Naples: Just Do It.

I just spent two days in Naples, and loved it. It’s one of the most fertile, churning, exuberant, and fun cities in all of Europe. And the entire time, I wondered, “Where are the tourists?” Of course, Naples has a reputation of being dangerous. But I think that any reasonable traveler exercising good common sense will feel comfortable here — and will be well rewarded for their adventurous spirit.

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Naples’ street plan is 2,500 years old, dating back to the days when it was the Greek city Neapolis. And for all those centuries, an arrow-straight, razor-thin street has cut the city in two. It’s Spaccanapoli, which means “Split Naples.” Exploring it, you become part of this vivid and exuberant stripe of life.

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If exploring Naples, you can just park yourself on a street corner and watch the world roll by — much of it on motorbikes. It’s not unusual to see families of three, or even four, all sharing the family vehicle.

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A big joy when researching a guidebook chapter on Naples is sorting through all the great restaurants. Characteristic mom-and-pop places cater to locals, serving family recipes at family-friendly prices. My criteria for a good restaurant: in a low-rent location; busy with locals; and with a small, handwritten menu in one language. (It’s small because they’re selling everything they’re cooking; it’s handwritten because it’s shaped by what’s fresh today in the market; and it’s in one language because they cater to locals rather than tourists). Here, pastas and secondi are just €6 (about $8) each. Everything’s delicioso — and I speak from experience.

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Naples is a busy cruise port, and the terminal is right in the town center. Adventurous cruise travelers can hop off their ship and venture directly into the urban jungle. I met this American couple deep in Naples, having a great time…with ripped-out pages from my Mediterranean Cruise Ports guidebook. Their big smiles and the way they were using those pages made my day.

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