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Naples, instructions for use

NAPLES, INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE

By Fabrizio Fiorenzano

IN THE EARLY 1800S, the father of the great composer, Gaetano Donizetti, said to his son, ‘You will never be a composer unless you go to Vienna or to Naples.’ At that time Naples acted as a magnet, attracting writers, musicians and poets. It has always been a vibrant place, blessed with a natural beauty, making it one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Its majestic bay, sweeping round from Vesuvius to Pozzuoli and encompassing world-famous names such as Pompeii, Capri and Ischia, is one of the most evocative sights on earth.

Divided into 21 districts and with a population of one million, Naples has developed over the years until it often seems more crowded than Tokyo. Unchecked construction work has filled every corner, leaving little space for parks or relaxation.

The extensive historic centre is the ancient heart of the city. Its narrow streets are filled with cars and scooters, a law unto themselves, paying little heed to signs and traffic lights. In some parts the high level of air and noise pollution mean that life can be challenging, to say the least.

To the tourist, Naples gives the impression of a colourful city, marked by close human contact and an amusing and picturesque sense of disorganisation, but it is also a place where you should be on your guard. Per capita income is among the lowest in Italy, while the cost of living is one of the highest and consequently in some quarters tourists need to be aware that they may be the targets of street crime. But please don’t let this put you off visiting this incredible place. By taking on board a few sensible precautions you can make sure that your visit is a safe and pleasant one.

GETTING  AROUND

It is often very pleasant to discover a new city by yourself but sensible advice would be to try and avoid this in Naples as a lone tourist is an easy target. Far better to go around with others which will make your stay safer and less stressful – depending on who you go with!

They say if you can drive in Naples, you can drive anywhere. This is because the rules of the road are completely ignored! By all means give it a go if you feel up to it, but it really isn’t necessary to take your own car or scooter into Naples. The good news is that there is an excellent public transport network. You can happily enjoy the beauties of the city by taking advantage of ‘City Sightseeing Italia’, a large network which specialises in guided tours in double-decker coaches.

There are three itineraries: works of art, views of the Gulf and San Martino. These leave every 15 minutes from piazza Municipio and for 20 euros per person will take you around the city’s marvels in perfect safety.

As with any big city, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t put your wallet in a back pocket when travelling, far better to wear a money belt. In fact, it is a good idea to avoid obvious displays of wealth, particularly jewellery, cameras and video cameras. Ladies should avoid a handbag with shoulder straps and keep your handbag by your feet not on your knee in a car. It is reassuring to know that there are actually security guards in plain clothes on the buses to try to prevent pickpocketing.

If you arrive at the central station, you will be confronted by piazza Garibaldi. This is a place even locals are careful of, so best leave it quickly. As soon as you get off the train you will probably be accosted by persuasive offers of taxis. These are illegal vehicles, without permits or meters. Do not enter into conversation, don’t even smile.

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