Italians have a saying ‘va fa Napoli’ which, directly translated, is a simple suggestion to ‘go to Naples’ but its real meaning is… well… ‘go f* yourself’. So… is Naples really that bad? Here’s what you need to know about Naples – one of the wildest Italian cities.
First of all, yes. It’s wild.
When I first went to Naples back in 2014, I moved there to work as an Au Pair. While 2014 doesn’t seem so far ago, things were different. Especially for me!
I wasn’t much of a traveler and I was just ready to go to Italy. Without overthinking it, without researching or even really knowing WHERE I’m going to.
It was a month after living in Italy when I started to hear things…
Turned out, I’ve come to one of the craziest Italian cities, with the mafia, an active volcano, messy structure, crazy people and whatnot more.
Now, 4 years later, I’ve had a chance to come back once again and see it with the eyes of a tourist. And here’s what you really need to know about Naples, Italy.
Things you need to know about Naples, Italy
Eating pizza every day is a must
As you might know, pizza was originated in Naples and there are tons (really, TONS) of amazing food spots all over the city.
The culture of pizza here really is that – CULTURE.
If you happen to be around only for a short period of time, eating pizza every day is the only way how to explore the vast options of this delicious meal.
Most of the well-known pizza spots will also have a pretty decent line in front. Make sure to spot whether the line is waiting for the tables inside or the takeaway pizza – many restaurants offer both and often one line is quite shorter than the other.
Many pizzerias might not be open early in the morning and in the afternoon. But I still suggest going for a bite when it’s not the peak hour of the lunch or dinner.
And here’s the trick – more often than not really ANY place will offer a pizza better than you’ve tasted anywhere else, either it’s popular, cheap or in a distant area of the town.
Explore beyond tourist tracks
I happen to find tourist hotspots pretty boring. They are crowded and very often pretty much like another five you already saw earlier in the week.
Naples is a HUGE city and my best advice is really to explore.
One of my favorite districts is Chiaia and Possilipo.
Chiaia is a fancy district with big streets and lovely buildings – which is a rather unusual view for Naples.
You can also find some great food spots there – on the corner of Via Santa Teresa a Chiaia and Via S.Pasquale you’ll find both sandwiches, pizza and sweets.
Possilipo continues as a very safe and rather fancy district as well. It starts with a nice promenade by the sea, including various food spots to visit or drink some coffee.
When around, you can also check out Palazzo Donn’Anna and climb up the Via Possillipo for a spectacular view of the city.
Stop being scared – Naples is a safe place to be!
While the word “mafia” might appear in several of the guides you’ve read, the truth about them is that they couldn’t care less about the tourists. Usually, mafia works related to any kind of inner-city problems and locals.
I’d consider the safety of Naples is just like in any other big city – you should watch your bags and pockets, don’t be ridiculous about where you leave your things or how you carry them, leaving your baggage without the attention is never a good idea.
There are some “better not to visit” districts, especially, in the nighttime. But my guess is that most cities have those.
Regarding the safety of living here – most of the buildings are well equipped with anti-theft “systems”. There are heavy doors with many keys, ways to close your windows fully.
The city is VERY noisy
After living in Possillipo for my first time in Naples, now I had a chance to get an apartment in the historic center. And the difference was something I wasn’t prepared for!
While I knew the city is pretty… active… I wasn’t really prepared to hear all the possible noises right in my apartment all the time. People on the streets are shouting to each other, day or night, the cars and motorbikes are driving, people listen to the music on their stereos, the restaurant downstairs is having a crowd… It’s lovely but it’s also tiring.
And this is something that’s happening all over the place. If you’re planning to visit the charming and quiet Italy – Naples won’t cut it.
Naples really is very messy
While their garbage crisis seems to be solved, there still are pretty messy places all over the city.
It is especially true if you happen to go outside the center, you’ll see trash on the streets. It looks like people are, literally, driving there to just throw their things out.
Whenever a stronger wind blows – it’s all going up in the air and you’re walking through the storm of trash (shitstorm, if I may). I might be exaggerating a bit but it’s also a scenery that really could happen.
While it shouldn’t interfere with any of your travels, it can be too much of a shock if you happen to see it for the first time.
You’ll have to learn to go with the flow
The driving and walking in Naples is insane. Even when you see traffic lights, they might not be working so if you plan to cross the street in your preferred timing – just walk.
I’d suggest checking out how locals do it. Either it’s a huge street with many car lines or a smaller one with an intense traffic, they just spot their moment and go.
You surely have to be careful – if it’s a high-speed road, you might not get noticed. But if you show the driver your confidence and know that this is your only way of getting to the other side of the street, you’ll make it.
The best illustration of the differences between locals and tourists can be seen by the train station – there’s a big street with a never-ending stream of cars and a traffic light that never works (it shows the green light for the cars only and once in a few days – changes it to green for pedestrians). There, you can see how locals just walk right through it and stop the car line while tourists stand and wait for the light to change (which is – ha, ha – never happening).
It’s important to learn to go with the flow in this city. Either you’re walking or driving, the roads are intense.
There really is a lot to experience
If you plan a typical one week trip to Naples with a hope to experience as much as possible – it could work out only if you never really leave the city for any other day trips.
Naples really is a huge city, it has many different districts and many different places to experience. Especially, if you’re interested in culture and history, would like to visit some museums and castles along the way, reconsider going for a longer trip instead or splitting it in two trips.
Scratching the surface is not always worth it. To fully understand Naples, you’ll have to immerse into their lifestyle.
Naples is like an exaggeration of any movie about Italians you’ve ever seen
One of the most important things you should know about Naples is that it is different than the rest of Italy. I’ve talked with Romans who don’t consider Naples a part of their country because of how different their culture really is.
Naples is really lovable, it’s full of culture, events, foods, people, emotions, places to see and enjoy. But, at times, it can be too much. Especially, if you’re not prepared for what awaits.
The best way to enjoy this city is to immerse into its craziness!
What you need to know about Naples is that it’ll be worth your time. This city might not be what you expect it to but it’ll definitely be an adventure.