While the Amalfi Coast is synonymous with jet-setting millionaires, you can have a great time in Naples on very little. But, difficult though it might be, it is possible to keep costs down wherever you are…
- Travel is pretty cheap in Naples (see my How to get around Neapolitan Riviera section) and, if you're in the city for a few days, or planning on going anywhere along the Amalfi Coast (Agerola, Amalfi, Atrani, Cetara, Conca dei Marini, Furore, Maiori, Massa Lubrense, Meta di Sorrento, Minori, Positano, Piano di Sorrento, Praiano, Ravello, Salerno, Sant’Agnello, Scala, Sorrento, Tramonti, Vietri sul Mare) it's worth getting a Unico Campania pass (www.unicocampania.it) – 20 euros buys a three-day integrated ticket that allows you to travel on SITA, EAVBUS and Circumvesuviana buses and trains.
- Note that the ticket is not valid on Capri or on the internal buses in Positano. Capri has its own ticketing system: Unico Capri, as does Positano.
- Tickets can be picked up at the train station or in most tabacchi (tobaccanist shops), or at newspaper kiosks.
- All over Italy, to fare un passeggiata (take a walk) is one of the most popular pastimes and, once you've arrived at your chosen destination you'll discover that doing just that – diving down side streets, nipping into churches, stumbling upon interesting shops and sights – is the best way of engaging with the locals and getting to the heart of the place.
- Along the coast and on the islands there are sensational walking opportunities and the best time to take them is in the spring when the flowers are at their best. Bring plenty of water, a sunhat, long-sleeved top and sun cream and wear stout shoes as some pathways can get slippery if there has been a recent shower.
- Some hotels, such as the Hotel Excelsior Naples, and Palazzo Murat Hotel in Positano, offer boat trips and, in the case of the Palazzo Murat at least, they're free. Il San Pietro di Positano also has its own boat for excursions. Note that trips are dependent on weather and numbers, so book in advance but appreciate that weather conditions can upset plans.
Eating and drinking
- In my experience, it's hard to eat badly in Naples and along the Neapolitan Riviera generally but, as I mention in my introduction to my picks of the best spots for food and drink, you will need to avoid those tourist traps that seem to offer dozens of dishes with dozens of different ingredients. The best trattorie are picking the freshest ingredients that day and they'll be serving three or four different dishes – and they'll usually all be wonderful. Wine is universally good, so if you're watching the euros, just order a quarto of perfectly drinkable house red or white.
- For a quick snack in Naples there are plenty of little shops selling fried vegetables and pastries. They're known as friggitorie. There are also food kiosks selling taralli caldi – the lovely peppery biscuits that are often served (warm) with apertitivi. Don't forget the pizza either… as Naples is the birthplace of pizza you'll find a pizzeria on every street (and they're unlikely to be serving the dried up specimens you see being sold on London's Tottenham Court Road) – Naples's Via Tribunali boasts several and the better takeaways usually have an enormous crowd outside at lunchtime. For an unforgettable sit-down pizza experience, I recommend Europeo Mattozzi. In Sorrento, it's Da Franco for me. Positano's Lo Guarracino does half-priced takeaway pizzas that you can pick up en route to Il Fornillo beach. On Capri, head for É Divino where the freshly prepared bruschetta é divino.
- All along the coast you'll be able to pick up wonderfully fresh ingredients from shops and delicatessens so that you can make up a picnic to take to a beach, or on a walk. You might save a fortune on lunches, though, as everything looks irresistible, you'll probably have trouble stopping at just a loaf and a chunk of cheese; olives, fresh fruit, a host of wonderful roasted vegetables under oil, a bottle of good wine, and what about a cake or two…?
- Coffee-drinkers (and café visitors generally) should remember that there is a premium charged for sitting at a table. Most Italians take coffee at the bar. You usually pay at the till first (give your order, pay, take your receipt, then hand your receipt to the man behind the bar, telling him what you've ordered).
- Aperitivi time. Naples hasn't caught up with Milan on the fashion for eating out on a glass of wine (the snacks that are provided with a single drink are often enough to sate all but the largest of appetites), but if you choose well you'll get a reasonable spread. At the Excelsior's swish Casanova bar, for instance, I got a bowl of olives, taralli and peanuts with my chilled glass of Greco di Tufa, as well as fabulous views over the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. Not bad for 7 euros, I thought. Sorrento's Photo is also a good place for an impressive snack quotient. Capri's Piazzetta is renowned for its high prices… but where else do you get such great people-watching opportunities? You could try the Quisi bar - expensive, yes, but a little more stylish and a lot less hectic. Positano's Zagara is commercial and usually full of tourists but you might also get some musical entertainment. For a quieter (and pricier, of course) option, head to the terrace bar at one of the swankier hotels such as Il San Pietro for a bit of romance and unbeatable views.
- The Campania Artecard is a really good deal if you're planning on visiting a couple of the major sights and, since one of the ticket options (the 'Napoli e Campi Flegrei', 16 euros) includes the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Museo di Capodimonte, you'll save plenty. A three-day ticket also includes all the transport you'll need to get around the city. Bargain!
- If you're thinking of using the Citysightseeing Sorrento shuttle bus, your Artecard will get you a 10 per cent discount. You can pick the sightseeing bus up at Piazza Municipio and it stops at all the major sites. Choose the path that best suits your taste (Linea A covers Capodimonte and the archeological museum). Keep hold of your ticket as you can get a 10 per cent discount on any other CitySightseeing buses you may wish to use (Sorrento, Amalfi…).
- It's possible to see plenty of art for absolutely nothing. Some of the biggest churches, such as the Gesù Nuovo and Duomo in Naples, Duomo in Amalfi and Santa Maria Assunta in Positano are free to get in and, even the smaller ones often have a painting or two worth investigating.
- The Metro system in Naples is the latest place to see fabulous contemporary art: the stations Dante, Museo, Materdei, Salvator Rosa, Quattro Giornate, Vanvitelli, Rione Alto and a few others further out of the centre all feature great artistic talents that have been given a free rein to transform the station including, most recently, Anish Kapoor at Monte Sant'Angelo. For more information, see the website: www.metro.na.it.
- Happily, even though other parts of the Neapolitan Riviera don't have any particular sightseeing discounts, prices are generally pretty cheap - one or two euros a time. Even on Capri, the churches are free to enter and many of the sights, such as Villa Jovis, cost hardly anything.
Other useful tips
- Of all the places to visit on the Neapolitan Riviera, Naples gets a pretty bad rap but, in fact, if you follow the same simple rules that would apply in most capital cities, you'll have the time of your life. As well as the myriad reasons I've given on the various pages I've written here on Simonseeks, one thing I may not have stressed enough is how reasonably priced Naples is (going along the Amalfi Coast and to the islands, you'll have to work a little harder to save your euros).
- But in spite of its reputation, in Naples, you're not likely to be robbed at every turn. You just need to use your common sense.
- First off, don't flash the cash, cameras, jewellery or furs. And take extra special care around the main train station on Piazza Garibaldi and around the dodgier looking parts of the port. But then that goes for most port cities, I'd say.
- Crime along the Amalfi Coast and on the islands is rare and the only robbery you're likely to encounter is the 'daylight' kind that can happen in the most obvious tourist venues.
- Left luggage is an extremely useful facility… especially if you're only passing through. On a recent trip to Amalfi, en route to Ravello, I left my luggage with the travel office in front of the bus station – it was tucked behind the desk by a rather surly girl who advised that, if she was out when I returned, I should pop into a shop round the corner where they held keys. I had read that this service was free but was, in the end, charged three euros. When I find an alternative, I'll let you know.
- My experience at the central station in Naples was a much more pleasant affair. A charming man at platform 5 took charge of my case and then, several hours and a couple of euros later, he delivered it back to me, with a winning smile.