Modern life thrives in neighborhoods from the previous century and you can savor the best pizza and an unforgettable Aperol Spritz on the narrow cobblestone streets, but there’s more to Naples and it’s just off shore.
Text: Mariano Tacchi @playeroycasual photos: Lorenzo Moscia
We know some facts before our arrival: the Greeks originally founded Naples at the foot of Mount Vesuvius (the volcano that swallowed Pompeii), and it’s one of Italy’s best-known ports, among other things. However, what’s most unusual about this city is its likeness to a siren’s song: once it entrances you, there’s no escape. This seductive allure is no accident but the consequence of a long history and the primary reason why this city instantly captivates visitors with its everyday pleasures. As the saying goes, “Vedi Napoli e Poi Muori” (See Naples and then die).
Another saying offers the best way to approach the city: “You don’t have to understand it, you just have to love it.” The cliché that the traffic is absolute anarchy is no lie, yet the city’s charm imbues every detail: from the unique system of understanding who has the right of way to how people walk in the street. Short or tall, svelte or chubby, everyone in Naples walks with their shoulders erect and heads held high, gesturing while they talk, as though it was the most important thing they ever uttered. They’re unperturbed by the narrow streets, on which Vespas fearlessly zoom past. If you have any personal hang ups about order and respect for the rules of the road, this may not be the place for you.
The layout of Naples is a reflection of its history. Everything seems to have a story. Everything belongs to another era. Greek blends into Roman, Roman into the modern, and the modern into the contemporary. The best way of understanding Naples is by exploring it from the inside. On the Piazza San Gaetano in the heart of the historic center, the “Underground Naples” tour offers a walk through the tunnels that the Greeks built as aqueducts and were later used by the Romans to link their cities before becoming bomb shelters during World War II.
The main street in this same sector is the Via del Tribunali. Here, you’ll find the true essence of Naples, a setting that harks back to a time before the war. The stone streets are packed with people, the locals relax outside, and the bakeries and pizzerias fill up while the cafés complete the scene with the scent of espresso. And don’t forget to look up. The balconies jut out with improvised flowerpots, hanging ferns, clotheslines and Italian flags, while the shops that line the street offer all kinds of religious souvenirs.
Eat & Drink
Heading towards the north end of Via del Tribunali, you’ll come to Piazza Bellini, where small bars take over the streets to offer a view of the Greek ruins in the background. It’s the perfect place to sample the city’s signature drink: the Aperol Spritz. The price never exceeds €1.50, and the cocktail comes in a plastic glass so you can take it with you. This aperitif is very cold, with a light orange flavor, mixing sweet with a touch of bitter. It’s as refreshing as it is addictive.
You won’t find scraps of crust here: the dough is the most original part of pizza, and its preparation is the trademark of each pizzeria. Toasted and lightly crispy – but never tough – it’s always a pleasure for the palate, like a light bread fresh from the oven. Along the same lines, sampling sfogliatella is another rite of passage in Naples: the light, crisp exterior complements the sweet and creamy filling that melts in your mouth.
With such culinary wonders, it’s amazing that the people of Naples are so fit.
Lights on the Sea
The neighborhood of Vomero has little in common with the historic center; the classics giving way to the avant-garde, but one thing hasn’t changed. Take the cable car to Morghen station and walk a few blocks to the Castel Sant’Elmo for a view of the city in all its splendor. At night, the lights shine out over the Mediterranean, a peaceful companion whose giant port is home to more yachts than you can count. Of course, they’re not just any kind of yacht; they’re showcases for luxury. Some are immense, others compact, but all are ostentatious.
Any visit must include a voyage on the waters of the Mediterranean, especially since there are so many islands less than an hour away, including Capri and Ischia. The latter is a secret known only to locals, a giant spa with thermal waters at a constant 73 degrees all year round. No wonder the residents all sport ready smiles and enviable natural tans.
Although small, the beaches of Ischia are like something out of a dream: with fine sand melting beneath your feet and still, warm waters that are more like a lake than the sea. Your best bet is to go for a night and choose a hotel in Casamicciola, where you can appreciate the mainland city from another angle.
In the distance, the radiance captures your gaze: Naples lights up at night. It’s a spectacle best enjoyed sitting on the sand with a beer or Aperol Spritz in hand, letting the Mediterranean serenade you with its soft music, just as it has for centuries. in
Daily flights to Madrid from Santiago and Lima and three flights a week from Guayaquil, followed by oneworld connections to Naples.
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Daily flights to Madrid and London from São Paulo and three flights a week to Barcelona, followed by oneworld connections to Naples.
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Hotel Piazza Bellini
Via S. Maria di Costantinopoli 101
Grand Hotel Vesuvio
Via Partenope 45
Via Principessa Margherita, 36
Dining & Nightlife
Pizzería Le Sorelle Bandiera
Vico Cinquesanti 33
Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo 103
Piazza degli Artisti 6-7
Via S. Maria di Costantinopoli 79
Pizzería Gino Sorbillo
Via dei Tribunali 32