So you don’t like Naples nearly as much as you do Rome, Venice or Florence? Most travellers don’t.
I didn’t care much for the scruffy Italian city when I first visited it. In fact, I listed it as one of the cities that give the worst first impressions in the world. It’s a tough city to love, alright – especially when it’s got all these factors going against it…
Reasons to hate Naples
1. Poverty and crime
Have you seen Gomorrah? The 2008 film is a contemporary look at the Camorra, a fairly ruthless criminal organisation based in Naples and the southern Italian region of Campania. It doesn’t paint the nicest picture of the city.
Couple the city’s notoriously high crime rate with horrendous poverty (some claim the city has an unemployment rate of anywhere up to 40% – more than twice that of other major Italian cities) and it’s not the happiest place in the world.
2. Naples is not very romantic
Naples suffers in comparison to other Italian cities. It doesn’t boast the charm of Florence or the glamour of Rome, and it’s certainly no Venice or Verona – two of the most romantic places in Italy and the world.
Unless you have a thing for crime, poverty and garbage…
3. Naples is Trash City
In Rome they have the seven hills; in Naples they have 7,000 mountains of garbage.
Naples is/was home to a long-running trash crisis that led to mountains of garbage being dumped onto city streets. The crisis peaked around the time that I first visited Naples, in 2008, and suffice it to say that the city looked almost as bad as it smelt – with rats rummaging through garbage a very common sight.
I understand that the worst of this is now behind it; nevertheless, Naples is far from an immaculate city.
Okay, so right about now the city’s mafia will be organising a hit on me for slamming their city and painting a word-picture of a horrid hellhole of poverty, crime and garbage.
Truth is, I wasn’t a big fan of Naples the first time I visited. There were things I did like about the place, sure, but they were heavily outweighed by the negatives. Naples became a synonym for bad travel experiences, as in “getting robbed in Spain was so Naples” or “oh no, I just stood in a big pile of Naples”.
On my second visit to Naples, however, I found there really was a lot to love about this vibrant and exciting Italian city…
Reasons to love Naples
1. It’s less touristy than Rome
You know what the worst thing about the likes of Rome and Venice is? They’re too darn popular.
Snap-happy travellers crowd around ancient monuments in Rome, outnumbering locals by 10 to one; tourists queue up for all the best restaurants and cafes in town – pushing prices way up – and don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to find decent accommodation that isn’t too expensive.
By and large, Naples doesn’t have this problem. It must be all the kind words that travel bloggers such as myself say about the city…
2. Naples has the best pizza EVER
Naples really does have the best pizza. Even the city’s deceptively simple margherita pizzas are better than anything I’ve ever tasted at Pizza Hut.
For my money, the best pizza in Naples is at Pizzeria Di Matteo on Via dei Tribunali, where the service is swift and the pizza is unforgettable. Don’t be put off by the queue outside the door.
3. Naples has character
Naples certainly isn’t boring. At times you’ll fear for your life just crossing the road – beware the thousands of teenagers on vespas – and its maze of cobbled streets will have you lost and turned around on more than one occasion.
Put it his way, I’d rather visit Naples for a third time than go back to fashionable Milan, a far more boring city where even the homeless were dressed better than I was.
4. Pompeii is nearby
The reason I travelled to Naples in the first place was to visit Pompeii, the remarkable ruins of an ancient Roman town that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.
Pompeii, less than an hour away by train, is definitely one of the highlights of Naples.
5. It’s the gateway to the Amalfi Coast
Finally, my absolute favourite part of Italy is the Amalfi Coast in the southwestern region of Campania – and Naples is the inauspicious gateway for most travellers to this stunningly beautiful part of Italy.
I realise that’s almost like damning Naples with false praise, but its relative proximity to the best part of Italy is a definite plus. I’ll write a blog post about Amalfi in the future; in the meantime, check out the view…
So, Naples isn’t too bad after all – or am I wrong? Let me know in the comments section below…
And make sure you check out these 5 surprisingly great places to visit in Europe and 5 reasons to love Barcelona that aren’t food or football.