Rick Steves Reveals Why This Popular Italian City May Not Be For Every Type Of Traveler

Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world, with its Minister of Tourism reporting a whopping 445 million sightseers in 2023, via Nova Agency. People come from around the globe for its gems, including gondola rides in Venice, the historical architecture, and scrumptious pizza and fresh pasta. Even Pisa is visit-worthy if you're uninterested in seeing The Leaning Tower. All across the boot-shaped country, which is about the size of Florida and Georgia combined, you'll find vibrant towns and photogenic sights. 

Italy is also brimming with stunning nature, from its beautiful coastlines to its Alpine mountains. However, not all of Italy is suitable for every type of traveler — at least not according to Rick Steves. The travel expert warns tourists in a travel guide on his website that Naples offers both the "good and bad" sides of Italy. The more you explore, he explains, the more it intensifies, and you'll have to cope with the city's chaos and crime if you want to discover its color and character.

The reality behind Naples' reputation

In a blog post, Rick Steves elaborates on Naples' gritty personality, using terms like "appalling," "polluted," and "crime-ridden" to describe the city's atmosphere. He recalls his first time in Piazza Garibaldi when he was only 18 years old, where a man in a surgeon's gown approached him begging for blood for a baby. Steves notes that today, Naples can still be off-putting and even dangerous. Still, the main concern for most tourists is pickpocketing, a crime that's (unfortunately) hardly rare in big cities all over the continent. Another threat to look out for, says the avid traveler, is the unpredictable traffic and drivers who don't always stop for pedestrians or red lights.

Another reason for Naples' rough reputation is the Camorra, a mafia group operating in the city. However, for most residents and visitors, the Camorra is hardly detectable. Whether related to organized groups, random street theft, or anything in between, crime in Naples isn't much worse than most other cities in Italy. Data from the Department of Public Security (via Lab24) reveals that Naples ranked only 23rd in 2018 based on the number of crime reports received per 100,000 people. By comparison, Milan came in first, and Rome came in seventh.

Should you skip Naples during your Italian vacation?

As Italy's third-largest city, Naples brims with activities, starting with its culinary scene. The coastal city is home to the first-ever Margherita pizza, though many local menus also serve satisfying seafood pasta dishes, thanks to the nearby sea. Neapolitan cuisine is known for its humble yet addictive street food, including croquettes, fried fish, and rice balls. Besides noshing on delicious food, Naples offers an abundance of fascinating and historical sites, from the famous Naples National Archaeological Museum to the quirky Via San Gregorio Armeno alleyway to the awe-inspiring (and still active) Mount Vesuvius.

Naples might not be as touristy as Venice or the Amalfi Coast, but the city offers a true slice of Italian life and exciting local attractions. Still, as Rick Steves suggests, it might not be suitable for visitors hoping for a clean and organized destination. If the grunginess does not entirely turn you off, Naples is well worth the visit, though, like in many other big cities, it's a good idea to remain vigilant and prepare for the worst. Steves says to use a money belt and practice common sense when navigating the city. Watch out for tourist traps and scams, such as the broken meter taxi trick or the unofficial station helpers who demand tips for their "services." And like you would anywhere else, always follow your gut if something seems suspicious.