As Italian cities go, sun-scorched Naples offers great value for visitors.
And as cities go within Western Europe, the teeming port city in southern Italy promises an even finer deal for travelers seeking an optimum bang for their limited buck. For it's the very streets that this ancient Greek money is stitched that constitute the main attraction of this raw, raucous, high-energy town.
With insider tips and meticulous planning, budget-conscious travelers can lap up the very best of Italian dolce vita – Vespa-charged street life, aria-inspiring vistas, soul-soaring art and pizza in spades – without breaking the financial institution. Here's how to maximize each euro and enjoy Naples on a budget.
Avoid peak season
The shoulder seasons – late spring and early fall – would be the most affordable times to visit Naples. In April, June, September and October hotels, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation overall lower their nightly rates, with lots of offering truly excellent deals on advance bookings.
Other shoulder-season perks include no queues at big sights and no crowds around the beach. We recommend timing your trip to coincide and among the numerous tasty annual (in most cases free) festivals that celebrate from sweet late-spring apricots nurtured within the volcanic soils of Mt Vesuvius to the autumnal grape and fig harvests.
Low season (November to March) is the cheapest time for you to explore Naples. Probably the most eager budget travelers can leave the sunscreen at home and tuck into festive Christmas and Carnevale culinary and cultural festivities instead, at a snip of high-season prices. Accommodation rates could be as much as 30% less than within the most popular months.
Check into a good-value guesthouse or hostel
Budget-oriented hostels, alongside B&Bs and small guesthouses, provide the cheapest accommodation types in Naples. Many B&Bs and guesthouses are squirreled away within the back alleys of working-class neighborhoods Quartieri Spagnoli and La Sanità; run by artists or artisans, they provide a privileged understanding of daily life in Neapolitan bohemia. Ensure you balance your budget against your personal safety, however, as some parts of both neighborhoods can feel sketchy and well from the comfort zone of some visitors.
Hostels tend to be more centrally located and reassure keeping the vehicle safe in numbers, shared kitchens and regular social events. Within the dead-central centro storico, Neapolitan classic Hostel of the Sun enjoys an upbeat social vibe, while Hostel Mancini builds community through weekly group dinners. Perks like the complimentary Thursday-evening aperitivo (aperitif) offered at Hostel Mancini, or even the free food that accompany purchased cocktails at new-school hostel La Controra, make such addresses better value still.
Live like a local in a short-term rental
For budget travelers in Naples in excess of two nights, short-term rentals are a good option – especially for families, or maybe you're traveling like a couple or perhaps in a little group. Rentals range from terraced attics overlooking the medieval old town, to high-ceilinged rooms in Liberty-style palazzi with Bay of Naples views, to uber-Neapoltian basso apartments (ground-floor units traditionally tucked down tiny cobbled alleys in the Quartieri Spagnoli).
When booking self-catering rentals, try to favor local Neapolitan accommodation agencies and home-sharing platforms that give something into the community (here's hoping Fairbnb comes to Naples soon), instead of than big global players. The official Visit Naples tourism bureau runs an accommodation service this is a starting point.
Shop for picnics along with other meals at the market
Food shopping at La Pignasecca or another of Naples's fabulous open-air markets lets you economize for meals while enjoying one of the city's greatest pleasures. Pick up fixings in the morning and evening meals if you are in self-catering digs; delicious lunchtime picnics and snacks to accompany your own DIY version of that all-essential aperitivi (aperitif) await those staying in hotels and guesthouses.
Market shopping not just enables you to cook insalata di Napoli (Neapolitan salad, laced with local buffalo-milk mozzarella) or spaghetti alla puttanesca (“whore's spaghetti,” with tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies) at home for any snip associated with a restaurant price. A vacation to the market stalls is also a prime chance to rub shoulders with locals, strike up conversations with vendors, and see with your personal eyes which fresh, zero-kilometer produce is in season (and, in turn, the seasonal dishes you ought to be favoring when eating out).
Top tip: you will find some of the city's most authentic, grassroots trattorias within the streets immediately next to the market.
Save money sightseeing having a discount card
If you are in town to determine as numerous sights as you can in a few days, the Campania Artecard is worth the investment. Buy it online, with the >artecard app, or at any participating museum or monument.
The cumulative ticket covers museum admission and transport, and is available in various forms. The three-day Naples card (EUR21) provides free admission to three absolutely must-see sights: among the world's finest collections of Graeco-Roman artifacts at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale; Southern Italy's richest memorial, Museo di Capodimonte; and Naples's oldest catacombs, Catacombi di San Gennaro. The pass also offers as much as 50% off tickets with other attractions, plus free use of public transport inside the city limits.
To enjoy blockbuster sites a little farther afield, opt for the three-day Campania version (EUR32), including admission Pompeii and Herculaneum, 50% off other regional attractions, and public-transport fares as far afield as Caserta, Ravello (Amalfi Coast) and Paestum.
Cheaper youth versions of both cards (Naples EUR12/Campania EUR25) really are a brilliant deal for visitors aged 18 to 25, as they cover public transport and free admittance to an astounding 10 and 30 sites, respectively.
Ditch public transport for the passeggiata
To participate the local crowd, walk.
While the city is serviced by an inexpensive network of public buses (handy for Capodimonte using its grandiose royal palace and park), a trio of funiculars as much as Vomero, a metro network and suburban trains, Naples is compact, has contiguous neighborhoods and almost begs to become navigated on foot. Fully immersing yourself in the city center's intoxicating street sights, sounds and smells while you wander is definitely gratis.
One note: come late afternoon, don't be surprised to be joined by throngs of locals. The standard passeggiata (early-evening stroll) is sacrosanct for those Neapolitans.
Drink coffee standing up
As in each and every Italian city, an espresso shot enjoyed standing in the bar is notably less expensive than sitting down in a table. If you are lucky, you might even strike up conversation having a local while you linger after caffeinating.
Read on sights offering free admission
Since a little research goes quite a distance, plot out a walking itinerary of city sights that do not require an admission fee. Begin in the history-charged centro storico (historic center) and it is Unesco World Heritage -listed main street, Spaccanapoli. On the way, stop into sublime churches that brim with sacred art: Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, the basilica at Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara, Chiesa di San Domenico Maggiore, the hauntingly beautiful Chiesa e Chiostro di San Gregoriio Armeno, the spectacular cathedral- and that's just for the first afternoon.
Other iconic sights to build into any “free admission” itinerary include Castel dell'Ovo, the ghoulish graveyard Cimitero delle Fontanelle and the palatial gardens and grounds of Bourbon monarch Charles VII's former hunting “lodge.”
Panoramic views from the city's hilly green spaces and the sensational gallery of edgy metro art displayed within the city's transit stations offer superb stimulation for budget-conscious travelers. If you don't have the desire or energy to DIY, join a free organized walking tour with Free Walking Tour Napoli (having a tip for your dedicated local guide much appreciated).
Rendez-vous at Naples's spectacular national library
A city highlight for bibliophiles and culture lovers, the city's often-overlooked Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli occupies area of the historic Palazzo Reale. Among its priceless treasures are fragments of a 5th-century Coptic Bible and a large number of ancient papyri uncovered at Herculaneum.
Free visits are by advance reservation only. If you do not get your act together ahead of time, pop in regardless to enjoy a moment of serenity in the swoon-worthy Biblioteca Lucchesi Palli on the library's second floor, a 19th-century masterpiece by some from the era's most skilled artisans.
Wood-fired pizza is Naples's most well-known export. So tucking into a thin-based, raised-crust pizza napoletana at Pizzeria Starita or Da Michele might be as aesthetic a Neapolitan experience as viewing Giuseppe Sanmartino's Cristo Velato sculpture in the baroque Cappella Sansevero.
Best of, pizza here's highly affordable and the perfect fuel for budget-conscious visitors. You're sure to discover the cheapest option, a pizza margherita (topped with tomato sauce and cheese) on every pizza menu.
To taste the real thing, search for signs reading “vera pizza napoletana” to make sure real or authentic Neapolitan preparations. Avoid restaurants touting English-language menus – or (heaven forbid) a faux plastic pizza on a plate shown on the road outside like a lure for tourists. Finally, don't feel obliged to buy an entire pizza: choose “pizza al taglio” (pizza through the slice) to consider away and eat in a nearby piazza or park.
Avoid the seasonal express train to Pompeii
Budget travelers counting every last cent must take the lead of locals and catch a suburban Circumvesuviana train (follow signs from Napoli Centrale station on Piazza Garibaldi) towards the world-famous archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Seasonal Campania Express trains, departing in the same Circumvesuviana station at Napoli Centrale, are aimed at summer time tourist crowd. While the journey time is virtually the same as a locals-oriented option (33 minutes instead of 38 minutes), fares are higher (EUR15 return rather than EUR6.40).
Make excursions of the islands
Sprinkled like multi-colored confetti within the bright blue Bay of Naples, the islands of the Amalfi Coast are justifiably famous and sought-out. Tiny, tranquil Procida is an unspoiled mixture of sun-bleached lanes and pastel-hued harbors. Cliff-chiseled Capri, from the west end of the Sorrento Peninsula, seduces using its celebrity circuit of manicured villas, lush gardens and luxury shopping. Ischia is well-endowed with natural spas, botanical gardens, hidden coves and more picture-perfect spots.
But such extraordinary beauty comes at a price, and accommodation on all three islands may be the preserve of the super-rich. Day trips from Naples would be the least expensive method of experiencing these places' many pleasures.
Take the slow boat
Cut travel costs to Procida, Capri and Ischia by catching a slower ferry from Naples's Porta di Massa (also known as Molo Beverello), before Castel Nuovo. While speedier hydrofoils likewise depart from Porta di Massa in addition to Marina Granda, they're pricier.
The improvement in journey time is usually no more than 30 minutes, with cinema-worthy views to gasp at in the deck throughout the scenic voyage, so what?
Get towards the stazione marittima (ferry port) with ample time to spare. This will give the flexibility to review the ferry schedule and identify the best deal: even among the ferries, faster and slower ferries command different fares. Slow-ferry operators include Caremar and Medmar.
Once on the islands, use your own two feet, a bicycle or public buses to obtain around. There's simply no need to fork out money on an automobile hire – a smaller amount pay to take your own vehicle across on the car ferry.
Feast on Naples's brilliant street-food scene
The narrow, laundry-garlanded streets of Naples are awash with authentic pizzerias, historic pastry shops and family-run “fast-food” outlets cooking up bona fide street food that puts every global chain to shame.
Be it a traditional pizza margherita from old-school Di Matteo, pizza-dough buns full of artichoke from new-school Concettina Ai Tre Santi or superlative pizza fritta (fried pizza) at Antica Pizza Fritta da Zia Esterina Sorbillo, there really is no end towards the brilliant, cheap and tasty street-food scene and “fast food” dining here.
Footnote: don't skimp on dolci (dessert). Classic sfogliatella (ricotta-filled pastries) from Pintauro, runny rummy baba from retro pastry chef Attanasio and Pasticceria Mennella's frolla al limone (shortbread pastry with lemon cream) and highly addictive gelato hit the (sweet) spot admirably.
Find ways to volunteer
Naples's rich history, heritage and abundance of precious art treasures are only one layer of the city that contains many cultures and its share of underprivileged areas. To go past the glossy tourist track and experience Napoli from a very different perspective while traveling on a tight budget, seek out possibilities to volunteer.
Helping in shelters, schools and sports centers in Naples's refugee and migrant communities, teaching English, or getting your hands dirty inside a protected marine park are but 3 ways visitors can definitely get to know this town without having to spend a lot of money.
There are a large number of local volunteering organizations with connections throughout the city. International Napoli Network makes an excellent starting place.
Daily costs in Naples
Shuttle bus from Naples-Capodichino Airport: EUR5 ($5.70)
Hostel dorm bed: EUR15 -30 ($17- -34)
Budget accommodation for two: EUR40 -100 ($45.50- -114)
Self-catering apartment for two: EUR30 -50 ($34- -57)
Pizza: EUR4 -15; slice EUR1 -2 ($4.50- -17; $1.10 -2.20)
Metro or bus ticket: EUR1.50 ($1.70)
Espresso in the bar/a table: EUR2/4 ($2.30- -4.50)
Dinner for 2 with drinks: EUR30 -50 ($34- -57)
Spritz aperitivi: EUR1 -5 (1.10- -5.70)