Naples, A City of Danger?

Naples and Vesuvius

“See Naples and die. Well, I do not know that one would necessarily die after merely seeing it, but to attempt to live there might turn out a little differently”, Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

A few weeks ago I suggested to some regular travelling pals that we should go to Naples in Italy for a few days.  They were horrified by the suggestion because of the city’s reputation as being quite dangerous.  They said that they would prefer to go to Barcelona in Spain even though I pointed out that the Spanish city is the pickpocket capital of Europe.

So we made plans to visit Naples, the third largest city in Italy (after Rome and Milan) by ourselves.

Italy Postcard

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting. I started as usual with the Human Development Index which ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed amongst other criteria from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.  Italy is ranked twenty-seventh which is quite low, especially for Europe but it is improving and is up two places from the previous year.

The European economic crisis has had a negative effect on Italy’s position in the Europe Happiness Index and it is rated at only twentieth out of thirty which is some way behind the United Kingdom at thirteenth.  Finland is the happiest and Albania the least jolly.

Not surprisingly Italy is the country with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it has fifty-three, seven more than Spain which has the second most sites in Europe.  I have visited half of the sites in Spain but when I reviewed the Italy list I was disappointed to find that I have been to less than a quarter.  The historical centre of Naples is on the list and although I have been there before it was a long time before it was added to the list.

Italy has a lot of coastline which stretch for four and a half thousand miles and along this coastline are three hundred and forty-two Blue Flag Beaches which is the fifth highest amongst participating countries.  The Bay of Naples is not very famous for beaches and there are none at all along this particular stretch of coastline.

Volare Domenigo Modungo Polignano a Mare

My next measure is always the Eurovision Song Contest and Italy has participated in the annual contest forty-three times since its debut in the very first contest in 1956. They have won the contest twice but the most famous Italian entry made only third place in 1958.  “Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”  by Domenico Modungo.

Despite its success the entry surprisingly only came third in the 1958 competition after France and Switzerland but was later translated into several languages and was covered by a wide range of international performers including Al Martino, David Bowie, Cliff Richard, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Luciano Pavarotti, The Gipsy Kings and my personal favourite Dean Martin.  I might be wrong here but I don’t think any of these musical giants ever recorded cover versions of ‘Waterloo’?

Flying even short distances can be a tedious business, not much to see or do but there are one or two exceptions and flying south across the Alps is one of them.  The aircraft seems to come across them so suddenly and even flying at thirty-seven thousand feet, the earth suddenly gets an awful lot closer and suddenly you are only twenty-thousand feet high. And the snow covered black granite peaks rise like soft meringue peaks below.  It is a wonderful sight and I never tire of it but it doesn’t last long and just as dramatically as they rise in southern France they fall away rapidly in Northern Italy.

I always enjoy flying over the Alps, it reminds me of my very first flight and continental holiday in 1976 when I visited Sorrento just south of Naples.

Centro Storico Naples

We arrived in Naples around mid-morning and the only sensible way to reach the city and the hotel was by taxi.  I hate taxis, I am a very nervous taxi passenger, I am petrified of the metre which seems to rack up charges at an alarming rate and I spend any taxi journey fixated upon the clock.  I am almost as afraid of taxi drivers as I am of dogs, but that is another story.

My friend Dai Woosnam once challenged me on this point when he commented: “… there is a contradiction between someone who avoids taxis like the plague, but is happy to spend £100+ a night on a hotel !!   It is such contradictions that make people interesting!”  Well, here is my rationale:  A fifteen minute, €30 taxi ride costs  €2.25 a minute, a  €120 hotel room for twenty-four hours costs .10 cents per minute so it is a simple question of economics and value for money.  If I hired the taxi for twenty-four hours at these rates it would cost me €3,300!

I loathe spending money on taxis especially when the flight here cost only £20. Kim tells me that I should look at it in a different way – because we got the flight so cheap then we can easily afford a taxi.

As usual in Italy we managed to get a driver who looked like and drove like Bruce Willis in an action movie car chase, the type where the cars scatter dustbins and demolish vegetable stalls, and he rattled through the streets at break neck speed, occasionally using his mobile phone and cursing any two second hold up or inconvenient red light and I was thankful when the journey finally ended.

Gulf of Naples Postcard

44 responses to “Naples, A City of Danger?

  1. I hate taxis too! Norway and Switzerland the costs made me weep whilst I was knowingly scammed in Athens, Milan, Istanbul and Ljubljana leading to stand up rows and threats of violence (on me). I feel a blog post coming….. love your Naples pictures – I went in 2001 between visits to Sorrento and Sicily. Not as intimidating as I had been led to believe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too have a friend like yours. She won’t join me in Palermo, one of my favourite cities as she is sure she will be mugged and robbed. And we once had a taxi driver in Sicily who, when he got out to fill up with petrol, lit up a cigarette. I thought my husband was going to kill him when he leapt out of the taxi to push him away from the pumps.

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  3. We have been in Naples and felt quite safe everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad you are going to tell us about this great city. It is on my itinerary for next year. Of course, I only get one day to see what I can see, but happy to have you scout it out for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A day is not long enough. You will have some tough choices to make. Personally I would choose the historical centre but maybe you would prefer the museums or a train ride to Pompeii?

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      • A day is never enough, but it is better than not at all! Probably will focus on historical center. I have been to several exhibitions about Pompeii, so I will want to cover new ground.

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      • Pompeii takes all day, Herculaneum (which (in my opinion) is better takes half a day and the Museum also half a day. The historical centre is gloriously grubby and uncared for but is good for a full day including the inevitable pizza stop!

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      • Luckily I have also been to a gorgeous exhibition of Herculaneum artifacts. Not the same as going, but delicious. Of the two, I preferred Herculaneum.

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      • It is better than Pompeii, better preserved, smaller and more visitor friendly. Just my opinion.

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  5. Try Kathmandu, all day Taxi for £10! Downside? YOU won’t last the day!

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  6. Kim has it right!

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  7. I was petrified every time I was in a moving vehicle in Italy. Lines dividing the road mean nothing to their drivers.

    I’ve never been to Naples, but the US military there so I’ve certainly heard stories about how dangerous it is from many who were stationed there, I’ll be interested in hearing if you found that it lived up to its reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m surprised Italy is so low on the Happiness Index. Between the wine, food and beautiful scenery Italians have so much to be happy about.

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  9. Another good tour. The street scene with the man at bottom right and the disappearing central distance is a beauty.

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  10. I have very sunny memories of Naples and a long walk along the Molho (if I’ve remembered that right- the seafronf if I haven’t 🙂 ). We ferried/hydrofoiled from there to Ischia and to Capri, and spent a half day wandering in the city. Could have done with more time but we were Sorrento based and there was so much to see and do along that coast.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I live that Eurovision is one of your measures of a place. I recently went to Monaco and got to hum its only ever winner to myself as we explored… but even that wasn’t quite enough to make up for the tiny principality’s skyscraper awfulness.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love, not live. Bl**dy autocorrect.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. That seems a contradiction . . . you want the guy to drive as fast as possible if you’re watching the meter. I don’t know about Europe, but here taxi meters (taxies are the only place we use meters . . . everywhere else, we use feet or yards) add up based on both time and distance. You often can’t minimize distance, but you can sure minimize time.

    . . . I think those taxi drivers are doing you a favor . . .

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  14. I do like Kim’s approach to spending for taxis. The alternative often doesn’t bear thinking about.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. According to the TV, Naples is run by the Mafia. And when the TV crew did a tour of the streets it certainly didn’t look too impressive. Back in 2002, my daughter’s school visited Vesuvius and stayed near there but they were totally forbidden to visit Naples. From what I was told this is pretty standard for what is a very popular area for school trips.

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  16. I remember one taxi ride through Manhattan that I seriously thought marked my last day on earth! The driver not only drove faster than the speed limit, he more than doubled it. Careening through the busy traffic, he kept looking back at me, talking while aiming his car, barely missing other traffic. I was never so happy to reach a destination as I was that day.

    That said, I agree with you about taxis, mostly. I avoid them when at all possible. I had other taxi rides in Paris and Berlin that were in horrific traffic but handled with aplomb and skill by the drivers, exceptions to my experience other places where I had no option but to take a taxi.

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  17. Huh, the quote on see Naples and Die, that reminds me of how many people tell me, don’t go there or you might die. If you rent a B&B in Rome, they might sneak in and kill you when your sleeping at nite. A terrorist might kill you if you go there, you might become a drug mule if you go there, etc…. That quote caught my eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It is obvious that Kim is very wise woman.
    We had the same experience with a taxi driver in Naples.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Pingback: Travels in Italy, Graffiti and A Load of Baloney | Have Bag, Will Travel

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