“Is Naples safe?” It’s the question on everyone’s lips if you should ever so much as mention that you are considering taking a trip to the Southern Italian city. It is the question that is whispered whenever someone mentions that they are going to start off their Amalfi coast itinerary in Naples, and it was the question that was gasped at me in horror by my friends and family when I announced that I was going to study Italian in Naples in 2015… and then again when I decided to move there for 9 months in 2017.
So what’s the verdict? Is Naples safe? As someone who has spent years of her life both living and travelling in Naples, I can tell you: Yes! 100 times, yes!
In this article I’ll go into all the whats and whys, and the precautions that you need to take while travelling in Naples to ensure that your Italian vacation is fun-filled and trouble-free.
Napoli: Italy’s Most Badass City
Raw. Gritty. Bursting with attitude. Naples is an Italian city that is simply overflowing with character and personality.
Where narrow, graffiti filled alleyways open out into crowded piazzas that are teeming with life; Where locals folk dance until 5am amid the crumbling ruins of Roman buildings, and where dark, dimly lit streets lead you towards unexpectedly sophisticated wine bars. Naples is a real diamond in the rough.
Every time I think about Naples’ bad reputation I feel a little sad, but at the same time, I go on to appreciate the fact that this underrated edgy city has escaped the eyes and the footprints of most international travellers as a result.
Is Naples Safe? Diffusing a Bad Reputation
Several decades ago, “see Naples and die” was a phrase attributed to travelling to Napoli. This tagline was given on account of just how good the food was in Naples. You’d see Naples, stuff your face, and just die from a foodgasm (okay let’s all admit that that was a pretty weird phrase). Nowadays, that same phrase has taken on a more sinister turn because of this presumption that Naples is a dangerous, treacherous no-go zone.
Naples has a few bad title. It’s been nicknamed the murder capital of Europe. It’s considered as being Italy’s most dangerous city. The sheer mention of Naples is synonymous with the Mafia. Does that mean that all Naples residents are gun-wielding Mafia crime bosses? Don’t make me laugh!
Living in Naples
I just want to reiterate here once again that I am not just someone who went to Naples once on holiday, took a few photos, felt safe, and returned home. I lived in Naples. I dated a Neapolitan guy (no he was not a Mafia baron and we didn’t have a Bonnie and Clyde style relationship!). I spent many a night drinking, eating and laughing in crowded Neapolitan bars, restaurants and pizzerias. Sometimes I even did the unthinkable and walked home alone. If Naples is as dangerous as the naysayers would have you believe, I sincerely doubt that I’d still be here writing this article.
Is Naples Safe?
Looking at the Question in Context
What’s the Big Threat in Naples Anyway?
Have you ever noticed that people are always saying that Naples is not safe, but they don’t provide any additional context? Precisely why is it unsafe? What is going to happen if you should be so bold as to dare to venture there?
Will you get raped? Bombed? Eaten by wolves? Kidnapped by a Mafia thug and forced to serve as a Drug Lord? What? I’m presuming that if you confront these naysayers, the majority of them have nothing useful to contribute to answering the question of whether Naples is safe, and will go on to shuffle away and return to going about their day.
“My friend of a friend got robbed/attacked/mugged”
Conveniently, those people who say that Naples is dangerous seem to always have an anecdote to back it up with. Their friend of a friend of a friend named Steve went to Naples and got robbed, ergo Naples must be dangerous. Even if these anecdotes did happen, it does not provide much information. You could just as easily be robbed in London, or Paris or Madrid.
Perhaps Dave was walking around a sketchy neighbourhood at 3 am with an expensive camera hanging around his neck. Perhaps Dave just ran into bad luck. Regardless, if you listened to every bad thing you heard about everything ever, you would never leave the house. Trust me when I tell you, Naples is very worthy of your time and attention as a travel destination. Once again: yes, Naples is safe.
Looking at the Statistics
The safety statistics for travelling to Naples pretty much speak for themselves. According to the Numbeo criminality index, Naples ranks as number 66. There are a significant amount of American cities that outrank Naples in terms of crime levels and danger ratings, but people don’t terrify themselves out of travelling to the USA!
Similarly, the Italian authorities themselves state that crime is worse in Rome and Milan than it is in Naples. Interesting, eh?
So what is the big, terrifying thing that people are so afraid of in Naples? It seems to broil down to two things: 1. Petty crime and 2. The Mafia.
Petty Crime in Naples
Petty crime is the main safety issue that poses a threat for visitors to Naples. Again though, let me reiterate that I lived in Naples for a relatively long time and never experienced any issues. I never got mugged, nor did I encounter anyone who had.
Bag snatchings are common in Naples, as is pick-pocketing. Criminals have been known to grab the handles off of someone’s backpack while speeding by on a vespa. The solution for avoiding this? Common sense!
If you take basic precautions, you will be completely fine in Naples, just like I was. A few safety suggestions are:
- Try to blend in as much as possible.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or have expensive cameras dangling from your neck. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just wear a big sandwich board that says “tourist!”
- Be mindful of your bag and your personal belongings in crowded areas and when taking the Circumvesuviana trains.
- If walking with a backpack, wear both straps so that it cannot be easily snatched. If wearing a handbag, keep it securely tucked under your shoulder.
- Don’t walk alone at night, particularly in areas such as Museo, or around Garibaldi square. Be careful when walking down the narrow passageways and dimly lit alleys.
- Don’t carry tons of cash and try to minimise the amount of valuables that you carry with you.
What About the Mafia?
First thing’s first: yes the Mafia does still exist in Naples. The “Camorra” is the name of the Mafia that operates in this area and it is one of the largest groups in the country. The Camorra has been in operation for over 400 years. While it’s unfortunate that the Mafia do still cause all manner of problems for local businesses, they are extremely unlikely to take any notice of tourists. Think about it logically: If a Mafia boss is dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars in organised crime, he isn’t going to waste his time pestering a tourist for a £400 camera is he?
After a day or two in Naples, you will feel assured about this I’m sure. Mafia activity takes place behind the scenes. You will not encounter any problems.
Sketchy Neighbourhoods in Naples
Honestly there are no neighbourhoods in central Naples that I would describe as being complete no-go areas. You might have heard of some sketchy neighbourhoods filled with drug addicts but rest assured, they are miles and miles out of central Naples. Even if you got lost sightseeing, you wouldn’t find them because they are so far out. Considering that, there is no need to majorly freak yourself out if you get lost. Rest assured, you’re not going to walk into the midst of a gang turf war.
The area around Garibaldi station seems to have a constant police presence. There are many beggars that loiter inside the train station, many intimidating types selling fake designer handbags, and most of the reports of petty crime happen here. If you have travelled elsewhere in Italy, you will note that the area around the train station is often the most sketchy, even in Sicily, Rome or Milan.
There are a lot of cheap accommodation options situated around Garibaldi. If you’re constantly aware of your surroundings, you will be completely fine, however I would try to avoid this area if you can. It will not be the most magical Naples experience. Quartieri Spagnoli and Museo are both neighbourhoods that are generally fine but where you should be careful when walking at night.
Is Naples Safe?
Safety Advice for Visiting the Campania Capital
I have already touched on some of the precautions that you need to take when travelling in Naples in order to minimise your chances of being the victim of petty crime, but some additional considerations are detailed below. Most of these things are common sense, travel safety tips that I would give to you when travelling anywhere, but considering Naples reputation, I wanted to reiterate them.
Don’t Travel to Naples Feeling Paranoid
If you travel to Naples feeling super paranoid and anxious that something is going to happen to you, it’s going to ruin your experience. Not only will you not appreciate what’s going on around you because you are always tiptoeing around or looking back over your shoulder, if you start acting shifty or nervous, you will make yourself more of a target. Just forget everything negative you have ever heard about Naples and concentrate on the important things – like where to find the best pizza!
Walk With Determination
Wherever you travel, always walk like you know where you are going – even if you don’t. If you walk with confidence, people are more likely to think that you are a local or that you know the area well. As such, they are less likely to bother you. If you do happen to get lost, try and be discreet about it – aka not unfolding giant maps in the middle of sketchy alleys and frantically looking around.
Plan Your Itinerary
If you have a clear plan of where you want to go, and what you want to do in Naples it will help a lot. Not only will your time management be better, but if you’ve done your research and have a rough understanding of where the main sights are and how to get from A to B, you minimize your chances of getting lost or running into problems.
Don’t Arrive at Night
Arriving to a new travel destination at night always makes the experience more stressful. For one thing, it’s much more difficult to find addresses and accommodations in the darkness. For another, their are heightened safety concerns in certain areas. This is not just specific to Naples, but rings true of anywhere you may travel.
If you can, try and ensure that you arrive in Naples during daylight hours. Review your options and transport routes in advance so that you know how to get to your hotel/Airbnb.
Carry a Business Card From Your Hotel
In case you should happen to get lost or run into any problems, always carry the business card from your hotel, and store their details into their phone. This also helps should you happen to need a cab.
Enjoy Your Experience
No travel experience is fun if you are constantly looking over your shoulder and the same can be said of travelling in Naples. Have fun, relax, and enjoy yourself. You’re travelling through Italy to have a break afterall, not to feel as stressed out as you do while you’re at the office!
Still plagued about the question “Is Naples Safe?” Feel free to reach out to me via email, or drop me a comment below.