Naples on a budget – October 2014
This is a summary of what we did in the Italian city of Naples in October 2014. I had been desperate to visit Italy for a while, and got a little bit too eager on the phone to the tour company. I jumped right in and booked the holiday without really finding out exactly what was involved, so it ended up costing about twice as much as we thought! This meant we had much less spending money while we were there. We had hoped to fit in day trips to Pompeii, Vesuvius and Capri, but unfortunately these were now out of budget. Not to worry though – here’s how we made the most of our time in Naples.
Before we even set off we made sure we booked into the Airport Lounge at Edinburgh – it usually costs around £18 per person but I’d managed to find a discount voucher code online so we paid about £16 each, which includes free food and drink. We had bacon rolls, yoghurt, cheese and biscuits, plus I took a few slices of cake and saved them for later. Andy had a few beers and I had a couple of glasses of wine, and a cup of coffee.
Imagine if you had to pay for all of this at the airport it would probably cost twice as much! You have to book the lounge in advance, but it’s well worth looking into. Some airlines such as British Airways have their own designated lounge for passengers which is included in the price of your flight.
Street Art and Architecture
Nothing beats arriving in a new city and just going for a walk. It’s something I always do whether I’m on a budget or not as it allows you to get your bearings and really just pick up the whole vibe of a place. We spent the whole of our first day just wandering around taking photos. We discovered loads of street art, architecture, and the amazing Metro station at Toledo.
We travelled around the city by Metro quite a lot during our time in Naples, as it was the quickest and cheapest way to get around such a large city. Tickets cost €1.10 and are valid for 90 minutes, so you can make as many journeys as you like within that time.
OK, so it’s not technically free food; but a lot of bars offer complimentary snacks when you buy a drink. We found this to be a cheap way of eating on our budget. The first pub we stopped on our entire trip was advertising pizza and a beer for €5. We were expecting just a slice of pizza, and thought we couldn’t go wrong – but were even more pleased when the waiter brought out two full pizzas along with the beer!
Along the promenade the bars are a little more up-market and the prices are a bit more expensive, but the complimentary snacks are out of this world. It’s not really so bad paying €12 for two drinks when it comes with a platter of cheese, meat, olives, bread, dips and pastries. That was basically a meal for us, so we didn’t have to eat out that evening.
The promenade is a great place to sit and just watch the world go by. You see all sorts of people from joggers, to fashionistas, rich kids, and surprisingly a lot of rollerbladers, which still seems to be a thing in Italy. On a clear day you can see Mount Vesuvius away in the distance, and also the island of Capri, which I really wanted to visit. Even though I didn’t get to go, I could still see them from afar!
The next day along the promenade we found a bar advertising beer and tarall for €4. We had no idea what tarall was, but we thought we’d give it a try – it turned out to be a type of savoury snack, somewhere between a biscuit and a pastry, shaped into a donut and sprinkled with salt. They were lovely with the beer, and so filling that we didn’t bother with lunch after that!
Go for a picnic
One of my favourite things to do in a foreign country is to visit the local supermarket and take a look around at all the different foods and ingredients. It’s also a great way to interact with the locals and learn some of the language.
We were overwhelmed by the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as the range of cheeses and meats, so we didn’t really know where to begin. We picked out some mozzarella cheese, olives, crisps, then saw a local woman going for a bunch of black grapes. If the locals are buying something then it must be good, so we chucked some of those into our basket! We also picked up a litre carton of wine, and altogether I think we spent less than €10.
We had found a stretch of beach – not the cleanest or most picturesque beach ever, but still we thought it would make a nice spot for a picnic. Plus there was a market stall across the street selling cold beers – result!! The vendor even gave us plastic cups! We ended up just sitting there most of the afternoon.
I should probably add here that the reason we didn’t stay longer is that Andy and wine don’t mix too well. He had too much too quickly and ended up drunk so we had to go back to the hotel. It’s an improvement on last time though – a few years ago he got drunk on wine and was sick in my handbag!
Eat real Italian pasta
We waited until the last night in Naples before going out to a proper restaurant, just to make sure we had enough money left. It turns out it wasn’t too expensive anyway, but it was a great way to round off our trip. Eating real Italian pasta has been on my bucket list for years, and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint. I just went for a simple mushroom and parmesan tagliatelle and it was delicious!
Look for travel bargains on local sites.
After Italy we were travelling onto Slovenia, and found it was much cheaper to book our flights via the Alitalia (Italian Airline) website than through Skyscanner or any other type of holiday search engine. We got a great bargain on our flights, plus hold luggage and seat choice was included in the price, unlike some of the more well-known European airlines.
We had the added bonus of getting to meet the Napoli (Naples) football team as they were travelling through the airport gate at the same time as us. I didn’t know any of the players, but I recognised the manager Rafa Benitez.
Words of warning
As with all larger cities there are rougher areas, and we found this out while walking one evening. We took a wrong turn into a street where there were alcoholics drinking from brown paper bags and urinating in the street, and prostitutes on the corner. We quickly did a 180 and left again – wouldn’t want to stick around there for too long!
The traffic in Naples is some of the worst I’ve ever seen – crossing the road is a terrifying experience. Forget any rules you think you know about pelican or zebra crossings; they do not apply here. Basically you just have to go for it and hope that nobody hits you.
There are lots of pickpockets on the metro system, as with every other city, and also people trying to sell things. In London it’s usually cigarette lighters; but bizarrely in Naples they sell sellotape! As I didn’t have anything that desperately needed sticking, I just politely shook my head and they went away.
When we arrived on the Sunday we found that lots of places were closed – that’s the main reason we decided to just go for a big long walk around the city. Some of the more touristy areas stay open though. Lots of visitor attractions also close for a mid-day break, similar to the siesta in Spain. We had planned to visit the museum, but arrived just as it was closing. Try and plan any activities for early morning or Late Afternoon.
The bar etiquette is quite complicated, and we were a bit confused by this at the time. If you sit down at an outside table in a bar then the waiter comes to you and takes your order and brings your drinks. If you go up to the bar yourself and get your drinks then these are intended for consumption elsewhere and you’re not allowed to sit at the tables. We guessed there must be different prices whether you’re sitting in or taking away.
There is an abundance of Scottish super strength Lager available in bars and vending machines, known as Tennents Super, or simply ‘Super-T.’ Apparently the Scottish football fans brought it over for the World Cup in 1990, the Italians took a liking to it, and it’s been a popular drink ever since. We thought we were ordering the normal Tennents, which is a popular beer in Scotland, and couldn’t figure out why it tasted funny!
We had heard lots of rumours before we travelled that Naples is a dirty city, so we weren’t really sure what to expect. There are some parts that are quite rough, with drunks hanging out on the corner and graffiti everywhere; but almost every city in the world has bad areas.
There are lots of hidden gems which are a bit more difficult to uncover, but we had a great time just walking around and discovering new things. The old town has lots of wonderful architecture, and side streets that look straight out the set of ‘The Godfather.’ The promenade is great for people-watching, and there’s also the museum and botanic gardens which were unfortunately closed when we visited, but I’m sure they’re fantastic. Naples is also famous for its pizza and pasta, which no trip would be complete without tasting. There are also hundreds of little coffee shops selling the finest Italian coffees.
I’d definitely come back again and use Naples as a base for exploring further afield – places such as the island of Capri, Mount Vesuivius and the city of Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any questions/comments.