Naples Travel Guide

Naples Travel Guide

Naples has it all – layer upon layer of history, dedicated fashionistas cruising on Vespas through sun-drenched piazzas, simple but sublime cuisine, and, of course, UNESCO certification as the birthplace of pizza. Italy’s third-largest city has come a long way from its staunchly Catholic traditions. Since 1996, Napoli Pride has been the party to end all parties, and same-sex couples do not faze younger Neapolitans. That said, outside of areas known for flying the rainbow flag, public demonstrations of affection between men is still rare and could raise the eyebrow of the odd passing nonna. For everything you want to know about the city, check out Mr Hudson’s Naples gay travel guide.

The best hotels in Naples

The perfect location of Hotel Romeo, opposite the ferry terminal to the islands of Capri and Ischia, two major Naples points of interest, also provides guests with stunning rooftop pool views over the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius beyond. Its spacious rooms are as stylish inside as the modern edifice is outside, emphasizing natural materials such as wood and Tramontano leather. A stay at the Hotel Romeo also includes complimentary use of the 1000m2 spa, with its hot tubs, saunas, and modern gym equipment. A short distance along the bayside, and with equally fine sea views, you’ll find Grand Hotel Vesuvio. The rooftop pool overlooks the ancient Castel dell’Ovo, whose breathtakingly grandiose interior of majestic chandeliers, jardinières, and polished hardwood have to vie for attention as a result. Nearby La Ciliegina Lifestyle Hotel has a similar list of features, with a rooftop terrace complete with hot tub rather than the pool, and an interior decoration scheme with the lightest of touches. White, airy rooms are finished with floral feature materials and exquisite marble bathrooms.

The edifice of Hotel Il Convento dates back to the seventeenth century, and is the basis for one of Naples’ more tranquil stays; the convent of Santa Maria Francesca is right next door. However, the boutique stores of Via Toledo are just a couple of minutes’ stroll away, and each room has its own private balcony from which to admire this vibrant city. A little further away from the heart of Naples, midway between Sorrento and Pompeii, is Capo la Gala. Taking its cue from its surrounds, the design has a definite, but subtle, nautical theme. Together with the local limestone from which the hotel is constructed, this styling helps Capo la Gala blend effortlessly into its surroundings. Its features include a large outdoor swimming pool and spa, though it’s the endless seascapes that will stick in your memory the longest.

Hotel Romeo | Photo: Kenzo Tange Architects

Hotel Romeo | Photo: Kenzo Tange Architects

Hotel Romeo | Photo: Kenzo Tange Architects

Hotel Romeo | Photo: Kenzo Tange Architects

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Recommended hotels in Naples
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Photo: Montse Monmo

Photo: Montse Monmo

Things to do in Naples

With close to 3,000 years of history under its belt, ‘what to do in Naples’ isn’t a question you’ll be asking for long. You don’t have to be an opera buff to enjoy a visit to Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest working opera house in the world. Its gilded auditorium and painted ceilings date back to 1737 and can be enjoyed on a guided tour if the opera and ballet seasons aren’t in full swing. Perhaps an even more impressive structure is Palazzo Reale, the royal palace begun in 1600 for Philip III of Spain, King of Naples, which takes up the entire length of Piazza del Plebiscito. Ironically, he never visited this part of his empire, but the palace remained in royal hands for centuries, and as a result, boasts an unparalleled collection of baroque and neoclassical masterpieces. It also houses the National Library’s collection of 1,800 papyri entombed when Vesuvius blew its top in AD79. Still officially an active, though dormant, volcano, Mount Vesuvius National Park offers an incredible insight into the brooding volcano’s effect on its environment. The main draw is undoubtedly the large crater, an easy enough stroll away (with glasses of wine available at the summit), although hardened trekkers won’t be able to resist the park’s jagged hiking trails.

If looking down into the depths of the earth has got you interested in all things subterranean, you shouldn’t miss Naples Underground. It’s a journey that takes you 40 metres below the city and right through its history, from its earliest Greek (rather than Italian) origins, to bomb shelters used to protect the civilian population during the Second World War. Exhibiting a stunning array of Greek sculpture is Museo di Capodimonte. Built specifically to house the elegant Farnese collection of marbles in the early eighteenth century, it now also vaunts one of Italy’s most important gallery spaces, a true A-Z of the art world from Botticelli to Warhol. If you prefer your art stencilled onto a wall rather than hanging in a gallery, check out Napoli Paint Stories, a tour led by local art historians to oft-overlooked areas of the city that have still managed to attract the attention of graffiti artists, from native Neapolitans to internationally recognised sprayers such as Banksy.

Vesuvius | Photo: Nick Fewings

Vesuvius | Photo: Nick Fewings

Naples Underground

Naples Underground

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Recommended experiences in Naples
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Vesuvius | Photo: Pieter Biesemans

Vesuvius | Photo: Pieter Biesemans

Things to see in Naples

Piazza Bellini sits in the Centro Storico – the historic centre – of the city and acts as the perfect gateway to many of Naples’ things to do. Not only does this busy square incorporate elements of the original Greek settlement of Neapolis (or ‘new city’) into its current form, but it’s also a popular hangout for the city’s most bohemian residents. For instance, Piazza Bellini is just a short distance from two of Naples’ metro stations. This would perhaps be an odd thing to mention if it wasn’t for the metro’s ‘art stations’ initiative. If you have time to only visit one, make sure it’s Toledo, a Gaudi-esque extravaganza of a station designed by Spanish architects Oscar Tusquets Blanca. From underground, head under the waves; the waters around Isola della Gaiola on the western extreme of the Bay of Naples make for an idyllic spot to snorkel and scuba dive. Above the waves, the tiny, uninhabited isles contain intriguing ruins; these ruins form the perfect tranquil backdrop for you to picnic while taking in the romantic views back towards the city.

Though largely unknown even to residents of the city, the Lucchesi Palli library is a bibliophile’s dream, containing 30,000 books in rooms decorated by the nineteenth century’s foremost artists. Wine connoisseurs might prefer instead to visit the grapes of Vigna di San Martino, an urban vineyard close to the hilltop defensive position of Castel Sant’Elmo. Vines have been grown here since 1368, and a visit is a great way to enjoy la dolce vita.

Photo: David Kohler

Photo: David Kohler

Galleria Umberto | Photo: Mahkeo

Galleria Umberto | Photo: Mahkeo

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For the past 200 years, Gran Caffè Gambrinus has been a popular haunt for those seeking to see and be seen

Where to eat in Naples

It may be nearer neighbouring Sorrento than Naples, but the chefs at L’Accanto (in the Hotel Angiolieri) cook up cuisine so fine the restaurant’s been awarded a Michelin star. The classic Italianate terrace cultivates a pleasantly relaxed ambience in which to sample the kitchen’s Mediterranean inspired dishes. On the opposite side of the Sorrento peninsula, you’ll find Taverna del Capitano, a family-run restaurant with two Michelin stars to its name. The unassuming exterior leads into a refreshingly airy dining space whose menu of local favourites is served in new and ingenious ways. Sitting in fashionable Posillipo, Palazzo Petrucci offers diners an interior crafted by renowned designer Alfredo Galdi, a gourmet pizzeria, and an open plan kitchen with an à la carte menu – in addition to a wine list heralding more than 600 wines.

However, one of the most imaginative of Neapolitan restaurants is Taverna Estia, which serves a choice of three degustation menus, each of which reinterprets the region’s traditional methodologies and recipes to create something completely new. As a result, you’ll find dishes such as risotto with lemon-vanilla jam, and clams in pistachio oil. Having served up pizza since 1870, there’s little doubt Pizzeria da Michele is more old-fashioned than Taverna Estia. Diners get a pick of just two authentically-cooked pizzas: the margherita or the marinara. Pizzeria da Michele is where locals and visitors come together like perhaps nowhere else in the city. Meanwhile, the social collective Salumeria Upnea is where food and art are brought together. Here you’ll find only the best of local produce used to make simple, flavoursome meals. Dine among contemporary artworks that frequently shine a light into corners of Naples not always observed by those taking in the more traditional Naples sightseeing destinations.

With views towards the Palazzo Reale, Gran Caffè Gambrinus is one of the things to do in Naples. For the past 200 years, it has been a popular haunt for seeking to see and be seen. Its grand interior is a constant hive of activity perhaps best experienced at mid-morning when the whole city seems to stop for an expresso. Intra Moenia (Latin for ‘into the walls’) on Piazza Bellini is not just a café, but also a destination in its own right, with art decorating the walls, shelves of books to browse, and regular live events, all a stone’s throw from the city’s most important spots. Just south of Intra Moenia is Pulcinella Bistrò Ristorante, a quaint bistro on a graffitied side street that hides some truly exquisite dishes be it lunch or dinner.

Beluga, Hotel Romeo

Beluga, Hotel Romeo

Photo: Matteo Vistocco

Photo: Matteo Vistocco

Shopping in Naples

Style is a way of life in Italy’s most important southern city—waiters in even the shabbiest of backstreet establishments look as though they are heading for the catwalk once their shift is over. The exquisite tailoring of the coats and jackets at Cesare Attolini dates back three generations of the Attolini family, with the eponymous Cesare making the then-radical decision to adopt the English tailoring he admired to southern Italy’s warmer climes. Offering a wider range of menswear is Eddy Monetti, a store with a strong ‘made in Italy’ emphasis, from their jackets and shirts, right down to their socks and belts. Elsewhere, Riot Concept Store is not only the city’s premier source for unique clothing but also a hub for Naples’ coolest residents, with its small café selling homemade pastries and freshly-prepared juices. Galleria 66 Concept Store promises a similarly vibrant array of clothing from small scale, local designers, you won’t find anywhere else.

Chocolate lovers wondering what to see in Naples should look no further than Gallucci Chocolate Shop, a store that has supplied the city’s residents with the finest artisan truffles and pralines for close to one and a half centuries. It uses only the finest ingredients – almonds and pistachios from Sicily, hazelnuts from Piedmont, and cacao from South America and equatorial Africa. To further combine shopping with local colour, a visit to Via San Gregorio Armeno is a must. Perhaps better known as ‘Christmas Alley’, it’s here that artisans sit carving figures for the most extravagant nativity scenes you’re likely ever to see, though outside of the festive period you’ll also find numerous footballers and other celebrities in wooden form.

Photo: Christelle Bourgeois

Photo: Christelle Bourgeois

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The Antiquarian oozes with the atmosphere of a Prohibition-era speakeasy

Naples nightlife

A welcoming café in which to relax amid the hubbub of Piazza Bellini in the Centro Storico, Bar Fiorillo is the centre of the Naples’ LGBTQ scene, whether you visit for that post-meal coffee and dessert, or something a little stronger as the evening progresses. Archeobar is an alternative nightspot particularly popular with students, where you can chat, read, or hang around for live music. Live events are also part and parcel of life at Otto Jazz Club, whose dimly-lit, cosy interior hosts Italy’s top jazz musicians, and whose drinks menu lists more than 200 cocktails. Meanwhile, The Antiquarian simply oozes with the atmosphere of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, while ensuring its cocktails are perfectly mixed each and every time by the multitalented bartenders. Macho Lato is probably Naples’ most popular gay club. Spread over two levels of dance spaces and breakout areas, it also features a rotating series of DJ sets. However, the straight-friendly gay night Criminal Candy, held at a range of venues around the city, is the biggest dance event for Naples’ LGBTQ community.

Photo: Kyryll Ushakov

Photo: Kyryll Ushakov

Photo: Paul Thomas

Photo: Paul Thomas

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