Port of Naples
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Over the centuries, Naples was ruled by many European families. You'll see some of them represented by statues on the facade on Palazzo Reale: Charles V of the Hapsburgs, Charles III of the Bourbons, Joseph Murat of the Bonaparte family and finally Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy who became king of Italy in 1861. Unfortunately, with the Italian capital moving to Turin, then Florence and finally Rome, Naples lost much of its importance. A civic decline set in during the 19th century, and the city has yet to recover. The historic center still has far too many boarded-up palazzos.
The city is home to architectural highpoints -- the Gallerias Principe di Napoli and Umberto II, the royal palaces, churches and former convents -- but there are also some unfortunate 1970's-style apartment blocks that wreck the view up to Vesuvius or down to the sea. This is a city of broad corsos (avenues) as well as narrow alleyways. Judging by the gesticulations of those who drive around its streets, it's also a very passionate city. Naples is unmistakably less self-conscious than Rome or Florence and more real than Venice.
The port of Naples serves as a gateway to key destinations -- Pompeii, Sorrento, Ravello, Positano, Capri and Ischia -- but it is also a city to be enjoyed in its own right.
Take a deep breath, plunge in and enjoy.
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Where You're Docked
Most ships berth at Stazione Marittima, which is centrally located just below Castel Nuovo and ideal if you plan to take the hydrofoil to Capri, Ischia or Sorrento. You can walk right into town from there and be at Piazza del Plebiscito in a few minutes.
On busy days, ships also dock at Molo Pisacane to the east of Stazione Marittima, and shuttle buses are available to transfer passengers to Galleria del Mare inside the Stazione Marittima.
Good to Know
Naples owns a bad reputation for pickpockets and muggers. In fact, it is no worse than many European cities, but there are less-safe areas. When exploring the Santa Lucia district or shopping on Via Toledo, you should exercise normal care -- do not put your camera down, leave your handbag open or flash your Rolex and you will be fine. The Centro Storico (historic center) is more bohemian and less predictable. As this is where you find the National Archaeological Museum, it should not be avoided, but stick to the main streets.
Beware of street vendors selling seemingly expensive goods (handbags, DVD's, cellphones) for knock-down prices on white sheets laid out on the pavement. You might get a bargain price on your faux Gucci goods, but you and the vendor may be arrested if the police swoop. Buying from these unlicensed vendors is illegal. Usually, they work in teams with a lookout, and the moment the police arrive, everything is swept up in the white sheet, and the vendors leg it.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency is the euro; for the latest exchange rate, visit www.xe.com and www.oanda.com.
There are plenty of ATM machines and exchange bureaus, both at the port and in town. Via Santa Brigita, which begins just above Castel Nuovo, has a lot of banks with cash machines.
If you are visiting Pompeii, you'll find ATM's very close to the ticket office. On a hot day, you'll definitely want euros on hand for a gelato, a bottle of water or a refreshing lemon granita.
Italian is the primary language spoken; English is neither widely spoken nor easily understood, except in major tourist areas. If you want to know whether the person you're speaking to will converse in English ask, “Parliamo Inglese?” It's always appreciated if you ask.
The Amalfi coastline southeast of Naples is famous for its hand-painted ceramics known as maiolica. You'll find some on sale in Naples, but the best shops are around Vietri and Amalfi.
Gay Odin is a 19th-century chocolatier with a number of shops in Naples where you can buy a traditional wooden box with a local scene on the lid and fill it with chocolates. Prices range from 12 to 65 euros. (Vico Vetriera 12; +39 081 417843; open Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
The top tie-maker in Naples, E. Marinella, sells to all the country's serious politicians. If you want to power-dress Italian-style, visit this lovely little shop. Prices range from 100 to 135 euros per tie depending on length. (Riviera di Chiaia 287; +39 081 764 3265)
Limoncello is a favorite drink of the area. The strong Italian liqueur is derived from the bright, plump lemons that prosper in the southern part of the country. Actor Danny DeVito bought a lemon farm near Sorrento so he could produce his own. Bartenders have experimented with cocktails like the Limoncello Mojito.