Solo Travel Guide: Naples, Italy

“June 2017 i embarked on my first solo travel expedition to Naples, Italy. Why I chose this destination, I do not know.. but that was the beauty of the decision. I first decided that i would be travelling to Italy, leaving me with a variety of destinations to choose from. Rome, Venice, Naples, Milan etc, and while TripAdvisor lists a total of 149 sights and landmarks and 118 activities and tours for Naples. For Rome, there’s 552 sights and landmarks and 618 tours and activities. In other words, there are other Italian cities to visit besides Naples that offer many more options for tourists. I was quickly made aware by family and friends of Naples crime rate and lack of cleanliness which i was obviously opposed too… but i followed through with the trip anyway.” – (‘My Experience: Naples, Italy’ – blog and picture gallery)

However, my prejudgements on Napoli and expectations proved to deceive me. Naples is both gleaming and gritty, rough and beautiful. It is said nearly all of the inhabitants are Italian nationals, which make it such a unique city among the larger cities in Italy. Being an adventurous individual with the energy to support me I procured over 30,000+ steps every day of my trip, Wednesday to Friday.

As a city it was a mesmerising place to wander and indulge in Italian culture and the incredible history behind it, sometimes even just wandering the ‘Spanish quarters’ in and around the large complex housing and steep winding streets was enthralling enough. Here are my 10 top tips for solo travellers like myself who decide to take Naples by the horns, which I guarantee no one will regret!

 

5 tips for Solo Travel in Naples, Italy:

1. Travel with a Plan, Naples has alot to offer!

Personally i didn’t start planning the content of my trip until i arrived at the airport 3 hours before my flight… I’m sure anybody choosing a holiday destination will have rough ideas of what they are after and what they want to do in the host City. For me, I certainly wanted to travel to the city of Pompeii, to see both the ruins and mount Vesuvius. I wanted to spend some time wandering the streets of Napoli on foot, submersing myself in the Italian culture and finally I wanted to travel to a neighbouring Sorrento island, Capri as recommended.

Arriving in Naples at 10am, i was at my hostel on Via de Fiorentini by lunchtime. After a bus to the centre and then a taxi after 20 minutes of walking in circles, dodging mopeds as i slowly woke up and adjusted to the fast movement around me.

When I arrived at my hostel i was given information on travelling to Pompeii and Capri via ferry and directions to the docks where i could purchase travel tickets. The receptionist informed me that travelling to Pompeii would likely take up half a day, and to experience Capri in its full glory a full day would be needed. So with my 3 days in Naples, I was sure to achieve my 3 targets by dedicating a day to each, so my rough itinerary was:

  • DAY 1 – Travel to Pompeii, explore ruins and see Mount Vesuvius.
  • DAY 2 – Ferry to Isle of Capri (hottest day, 35 degrees)
  • DAY 3 – Anything and everything

 

An image from the Pompeii ruins with scenic backdrop.
Ruins in the city of Popeii

Travelling with a plan of action seems regimented and unjust for the free roaming nature of solo travel, but in a city like Naples where there is so much to explore and so much turf to cover it’s important to ensure you leave feeling fulfilled. The plan doesn’t have to outline every hour of your trip, it could just be a list of must-see sights or destinations.

Because of my lack of prior research i was also unaware of the prices for not only travelling to Pompeii (20 euros return, via coach) and also entry to ruins (14 euros), and round-trip to Capri costing 40 euros. After slight miscommunication i ended up purchasing a coach ticket to Pompeii, which took a good hour but allowed me to see in and around the city and areas i wouldn’t dare explore on foot…

 

2. Hostels are cheap and fulfil all requirements!

Being my first experience of solo travel, I had never stayed in a ‘hostel’ – but the price difference between apartments or single room hotels was staggering, plus many of the cheaper options were very poorly located. But using the HostelWorld search directory i came across NeapolitanTrips Hostel. I chose this accommodation after reading only a few reviews, with a 1 minute walk to the main shopping street (via Toledo) and a further 5 minute walk to the port where i would need to travel to Pompeii and Capri it seemed perfect.

Overall rating and reviews from Hostel World mobile applications for the NeapolitanTrips Hostel. Important information for planning solo travel.

My intention for the holiday was to spend as little time as possible in my hostel, using it only for sleep and showering. But upon arrival i fell in love with the vibrant environment and welcoming smiles of other weary travellers. After being shown to my room, I was given a bottom bunk in a dormitory for 8 people, whom i barely saw as i returned so late most nights and woke up later than others…

I used the hostel as a HQ for the trip, armed with a travel charger and backpack i set out each day and returned only when I needed to access my main travel bag. Which was stored in the under bed draws you can see below, with a padlock provided to keep items safe.

As long as you follow general etiquette during your stay, there is no reason to have any problems in a hostel with other solo travellers. It sure does sound daunting to beginners, but everyone is there on their own travels and unlikely to get in your way. I myself do like to converse and interact with others especially when travelling in a foreign country, but as i used the hostel facilities only to sleep, shower and get ready to set out each day I avoided any social interaction, minus the odd “Good morning” and “Hello” in the hallways. My main advice for staying in a hostel would be to travel well prepared, showers and toilets are supplied aswell as kitchen facilities in most.

A picture of the bunk-bed i stayed on in my Hostel during my solo travel.
Bunkbeds in hostel dormitory.

 

3. Staying safe in the City of Naples:

At a first glance the urban sprawl of Naples can feel tattered, worn, chaotic and forsaken. But if you look beyond the grime and graffiti you will see a city of breathtaking beauty full of art and elegance. A common stereotype Naples is burdened with is that it’s dangerous. Whilst this stereotype, like many, has some truth behind it Naples and surrounding regions have a serious historic and ongoing problem with organised crime and the Italian Mafia.

Loads of mopeds parked up on the streets of Napoli.
Electric bikes and mopeds line the streets of Naples

But for the most part does not impact tourists and solo travel’ers; what does impact some tourists unfortunately is Naples higher than average rate of petty theft. This isn’t a unique problem, many large cities suffer at the hand of pickpockets everyday, but if you are careful and cautious you are unlikely to become a victim. Solo travel teaches you to keep your guard up at all times, as you’re no longer in your comfort zone so appearing lost and confused can make you a target to such crimes. Travel with your chin up and avoid making situations awkward, be sure to give a firm “no” if you feel uneasy or being pestered by a local, I personally did not experience anything like this and was met only with positively on my trip.

 

 

4. Naples is not easy on the legs:

Having boasted about travelling the historic centre of Naples on foot, i must warn you that distance is not everything in the winding and steep streets that connect the city. Naples is deceptively hilly, and although most of the centre and shopping plazas (Toledo) are fairly flat, it’s a walk either uphill or downhill to the port, National Archaeological Museum, metro station and just about anywhere. Capri was no better for this, in-fact the inclines were strikingly worse.

My only advice here would be to treat your feet well with comfortable trainers. The constant change of footing is likely to wear on your feet and legs, making rest all the more important. Naples is fast moving and you must remain alert at all time, mopeds scream down every alley and cars have no real sense of direction.

On the other hand, taxis are of abundance in Naples and you will more than likely need to use one at some point. Ignore the stories of taxi drivers charging tourists exorbitant fares, as long as you enter a taxi with a working meter you will have no problem. As most of the ugly stories you hear about dodgy taxi drivers involve them not turning on the meter and upon arrival charging outrageous fees. My experiences with taxi drivers was both enriching and entertaining on 2 occasions, one of which solidified my plans to travel to Capri after his stunning review of the Isle. So don’t assume all taxi drivers in Naples are con artists.

 

 

What to do in Naples on your Solo Travel?

Eat as much as you can! Naples invented the pizza as we know it and you’ll find it everywhere in the city. Quality of food is taken very seriously and if you do nothing else during your time you must eat to your hearts content. It may seem weird that the main attraction of a city is in it’s restaurants and pizzerias, but after-all this is the birth place of pizzas…

Don’t feel embarrassed about having a sit down meal on your solo travel, it’s a great experience and the bar staff will be sure to look after you. But if you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, you could do worse than to order a pizza fritta, or fried pizza, to go – it’s deep-fried pizza dough with (usually) cheese and (sometimes) meat inside, folded up and ready to be munched on the move.

And the city’s coffee is, even according to other Italians, the best in the country.

 

Wander Aimlessly in the Historic Center:  Narrow streets, multi-rise apartments and laundry hanging off balconies are part of the texture of everyday life in Naples. Much like other old cities the best way to see Naples is to get lost there and to wander without a plan. The street plan is older than the hills and the buildings have contained shops and apartments for centuries. But the old centre is very much alive and spilling out with life, it’s a densely populated area and the locals do not slow down for tourists.

As a solo male traveller it is advised not to wander alone at night and to refrain from entering the ‘Spanish Quarters’, but i completely ignored this information and discovered every nook and cranny of the historic centre.

Amazingly, the streets are bustling with life into the early hours of the morning. Kids are out playing football across the narrow streets of Toledo, where I spent a vast majority of my nights people watching.

 

Take a Day-Trip to Pompeii & the nearby Sorrento Islands: Many people who whose to travel to Naples do so because it’s a great base from which to explore some of Italy’s most popular tourists sights and destinations. The ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius can be combined into one long day-trip or split into two. For an insight into ancient Roman life, which is unforgettable and well worth the effort it takes getting there and back.

It is also advised to take advantage of the city’s proximity to the stunning Amalfi Coast and nearby islands – especially if you’re staying for a number of days. Even if you end up falling in love with Naples it’s worth taking a break from the busy city life and soaking in the coastal sun. There are a number of destinations to choose from including the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and the islands of Ischia, Capri and Procida. Some are more touristy than others, but the islands are vibrant with stunning views, excellent food, sights and activities which make it a well worth while trip.

 

Ultimately, Naples Italy is a perfect destination for solo travel, whatever your age, experience or life situation. Solo travel is a fabulous opportunity to learn about yourself and how you like to travel. It’s essentially your own personal, private tour. The insight you gain as a solo traveller will enrich your future trips whether you’re alone or with others.

 

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