Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Apr 2008  


he Naples Youth Hostel

The most primitive youth hostel I ever stayed in was somewhere in Switzerland. It was a single gymnasium-like hall with no beds, just slabs of plywood set on saw-horse risers. There were parking-lot lines painted on the plywood, each one numbered for a guest. Once you shimmied up on the slab, you couldn’t turn over, but it was cheap. There was only running cold water, but that was fine —you were young and tough and just straining at the bit to fall off and strap on your back-pack for the next leg of whatever quest you were on— Prague, Berlin, Rome.

I had a real cheapskate friend here in Naples, a university professor, who had me drive him (he didn't want to spring for a cab) to the Naples youth hostel once while they were painting his apartment. They took him even though he was well past the age-limit. They were, and are, pretty lax about such things in Naples. I checked it out way back then, and it wasn’t bad. Today, it’s fine!

Naples has had an official youth hostel (that is, belonging to the international hostel organization) since 1940. It was located in the Posillipo section of town; in 1970, however, it moved to its current premises. The address is via Salita della Grotta 23, but it’s much easier to think of it as right behind the Mergellina train station—(hence the name, “Mergellina Hostel.”) That is probably the best combination of convenience and scenery to put such a place. The train station is ideal for coming and going, either long distance or just into the downtown area, and it is near the Mergellina harbor where boats leave for Capri every hour. It is directly across the street from some fabled archaeology, as well: Virgil’s tomb and the long, dark Roman tunnel known as the "Neapolitan crypt."

Hostels typically used to take only young persons who had a hostel membership card, but the gentleman at the desk assured me that times have changed. Sooner or later, the membership requirement will be waived; even now they’ll take you in the low season when they have room to spare. The Naples hostel can accommodate 200 guests and has rooms for two, four, and six. There is a day-room with satellite TV and a computer with an internet connection, a restaurant, and scaled-down versions of most of the amenities you get in regular hotels. You can even book ahead on the internet! The desk is handled by friendly people with a large supply of maps for Naples-roamers. A night runs about 18 euros, depending on accommodations. You get breakfast with that.

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