan-style pizza is certainly the most delicious in Italy. If you want to be super touristy on your trip here, visit Pizzeria di Matteo (aka “Bill Clinton Pizzeria”), located in the heart of Centro Storico.
Naples is the south of pure Italy
Naples is unfiltered and uncensored, totally authentic. It has beautiful manifestations, such as colorful alleys, unexpected street scenes, and delicious food around every corner. However, some parts of Naples are also rough, and maybe even dirty depending on who you ask. For better and sometimes for worse, Naples is as real as it gets.
Amalfi, Pompeii, Capri — oh my God!
Day trips are another factor that makes Naples worth a visit. The most obvious of these is Mount Vesuvius itself, the carnage of which is most visible amid the ruins of Pompeii (or, if you want to venture a little off the beaten track, those of Herculaneum / Ercolano) . Naples is also the gateway to the famous Amalfi Coast and the islands of Capri and Ischia.
Low expectations = great pleasure
I’ll be blunt: a lot of people who have never been to Naples expect this to be a mafia infested shit hole, and only stay one night here – if they even stay overnight – to do one of the aforementioned day trips. Even if you are not as cynical as such people, the reality is that you probably don’t expect to enjoy Naples. You can leave a comment if I’m wrong, but I’m sure you’ll end up loving Naples at least as much as I do.
How many days should you spend in Naples?
As a general rule, I would say you can visit downtown Naples with one night and one full day. The point is, Naples doesn’t start and end at the city limits. At a minimum, you’ll want to take a day trip to Pompeii and / or Herculaneum. You may also want to drive along the Amalfi Coast, although some travelers prefer to stay a night or two in Amalfi, Atrani, or Ravello, rather than doing it as a day trip.
As for the beaches, Naples is worth a visit for them, but only in a tangential way. What I mean is that the best beaches in Campania (the province where Naples is located) can be found along the Amalfi Coast and on the islands of Capri and Ischia. While you can do it in Amalfi in a day, you’ll need to spend the night on both islands. As a result, I wouldn’t really include the sun and the surf when calculating your time in Naples.
Other Naples Travel FAQs
Is Naples worth a visit?
Naples is definitely worth a visit! The historic center is one of the most authentic and unique places in Italy, although it is quite rough around the edges, maybe because of it. Plus, Naples is your gateway to attractions such as Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the islands of Capri and Ischia.
What’s the safest neighborhood to stay in Naples?
The Centro Storico (historic center) of Naples is probably the safest place in the city, due to the large number of tourists who still pass through it, as well as the quality and safety of hotels and other accommodation. While there are many outlying neighborhoods that are authentic and charming, I would avoid the temptation to save money and stay there, unless you know a local.
Is it safe to walk in Naples at night?
Parts of Naples (again, the historic center) are perfectly safe at night, due to the heavy foot traffic and good lighting. However, once you walk south past Piazza del Plebiscito towards the water, things quickly start to get sketchy, especially late at night. On the other hand, as long as you’re not showing off wealth and walking around drunk, you should be fine.
The bottom line
Is Naples worth a visit? Absolutely, although to be honest I know quite a few people who don’t like central southern Italy. For me, there are very few cities as authentic, colorful and unique as Naples, in Italy, or anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, there are many rumors circulating about Naples; I would advise you to throw them to the best of your ability before you go on a trip, if you do decide to go.