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Travel & Holidays in later life

Naples has an unenviable reputation as a city of pickpockets and criminals, overflowing refuse bins and abominable traffic. But there’s lots to make a visit worth while and the unpleasantness can easily be avoided. Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan tell you how.

Naples, waterfront


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Getting There

By Rail: 
Train from Rome to Naples about 1 – 2.30 hours depending on which train.

By Road: Don’t even think about it. Driving in Naples is a nightmare not to be contemplated.


Tourist Information

Commune of Naples Tourist Information

Tourist office opposite platform 22 at Centrale Station. Start your visit there by getting a street map of the cty with the main attractions marked.








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We’ve travelled the length of the Falls Road in Belfast at the height of the ‘troubles’ and walked along the narrow, unlit streets of Beirut late at night. But the only time we’ve experienced the feeling of unease and sense of menace we felt in Piazza Garibaldi at Naples Central station was in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles when we tried to negotiate a path across the north in a camper van on 12th July and roads were blocked before us in every direction.

Naples Central Station


The area round the station has a reputation for seediness but it was worse than expected. As we walked along Via a Poerio there seemed to be two or three young men standing on every corner, eyeing up the people walking by. When we took our cameras out, we were aware of heads turned towards us, identifying us as easy prey. It was like a scene from ‘The Hills Have Eyes’. The overflowing garbage bins and piles of uncollected refuse on the streets did nothing to dispel the atmosphere. We contemplated a quick retreat to the station and the next train back to Rome. But we are professionals. So we put the cameras and plodded onward. By the time we reached Via Carbonara in the San Lorenzo Quarter there was a remarkable improvement. People were hanging out of their windows listening to a young man busking with an accordion. When anyone threw him money, he always stopped to says thanks.
We continued along Via Settembrini then into Via Duomo. The Duomo has been re-built many times but it’s still worth a visit. The main attraction is the Chapel of San Gennaro, whose main claim to fame was that he had his head cut off. You can learn about what happened in the chapel and view the fabulous gold works of art it contains. His bones, or what is left of them, along with some of his congealed blood are in the Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro which is left of the Duomo. The blood apparently liquefies twice every year.

Naples Duomo


The historic centre, Centro Storico mostly lies between Via Foria to the north and Corso Umberto I in the south, Via Toleda in the west and Piazza Garibaldi in the eest. But the heart of the area is clustered round Via dei Tribunali and Via San Biagio and the best way to explore it is just to follow your nose and wander round, through, down and up the many narrow alleyways. Everywhere there are shops and stalls selling souvenirs and tourist tat. Best buys are the Nativities, which are more popular in Naples than Christmas trees. Some are large and intricate and could be a problem to get home. But others are small and portable or you could just buy one of the many figurines. I was rather taken by some miniature, model mandolins in cases.

NAples, Nativity scene

Other attractions worth seeing in the Historic Centre are The Naples Underground, Napoli Sotteranea, where you can have a 90-minute tour of the ancient network of tunnels and aqueducts that lie beneath the streets. Some of them go all the way to Rome.

The National Archaeological Museum, Museu Archeologico, is the oldest of its kind in Europe having been founded in 1734. Highlights are the materials removed from Pompeii and Herculaneum and the world famous Farnese Collection. This needs a minimum of half a day and is best visited after being to Pompeii.

After a decent wander up and down the alleys we headed south to reach Corso Umberto and turned right along it to reach Castelnuovo, although it’s not been new since 1279. It’s an impressive and very ornate building, which can be visited. In the Baron’s Hall, Ferdinand I dealt with the Barons who were conspiring against him. He invited them to a banquet during which he had the doors closed and the Barons arrested and executed. Other stories tell of them being killed when boiling oil was poured on them from the ceiling. This room was used for the meetings of the Council of the commune of Naples until 2006. Outside is the bus terminal for Citysightseeing tours. These hop on, hop off tours are a great way to get a quick overview of a city and we use them a lot. Tickets are valid for 24 hours and in the case of Naples there are four different routes.

NAples Castel Nuovo Citysightseeingtours

From the castle it was a short walk to the waterfront and a stroll along to Castel dell’Uova, the castle of the egg. According to legend the poet Virgil, magically placed an egg under the castle. If it ever breaks Naples is doomed. It’s another spectacular edifice and as we visited was being used by a film crew working on some future blockbuster. It’s on the small island of Megaride, reached via a short bridge. The castle itself is not open but you can get onto the ramparts at the top and the views over Naples Bay to Vesuvius make that worthwhile.

Naples Castel Dell Uova

Just along from the Castle, in the Chiaia district is the most beautiful section of waterfront in Naples. There are several small restaurants with grand views over the Bay. We ate on the pavement at Gusto and Gusto, a long, leisurely lunch of pizza and beer. Then with just enough time left, walked through the gardens of Villa Comunale and the streets behind. This well-heeled area has some of the best shopping with lots of galleries and antique shops as well as the ridiculously expensive Armani, Prada and Gucci.

Naples Restaruant Gusto Gusto


From Piazza Amedeo we took the Metro back to Central Station, bypassing all the seediness outside. This is what we should have done when we arrived. We’d recommend taking the metro to Piazza Cavour and walking south to the attractions of the historic centre, without running the gauntlet of the predatory stares in Piazza Garibaldi.


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