I love Naples, about 90% of the time, which is pretty much how the Neapolitans feel themselves. It’s easy to dislike the place if you take it at face value and for many tourists their first impression of the city is from Piazza Garibaldi with its hookers, pickpockets and hustlers.
However, despite the reputation for crime, in more than ten visits I’ve never actually been physically threatened or duped, although it certainly doesn’t hurt to be a bit streetwise. The main danger I’ve experienced when walking around is being hit by a football because the kids have no proper places to play.
You also have to get to grips with the local traffic rules and there have been times when I wished I carried a horn to give some stick back to the ruthless drivers. Just breath and bear it though and you should be ok, it’s only a small minority that will actually try to run you down.
My first memories of Piazza Garibaldi are from 1984 when I first came as a student. At the time I remember marvelling at the triple parking all around the square and wondering how anyone ever got their car out.
In its next phase the square was turned into a huge construction site for more than a decade as they struggled to build the new metro station. Unfortunately the funding was always running out and they kept finding lots of archaeology which constantly halted progress. When the metro station was finished in 2014 it made a huge difference to the square and the city. However half the square is still a building site even now.
The main station received a facelift in 2011 and amongst other shops, there’s now a huge Feltrinelli bookshop that’s great for browsing (restaurant guides!) while you’re waiting for your train.
They still haven’t completely sorted out the rubbish problem though. The huge piles of bin bags towards collection day have become another symbol of the city. The residents will sometimes douse the dumps with petrol to burn the rubbish away, which was the cheery scene next to my hotel when I arrived one year.
So the square is definitely very edgy for someone not used to it but several years of living in quite poor areas in various UK cities (Sharrow, Toxteth, Harringay and Brixton) have provided me with some street smarts to deal with it.
Naples reminds me of Liverpool in particular in that both are port cities with large multi-cultural communities and have similar reputations for their sense of humour, music, disrespect for authority, and unfortunately criminality and drugs.
The food is much better here than in Liverpool though! However, you still have to know where to go. Please see my previous post on Garibaldi – places to eat, and my Google map for the rest of the city.
Here are a couple of suggestions on where to stay in Piazza Garibaldi:
Starhotel Terminus (Upper Intermediate B+), 91 Piazza Garibaldi
Work usually put me in this huge hotel because it has the best possible transport connections with the main train station (metro, local and inter-city lines) which is literall next door, and the bust stop for the airport is also nearby. From the appearance of the lobby the hotel appears to be quite plush but it’s becoming a bit dilapidated; though is still probably one of the best hotels in the square. From the roof you can get some great views of the neighbourhood and Mount Vesuvius looming behind the station.
The rooms can be very variable. Avoid the ones on the side, such as 240, unless you like the sound of trains grinding on their rails and honking traffic. The ones with windows facing the internal courtyard are a bit depressing due to the lack of natural light. However the ones on the front are probably the biggest and best (look at the fire diagrams in the corridor), such as my favourite 410 which has a balcony overlooking the square and as a corner room has double doors to the corridor, making it nice and quiet. You could try emailing ahead to bag a decent one or call their central reservations toll free on 00800 00220011 from the UK, Italy, Spain, France, Germany or +39 055 36925 from other countries.
The staff range from being very nice to downright rude but you can still get things done if you play them right and drown them in niceness.Internet access in the rooms has got much better of late but make sure you have the right password for the right kind of device or it won’t work. The hotel has a fairly decent gym with a couple of bikes, weight stations and a treadmill, though more often than not the latter is out of service. Complaining is pointless, no one cares as the hotel is always full and they don’t need your custom. I’m used to it now though and quite like the place.
Hotel Ramada (Intermediate C+), 40 Via Gallileo Ferraris
If we’re unlucky and the Starhotel is full, we’re put up at the Ramada instead. My colleagues have nicknamed it the Rumblada, due to the not so distant vibrations from the train lines that pass under the hotel! It’s not so bad really if you’re not staying too long. The breakfast is ok if a a bit cardboardy, but in my experience the reception staff are generally much nicer and more helpful than at the Terminus around the corner.