Facts, practical travel tips and tourist information.
Population: Naples proper has about 1 million inhabitants, and if you include the suburbs it is about 3 million. By population Naples is Italy's third biggest city after Rome and Milan.
Country code: 00 39 (if you are calling Italy).
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If Naples is a novel, I have only read a few pages. I know too little to write with insight about Naples' history and sights, but the information I found preparing for our our holiday in May 2009 may help others none the less. Here and there are links to pages with more information.
Naples' airport isn't big and lies about 7 km from the city centre.
You can also fly to Rome and take a high speed train (1 hour 21 minutes from Rome to Naples).
There are buses to the city centre (see the airport's homepage). In 2009 a ticket cost 3 euro.
For taxis there are fixed prices (about 16 euro in 2009) to some destinations in Naples like e.g. the central station or the harbour, where ferries leave for Capri and Ischia. The airport's homepage has a list in several languages (under "Transportation" and "Taxi").
We took a taxi and paid by the meter directly to our hotel in the old town, Spaccanapoli, and it cost 21 - 25 euro incl. our luggage. The taxi drivers we met were all kind and helpful.
Traffic in Naples is Hell, but apart from that public transportation works pretty well with buses, metro and funicular to the higher areas. You buy tickets in kiosks with a "T" or "Tabacchi". There are some discount tickets, where you can buy a ticket for some days, or you can buy an Artecard.
You can read more about transportation in Naples at Virtual Tourist.
Of course there are coaches to the country side and trains to other cities. There is also the local train company Circumvesuviana, which is easy to use if you are going to Pompeii or Herculaneum on your own. The trains go all the way to Sorrento.
I have head horror stories about people being cheated by taxi drivers. We never experienced that - on the contrary our drivers were helpful and honest, but it is never a bad idea to ask about the price before you get in.
How to get to Pompeii and Herculaneum?
If you are going to Pompeii or Herculaneum on your own it is easy to take the Circumvesuviana train from Naples. It is fairly cheap, and takes about 40 minutes to Pompeii and about 20 minutes to Herculaneum.
You can go to the central station at Piazza Garibaldi or Circumvesuviana's own station in Corso Guiseppe Garibaldi. If you choose the central station you have the platforms in front of you, when you enter. Go to the start of the platforms and then turn right following the signs saying "Circumvesuviana". After a while you end up at Circumvesuviana's ticket sales. When you have bought your ticket you descend a couple of floors (remember to stamp the ticket!) to get to Circumvesuviana's platforms.
Most people take the train from the central station (Garibaldi), but depending on where you stay it can be a good idea to get on at Circumvesuviana's own station in Corso Guiseppe Garibaldi. It isn't far from Corso Umberto, and the chances of getting a seat are better.
As I recall the trains leave every half hour, but check at Circumvesuviana's homepage
Naples has a big harbour, and there are ferries to several destinations, among which Capri and Ischia attract many tourists. At the page Municipality of Ischia you can search for ferries to the islands in the Bay of Naples and find hours and prices. The hydrofoils are the fastest, but also the most expensive. Most ferries leave from Molo Beverello, Mergellina or Porta Massa.
The weather in Naples
The weather in Naples is sub-tropic with hot summers and mild winters. August can be very hot with temperatures above 40 degrees. So for those of us who are not accustomed to temperatures like that it is best to avoid July and August. By the way most Italians have their holidays in August, and that has a significant impact on the cost for accomodation.
Where to stay?
There are hotels of every class in Naples, and it is not for me to recommend any in particular. With the chaotic traffic in Naples, the city is best seen on foot, so my advice is to find a hotel close to what you want to see. Google Maps is a great tool for that kind of thing. If you are just staying a day or two to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, an obvious choice would be to find a hotel close to the station, but it is a shady neighbourhood.
We stayed at Palazzo Decumani in the old town. We could easily have found something cheaper, but we felt like pampering ourselves and had no regrets. At 130 euro it was an excellent choice (and thus I happened to recommend anyway!).
With its rich history Naples has many traditional sights like castles, churches (many churches!), museums and monuments. Subterranean Naples is worth mentioning as something special, and I have written about it in my travelogue.
The old town, Spaccanapoli, is also a great experience with its narrow streets and teeming life. Spaccanapoli lies like a square, where Via Duomo and Corso Umberto form the lower right corner and Via Toledo and the archaeological museum the upper left.
Everyone to his taste, but to us the archaeological museum was fascinating with all its artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum. I have something about that in The archaeological museum and subterranean Naples. The museum also has a piquante collection of antique erotic pictures and artefacts. If they weren't antique, I guess they would be categorised as pornographic. It says many places that you need to ask for a special (free) ticket to enter this secret exhibition, "Il gabinetto Segreto", but that wasn't the case when we visited in 2009.
The old royal castle, Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, lies with a view over the city and is now a museum. You can also visit the royal palace, Palazzo Reale, in the historical centre in Piazza del Plebiscito. There are more castles and an abundance of churches. For an overview I recommend the tourist boards website - that is exactly what it is there for.
Of course there are many restaurants in Naples, however not in the old town where we spent most of our time. I can recommend Trattoria da Carmine in Via dei Tribunali 330 and Antica osteria Pisano on the corner of Via Duomo and Via Vicaria Veccia. If you zoom in on the map on this page, I have marked both restaurants. The food was good and prices were reasonable.
And then of course Naples is the city of pizza. I don't think that requires any explanation.
At restaurants service is usually included, and the Italians aren't generous with tips. It is quite common to pay a round figure, if you are satisfied with the service, and at bars there is usually a plate for small tips.
As far as I know it is quite safe to drink tap water everywhere in Italy. Well water at a farm may be another matter. Italians often drink bottled water, but that is more a question about taste and culture.
However contrary to e.g. Rome, where the water quality and taste is excellent, I didn't like the taste much in Naples, but that doesn't make the water a health risk. For that matter I don't like the water in Copenhagen either.
If you are staying at least 3 days in Naples (or the region of Campania) it is worthwhile to consider buying an ArteCard. There are different types, but all of them offer discounts for cultural and historic sights, and some are also valid as a ticket to public transportation.
It can be quite confusing with the different kinds of cards and what they offer, but on the other hand it gives you the opportunity to pick exactly the best card for your requirements. Prices range from 12 to 40 euro (a whole year). Cards can be purchased online at ArteCard's homepage, or when you arrive - for instance at the tourist office at the central station in Naples.
Journalists love to depict Naples as a seething pot of murder and crime. It is true that the mafia - the Camorra - is pretty much in control, but if you stay away from the shady suburbs it is no worse than in any big city. We never felt insecure.
Of course Naples is no exception to the rule that you should watch your pockets and avoid flashing your Rolex. It is wise to carry your bag or camera in a strap over your head or at least over the shoulder away from the street. Otherwise it is far too easy to snatch from a scooter.
No matter how careful you are, you can always fall victim to pickpockets, so the universal advice is never to carry too much money or valuables.
We brought a guidebook, and it served us well. Ours was a Danish book, but there are several.
A good place to start when looking for information about Naples is Wikitravel - it has lots of info. Slowtravel's introduction is shorter, but useful.
Herculaneum. Destruction and Re-discovery is an impressive and informative site about Herculaneum.
In my Naples travelogue you can read about our experiences and adventures in 2009, when we combined a holiday in Ischia with some days in Naples.
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Last update November 1st, 2009