Naples is one of the liveliest and indeed most passionate cities in Europe. If you’re looking for a real boost to your life and a chance to break the mould of staid habits, try picking up one of the many cheap flight tickets to Italy on offer and head for one of the established capitals of excitement and romance.
Volumes upon volumes have been written about Naples, and enough adjectives to fill an ocean, but the passage of time has had little effect on its perennial appeal. It’s true that the city used to have something of a reputation for petty theft; usually involving nifty Vespa motorbikes with a postilion passenger, but those days are long gone. Also, it’s a lot easier to get around now as recent mayors have been putting a lot of emphasis on tidying things up and keeping the roads and alleys well maintained, so nowadays Naples is as good as any other major European city in terms of ease of negotiation.
Taking public transport is probably the best bet, especially during the rush hour when traffic comes to a standstill. One of the advantages of having so many obvious historic attractions here is that they provide useful orientation when you’re exploring the backstreets, so palaces and castles such as the Castel Sant’Elmo and the Castel dell’Ovo are great visual reference points for tourists.
Neapolitans are renowned for their friendliness and great hospitality, and often will accompany you to the place you’re looking for if asked about the way. There is of course that lingeringly worrying advice about keeping a firm grip on handbags in these parts, but again that would apply to any big city.
If you’re coming to Naples for the first time, the best bet is to head for the Old Town on your first day, accessed easily from the Piazza Garibaldi. This is a major transport hub and is full of life at all times, but once you reach the old town you’re assured of quiet streets and much less chaos. Get here from the Piazza’s western end, and continue your stroll to the Corso Umberto I which used to be Naples’s main stronghold. Now there are numerous markets and hawkers clustering the narrow alleyways, where you can pick up bargain souvenirs to take back home.
One of the oldest urban streets in the world is located here, the Spaccanapoli, which cuts right across the city and used to be the main Roman road. This is the best street to get onto for accessing all parts of Naples quickly, rather than having to negotiate winding alleyways and often wasting much time in a short break here.
Once you’re orientated and streetwise it’s time to start exploring the many delights Naples has to offer. Italian food is legendary, of course, and many of the sights are just a short walk from each other. With a good pair of walking shoes and a backpack you’ll be all set for some great shopping and sightseeing in a truly exciting city.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.