Visiting Naples as a Female Solo Traveler
NAPLES: MY FAVORITE ITALIAN CITY
Traveling to Naples as a Female Solo Traveler
Traveling to Naples, Italy, was the best solo trip I took during my year of studying abroad in Europe. I had already been to Italy twice before deciding to return for a third time, to see Naples, Pompeii, and Sorrento. I was reluctant to go to Naples on a solo trip because I’d heard that the city is tough, the traffic is a frenzy, and the men are even more persistent with hitting on women than they are in other Italian cities. I was very anxious about going alone and decided at the last minute not to do it. Then, at the even more last minute, I changed my mind and went. Here’s my story of visiting Naples and how this trip became my favorite solo trip of all time!
Is Naples a Dangerous City for Female Solo Travelers?
I always do research before traveling to a new place in order to learn some history and to understand the city better. I watch travel videos on YouTube and this is where I kept seeing that Naples isn’t the safest place for female solo travelers. I could tell the city was very large, crowded, and the traffic looked insane! The biggest danger seemed to be for pedestrians who were brave enough to navigate the hectic streets. One video mentioned that female travelers were at high risk of being targeted by men and harassed. I ended up saying to myself, isn’t that true everywhere? *eye roll*
Still, with anxiety plaguing me, I boarded my RyanAir flight from Beauvais, France, to Naples. By the time I arrived, it was dark out. I always try to travel during the day so that I’m able to find my hostel during the daytime, because it can be difficult and stressful at night. This wasn’t the case for Naples. I took a bus from the airport into the city center, to Piazza Garibaldi, where the main bus and train stations are. I got lost as soon as I stepped off the bus, as my nighttime orientation is mediocre at best. The bus driver told me where to find the train, and after getting lost a few more times, I managed to make it to my hostel in one piece!
I stayed at La Controra Hostel in Naples, which turned out to be a fantastic experience! The people working there were welcoming and friendly. The common areas were buzzing with fellow travelers and I was able to make a lot of new friends! If you’re looking for a good value hostel in Naples, I recommend La Controra, although I warn you, it’s on a steep hill. Then again, most of Naples is hills so, bring your walking shoes!
Exploring Naples by foot (at least the downhill part of it) is an excellent way to take in all the city’s characteristics. The city is abundant with narrow streets, colorful buildings, and lively people going about their typical Italian days. I only used the metro a couple of times, as everything interesting happens above ground! Being Italy’s third largest city by population (behind Rome and Milan), Naples has around 1 million people scurrying through its busy streets. I saw predominantly local people around the parts of the city without tourist attractions. Places like Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel Nuovo, and Galleria Umberto are in the area of Naples that is most popular with tourists. Via Toledo is a 0.75 mile (1.2km) historic shopping street that was constantly packed with people every time I was around that area, in the morning and at midnight!
Taking a Day Trip to Pompeii
Taking the train to Pompeii was easy enough to figure out, although a lot of Neapolitan people didn’t speak English well when I asked for directions. The hostel informed me that many people purchase tickets for Pompeii at a local newsstand. It cost less than 6 euros roundtrip! The train platform to go to Pompeii was overcrowded with both locals and tourists. It’s a half an hour train ride that makes multiple stops, so I had the pleasure of cruising along with Mount Vesuvius to my left and the Gulf of Naples to my right. It also passes through Herculaneum, the other city that was destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. You can’t miss it when you arrive to Pompeii because that’s where boatloads of tourists exit the train.
Visiting Pompeii was a surreal experience. Being there, you can feel the intense history of the land, especially with Vesuvius lurking in the background. The entrance fee to the ruins was 11 euros and I didn’t opt for a tour guide because I like to explore at my own pace. I spent four hours walking through the ruins, which take up about 170 acres (67 hectares) of land. You’re able to see ancient artifacts that survived the destruction of the city, such as furniture, vases, weapons, decorations, and so on. Certain parts of the ruins are much more preserved than others, and you can walk inside most of the buildings! I was able to see the preserved bodies when I visited, too. That was a somber moment, thinking about what happened to them while seeing the expressions on their faces.
Another Day Trip to Sorrento
On another day I took the same train from Naples in the direction of Pompeii, but stopped to see the archaeological site at Herculaneum. The entrance fee there also cost 11 euros, but that site is much smaller and more condensed than Pompeii. I only took about two hours to walk the site and view the mounds of ancient skeletons they have in cages below the ruins. I recommend stopping there! My true intention that day was to go to Sorrento, a colorful, cliffside city I have always dreamed of visiting. The train ride from Naples to Sorrento was 4,50 euros one way, and took about an hour.
Sorrento was the most special part of this trip. As I was traveling solo, I was able to fully enjoy my trip on my own terms. I took my merry time walking around the town, stopping for gelato, and going to a little flea market that was taking place in one of the squares. The town is small, with only about 16,500 people, and not a crazy amount of tourists (at least when I was there, in November). Sorrento overlooks the Bay straight across to Naples, forming a crescent shape where the train passes to and from each place. There are little beaches, docks, and fisherman casting lines at the water’s edge. I loved the place so much that I decided to go on a long hike up some of the cliffs, so that I could have a killer sunset view. An hour later of walking alongside traffic where there wasn’t even a sidewalk, I emerged to the top of the cliff, and I watched the sunset. That was a feeling of accomplishment for me. I felt impassioned by the magic of solo travel. That moment was special even though I didn’t have someone to share it with.
Why Naples is Not to Be Missed!
As for the time I spent in Naples itself, most of my memories revolve around me consuming copious amounts of pizza. I mean come on, 3 euros for a gigantic, fresh-out-the-oven, thin-crust Italian pizza? Props to my heart for not giving out after having that, and loads of gelato, for that matter!
Pizza in Naples is notoriously cheap and delicious. It’s totally normal to order a big ol' pizza and eat the whole thing yourself; no judgment. There are a variety of restaurants that serve fantastic pizza, but the top-rated joint in Naples is still L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which is over 150 years old and always has a line of people waiting! Naples also has really good Limoncello, which you can find at Limoné, the liqueur factory on Piazza San Gaetano, in the Old Town.
Naples is so much more than its delicious food, though. It’s more than its striking views of the city, the bay, and Mount Vesuvius. It’s more than its friendly and fun people. It’s great not only because it’s absolutely ancient and full of history going all the way back to the Greek civilizations that lived there in the 2nd millennium, B.C.
I loved Naples so much because it felt like the way life should be. I never felt unsafe as a female solo traveler. Sure, traffic is insane. Don’t jaywalk. Sure, Neapolitan men are flirtatious but they’re Italians, so, who is surprised? I felt safe being alone as a woman. It’s a big city with a lot of people, so some areas are dirty and sketchy, but that adds character. The streets are long, thin, and windy; who knows where you’ll end up when you get lost? The city is more alive than so many other places I’ve been to. I guess being so old gave Naples and its people enough time to learn how to live life right.
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We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.