Before You Arrive
Got orders to Naples? Before you leave for Europe, you should get the following:
- Passports and Visas - US military on orders technically don't need passports; however, they should still get both a tourist and official passport, as it will make traveling easier. Those on "accompanied" orders need to get both no-fee passports and visas for their dependents--apply as soon as possible, as there can be significant delays. Navy personnel should contact their local Navy Passenger Transportation Office (NavPTO--often run by SATO travel and affiliated with PSD) to start the process. (Note that dependents will eventually get a "Sojourner's Permit," but this will be taken care of as part of your check-in process after you arrive in Italy.)
- Driver's License(s) - make sure your driver's license is up-to-date and won't expire soon; while you can sometimes renew your license from Italy, it's much easier to do in the States. Also consider getting an International Driving Permit (usually the easiest way is via AAA's IDP service for $15); while not required for Italian driving by military members/dependents (and not accepted by the Motor Vehicle Registration Office on base), it could be useful if you plan to drive outside of Italy: for example, Austrian Police have asked for the IDP.
- Furniture - while you can buy furniture here (at the NEX or out in town, for example at Ikea), it will be more expensive and delivery can be troublesome. Also, beds & bedding will be in European (metric) sizes, not American (e.g. king, queen, double). If there are large pieces of furniture that you know you will need, get them in the States.
- Rugs - almost all Italian floors are tile/marble, and it is generally cheaper and easier to get rugs in the States.
- Household Goods - Start figuring out which things should go in the following four categories:
Credit Card - you might consider getting a credit card that doesn't charge international transaction fees (usually 1-3% on any purchase in a foreign currency, which can add up!), such as the Capital One Venture card. (Also call USAA to let them know you're going overseas--they reimburse their charge up to 12 months.)Learn Italian - It's never too early to start learning Italian. The more you learn, the more fun you'll have when you get here! (Check out resources, tricks & tips, etc...)UK personnel transferring to Naples should check out Britannia in Italia...they also put out the HIVE Naples New Arrivals Guide
- Permanent Storage/Get Rid Of - Some stuff you just don't want to take, like any large appliance (refrigerators, washing machines, etc.)--none of them will work with Italian electricity, and chances are they may not fit into your house/apartment anyway. The Navy lends you Italian-friendly appliances for the length of your tour.
- Main Household Goods - This is the bulk of your stuff: clothes, furniture, etc.
- "Express" Unaccompanied Baggage Shipment - In theory, this stuff gets in before the rest of your household goods, but sometimes it won't. This should be stuff like cooking utensils and extra uniforms.
- Plane Luggage - On the plane, you'll want to bring 1 service uniform (khakis for Navy folks), 1 week's worth of civilian clothes (consider which season it will be), and your major papers (medical record, etc.). You'll probably want a laptop, camera, etc. You can get toiletries, etc. when you get in.
Area Introduction: Military Bases
A brief overview of the major military installations in the Naples area; for directions and coordinates see the Driving in Italy page
, the Google Map
to the right, or download and view on Google Earth
- Gricignano ("gree-chee-NYAH-noh") Support Site (mostly people call it the "Support Site") This has the hospital, Navy housing/schools, a large NEX, and the commissary.
- Capodichino ("cap-poh-dee-KEE-noh"...see the pronunciation page for why it's said this way, but most people call it "Capo"). Home of 6th Fleet and NSA (Naval Support Activity) Naples headquarters, this is where most military people work, right next to the civilian airport (making for easy/free parking if you fly from Naples!). Also has a small NEX and other amenities (gym, subway, barber, etc.)
- NATO Joint Forces Command Naples ("JFC") - The main office for Commander, Naval Forces Europe & Africa under his NATO hat as Commander of Joint Forces Command Naples, in Lago Patria.
- Carney Park - an extinct volcano (Italians call it Cratere del Gauro, Campiglione, or Monte Barbaro) that houses a military recreational area, including picnic tables, a pool, golf course, etc; also the main site for the Navy Outdoor Program.
- Gaeta - once the home of 6th Fleet Headquarters, this is now a very small base to support USS Mount Whitney, the command ship, approximately 100 km north of Naples (in the neighboring region of Lazio).
See this page for useful numbers and hours for major offices, shops, etc.
When You First Arrive
When you first arrive, you'll want to get an Italian cell phone right away. This makes connecting with friends, coworkers, and businesses (including people selling cars) much easier. Most people get pre-paid Italian cell phones though vendors such as Vodafone or TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile). (Vodafone conveniently has a branch at both Capo and the Support Site; ask about their special "base plan" which is usually a better deal and more convenient than doing pay-as-you-go. Note that you can recharge pay-as-you-go at any Vodafone recharge place out in town, too—just look for the logo; they are at least as ubiquitous as ATMs.) If you have a GSM phone already (AT&T/Cingular or T-Mobile), you can just buy a new SIM card, but you'll likely have to "unlock" your phone first. You can try calling your service provider (stating that you are military stationed overseas might help), or an unlocking service such as www.unlockitnow.com; they charge $20 and send the code within a couple days. Also Carlo Caradente, who works at the hospital, has a cell phone business on the side and can help you unlock your phone; contact at firstname.lastname@example.org, (+39) 334-323-6373, or DSN 6296403.
This website gives great information about getting your phone (including smartphones/tablets) working in Europe.
You have several options for getting a car in Naples:
- Ship it. Remember that Italian roads and parking spaces are tiny, so you'll likely want to leave the SUV at home. Scrapes and nicks are par for the course here, so you'll want to leave the Jaguar at home, too.
- Buy military. This means buying from the "lemon lot" at the Support Site, or from another military member (people put up flyers all over both bases...also ask around to see if colleagues are selling their cars before they leave). Also check out Naples All Hands' and the Panorama's classifieds.
- Buy in town ("on the economy"). You can probably find better deals than from military folks, but the seller may be less reliable, and the process may be less convenient. Note that if you buy a car not already in the military ("AFI") system, there is a €150 customs fee that you might want to negotiate to have the seller pay. Also, MVRO must run a two week background check on the car to make sure it is not stolen--the sooner you bring the car's registration to MVRO, the better. Several Italian car dealers are popular with Americans, including Angelo in Arco Felice.
Worries: Crime, Garbage, Water...
You may have heard that Naples is "dangerous" or controlled by the Mafia. While it is true that there is a lot of petty theft, and the Camorra (the local Mafia) is a powerful force, there is almost no violent crime. The base CO is fond of saying that his last duty station (Washington DC) had a much higher murder rate than Naples! Especially in certain areas (like near the train station) you'll want to take extra precautions (like keeping your bags close to your body) that you would in any big city, but in general Naples is not as bad as its reputation.
There are occasional garbage crises (the latest were in 2007, 2008, and 2010), with large piles of trash throughout the city, but since late 2010 there has been no garbage problem except out in rural areas. However, some areas (e.g. west of the Support Site, in towns like Casal di Principe) apparently had illegal toxic waste dumps in the past, which contaminated the ground water; the US government no longer allows its personnel to live there.
Many people who work at Capo commute each day on the Tangenziale (the "Tang"), a toll freeway connecting Western Naples/Campi Flegrei with Capodichino. (The Campi Flegrei, or "Phlegrean Fields," is the area west of Naples near the coast--JFC is in Lago Patria now.You can avoid the Tang by taking back streets, but usually this is slower. In the mornings, there is little traffic going to Capo (since most Italians arrive at work later than the U.S. military) but in the afternoon there can be significant traffic, especially in the summer (albeit not in August, when everyone leaves town). People living near the Support Site take the main Autostrada (A1) north, and people living in Lago Patria/Licola/Pinetamare can take other freeways that avoid the Tang.
As of May 2013, the direct assignment policy (forcing people to live on base) is in effect. Navy Region Europe is not allowing military families to chose to live "on the economy". The public affairs
memo states that this policy will be reviewed, based on current government housing occupancy rates. If the policy of direct assignment is reinstated, you can request an exception to the policy (see NSAINST 11103.5 (PDF)
, in particular enclosures 2 and 5), although note that because of the lead time required you should really request this before you arrive (and note that you need to get your request endorsed by your military chain of command as well). Single Service members and Civilians are allowed to live on the economy.
Main Places Americans Live
- Napoli (e.g. Fuorigrotta, Vomero, Posilipo, Bagnoli...): Living in "downtown" Naples is fun for people who want to really experience Italian culture and be in the thick of things, and also has some of the shortest commutes to Capodichino. Be sure to find a place that has parking or has less traffic. Vomero is known for being the "ritzy" part of town, with nice shops and beautiful views. Fuorigrotta is a cool, young part of town close to the soccer stadium. Posillipo is a beautiful seaside neighborhood perched on a cliff. Bagnoli is very close to the NATO Joint Force Command (although, as mentioned earlier, JFC will be moving in a few years). Mergellina/Santa Lucia is where many of the hottest clubs and bars are.
- Campi Flegrei - the "Phlegrian Fields" are just west of Naples, and include the following communities (not to be confused with the Campi Flegrei metro/train stop, which is still in the city of Naples, albiet on the western end):
- Pozzuoli - an old port town, the hometown of Sofia Loren, has a number of bars that are popular with Americans, but is still busy with Italians. Has a "small town" feel despite being quite urban and connected to Naples (via the Metropolitana subway/train). Popular with singles and young couples. As with downtown Naples, most housing is apartments, and carefully consider the parking situation.
- Arco Felice - a town just west of Pozzuoli named after the old Roman arch on its outskirts, which includes the popular Parco Caruso (which has its own private beach); has a number of good restaurants
- Monterusciello and Cuma - northwest of Pozzuoli, these hillside towns boast a number of houses and parcos with gorgeous views of the Tyrrhenian sea and the islands of Procida and Ischia. The "Cumana" train line runs here (named after Cuma), although it is less frequent and shuts down earlier than the Metropolitana (see the transport page for more).
- Lucrino/Baia/Bacoli/Fusaro - towns further south/west of Arco Felice, at the end of the "bumpy tunnel" (a speed bump-laden tunnel that connects them with the Tangenziale). Each town has its own character, although Baia is perhaps the most lively. Lucrino and Fusaro are named after the nearby scenic lakes, and all the towns are close to the sea (many have beaches). Each town has a Cumana stop.
- Monte di Procida - a beautiful peninsula at the far southwest of the region, it is a safe, trash-free, friendly place that is popular with Americans but also allows integration with Italian culture. However, it is also a long commute to Capo, especially in the summer (when it becomes a popular destination for vacationers). The last Cumana stop is at the far northern end of the town.
- Lago Patria - an area popular with ex-pats. Features larger, detached, American-style houses, but also less interaction with Italians and little public transit.
- Licola - Varcaturo similar to Lago Patria
- Pinetamare - beach town, busier in the summertime, quiet in the wintertime. Walking distance to restaurants, coffee bars, golf course of 18 holes
- Area near Gricignano (e.g. Casal di Principe) - large houses and easy access to the Support Site, although some places in the area are known to be run by the Camorra (the local Mafia), and much of the area has become something of an "American ghetto." Little or no public transit. As noted above, there are problems with tainted water, so the US Navy is no longer allowing Americans to live here.
- East of Naples/A1 - In and near the town of Avellino are a number of nice places, which are about half an hour from Capo. Not many Americans live out here, but those who do generally like it.
- US Navy Housing - is on the Support Site of Gricignano. This can be a good choice for families with children who want security and easy access to the DoD schools. However, it is easy to become stuck in "Fortress America" and be isolated from the Italian culture--which, in many people's minds, misses many of the reasons for coming overseas. Previously, dogs were not allowed on base, but they are now under the NSA Naples Pet Policy (PDF).
- For info on travelling with dogs, check out www.bringfido.com/travel
- If you have to ship your dogs to/from the States, some Americans recommend Mark O'Neil of Moneil Forwarding in Rome
- On base: 081-811-7913
- some Americans like Dr. Carlo Damiani, an English-speaking vet near the Monterusciello Sud exit off SS7: Ambulatorio Veterinario Averno, Via Monterusciello, 33H. 081-524-6522.
- Pet store: check out www.ayoka.it, a store near the Support Site
- Naples Animal Fostering and Adoptions and Animals WIthout Limits are groups of pet-loving folks who are a good resource for pet owners (or want-to-be pet owners)
- Housing Office: they have a large but somewhat inaccurate and unwieldy database, of properties available in each region (they give areas a "color," such as Orange for the city of Naples). While you should list several properties that you're interested in on your sheet, be sure to discuss with them what your priorities are (location, size, price, etc.). For example, the database does not include a lot of places in downtown Naples, but if you are persistent in asking them, the housing office people can probably find you some good places.
- Departing Personnel: if you know that someone is leaving not long after you arrive, you may be able to rent their house
- Landlord Representatives: act as matchmakers between landlords and tenants, in exchange for the landlords giving them a cut of your first few months' rent. The following are some representatives that people in the office have used (note: not all of these are licensed by the housing office); there are others listed in the Panorama base magazine and the housing office.
- Eva Lindsay - works with her mother, Emilia, and speaks perfect English (her father is American); specializes in Pozzuoli and surrounding region (Bacoli, Baia, Monterusciello...); will help you get rent under your OHA ceiling 347-435-8060, H/081-804-4019, email@example.com, Via Licola Patria 138.
- Enzo Scotto - very helpful and charismatic; specializes in Monte di Procida but also has properties elsewhere; speaks good English (his wife is Italian American), 338-714-3120.
- Luisa - specializes in Pozzuoli and surrounding area, especially the waterfront (firstname.lastname@example.org, 347-729-2381 or 320-273-0906)
- Alfonso Trincone - owns the popular Madigan's Irish pub in Pozzuoli near the Amphitheater, and specializes in the region nearby, excellent English, Immobiliare l'Anfiteatro, www.housingnaples.com, 081-526-0545, 335-621-6320, email@example.com
- Daniel Alessi - US citizen who works with 2 partners in Sea View Realty, makes sure clients understand the region with maps and books, firstname.lastname@example.org, 320-230-8077.
- NSA Naples Housing is enforcing a new policy since May 2013. Customers may only view homes with the Housing Showing Staff or Authorized Realtors. The list of authorized Realtors is provided by the Housing Office. These Realtors are licensed and recognized by the Italian Government. Use of unapproved individuals is a violation of Naval Support Activity(NSA)policy as the orders of the NSA Naples Commanding Officer. Further if you view properties with unauthorized realtors, the Housing Service Center will not approve Temporary lodging Allowance(TLA), certify OverseasHousing Allowance(OHA), or Living Quarters Allowance(LQA).
- Websites: To find housing out in town--especially downtown--you might try searching Italian websites such as Immobiliare.it, Subito.it, or bricàbrac.it. NapoliWeb's older but extensive page on house hunting in Naples explains the process in detail, including a number of photos. Cheryl's Transferring to Naples website similarly is old but extensive; for example, her housing page reveals that this isn't the first time the US government has "direct assigned" people to government housing. Kris and Susanna Carlson's webpage likewise provides good, but somewhat outdated, information.
Once You've Moved In
Most people have to pay rent in cash (euros). Note: as of 2012, Italian law forbids cash transaction over €1000 (to avoid tax evasion). This therefore makes the Community Bank or Banca Intesa Sanpaolo/Banca di Napoli options, listed below, more attractive...
- NEX Money Changing - Both the Capo and Support Site Navy Exchange offer money changing/check cashing services, and will also handle wire transfers to Italian bank accounts. While extremely convenient, their rates are typically very bad--to the point where an average servicemember can lose $100-200 from every rent check!
- Community Bank - Run by Bank of America, this is a branch located at Capo which offers somewhat better rates than the NEX. They will do wire transfers to Italian banks for $2 a transaction, or no fee if it is a recurring transaction.
- Banca Intesa Sanpaolo (Banca di Napoli) - This is an Italian bank conveniently located at Capo. They offer great exchange rates, an ATM on base (and all around town), and can be useful when you need an Italian bank account (e.g. setting up Telepass or paying bills). They have short hours and occasionally long lines on base, however.
- ATM - Perhaps the best rate, and the most convenient, is if you get the money through an ATM. However, most banks limit how much cash you can withdraw. If you use USAA, you can ask them to temporarily raise your limit by calling them, or permanently raise your limit by sending an official request online (go to Messages (upper right hand corner of screen), then click on "Send new e-mail to USAA" on the right).
- Credit Cards - As noted above, you might consider getting a credit card such as the Capital One Venture that does not charge the 1-3% foreign transaction fee that most other credit cards do. USAA will also reimburse their 1% foreign transaction fee for up to 12 months if you inform them ahead of time.
- Calling USAA from Italy
- Telcom Italia line - dial 00-800-531-87220 (Italian toll-free number).
- DSN Line - dial 809-463-3376, this will connect you to another dial tone, from which you can dial any US 1-800 number. USAA Banking is 1-800-531-USAA (8722), M-F 7:30-8, Sat 9-4 (EST?).
- Cell phone - not recommended.
If you get your internet through Telecom Italia (e.g. through the NEX), you have to get a landline phone. However, for most people a landline phone isn't worth it. Also consider getting a VoIP (Voice over IP) or "internet" phone line: Basically, this means that you use the Internet to make phone calls back to the States, and in some cases you can get a local number (that is, your friends and family back in the US can call a normal, local US number but it rings on your computer or a physical phone in Italy). There are a few major providers:
- Skype provides free computer-to-computer calls (including video), pay-as-you-go calls internationally (to US numbers it's roughly 2¢ per minute--free for toll free numbers--plus a 4¢ connection fee), and online numbers (where your friends can call a local number) for $18/3 months or $60/year. $13/month worldwide subscription to call anywhere; with a subscription you can use Skype To Go to forward calls from your cell phone, so you only pay for the (local Italian) call to Skype to call "anywhere in the world" (actually only 1st world countries, and in some cases only land lines--for example, even with a subscription calls to Italian cells cost $0.25/min--but it works for any land or mobile US number). Subscriptions also include $6 and $30 off the online number 3/year fee. Skype also allows you to forward calls to any phone so you don't have to be at your computer, but you pay normal rates (either the pay-as-you-go or subscription).
- Vonage sells physical adapters ("V-Portals", available for nearly nothing) which allow you to connect a land line through the internet. Their Residential Basic plan is $18/month for 500 outgoing minutes (to the US) and unlimited incoming, while their Residential Premium plan is $25/month for unlimited US calls and free calls to landline phones in Italy (and France/Spain/UK/Ireland)...both with a $30 activation fee. [NOTE: they say they don't ship to PO boxes...has anyone had success getting this set up? Do the ~$4 in VoIP/regulatory/911 fees also apply?]
- AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, iChat, FaceTime, etc. also offer voice and/or video chatting. The disadvantage, of course, is that you both have to be at a computer (or at least have WiFi).
- US Toll-Free Numbers - If you have access to a DSN phone line, dial 809-463-3376, this will connect you to another dial tone, from which you can dial any US 1-800 number.
Here are some ways to get high-speed Internet:
- NEX Quality of Life Office - the easiest way ; you only interact with English-speaking NEX QOL employees, who handle all the arrangements and billing with Telecom Italia. However, this may not be the cheapest option--in particular, because the service also requires installing a landline.
- Vodafone mobile plan - NOT recommended; it is slow and not available in many places
- Fastweb - a high-speed broadband provider
- [OTHER OPTIONS? Francisco & Squeak, dimmi!]
For information about shipping to your FPO address, see the Shopping page's Online section
. Ask your sponsor for your FPO address before you move, in case you want to ship things out. Do NOT put "Italy" on your address--just use "FPO, AE" as if it were "City, State"...although you'll still have to fill out customs forms.
Americans working for the U.S. government can get an AFN (Armed Forces Network) decoder box that provides some American TV. However, if you can't get an AFN box or your favorite shows aren't available on AFN, consider some of the tips from the "Living Abroad in Naples Italy" Facebook page, including the archived discussion How to watch shows from the states
and Jerry Edward's guide to Watching television through the internet
. Jerry includes a number of links to "IP hiding" websites and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), which can get around geographically-restricted internet material (e.g. Hulu and Netflix both are restricted to people who are physically in the U.S.).