Naples, Italy’s most under-rated city

How often have we by-passed the historic city of Naples, leaving its airport in the seedy Capodichino area to the north-east of the city, en route for either Capri or the Amalfi Coast?

What a mistake. This has to be one of the world’s most beautiful and exciting cities, which has recently cleaned up its act and is now well positioned to welcome the international traveller.

Naples only wants for true luxury hotels, accommodation choices being limited, the quality not yet exactly world-class. However, if you are prepared to compromise in order to be fully immersed in the city, this is perhaps a small price to pay. Otherwise, stay harbourside on a boat or allow for an hour-and-a-half drive each way if you prefer to stay at a favourite boutique hotel on the Amalfi Coast, coming in for visits. If so, one day is not enough.

This past weekend we experienced perfect blue skies with daytime temperatures hovering above 70 degrees. We also enjoyed wonderful contemporary art at MADRE (Museo d’arte Contemporanea Donnaregina), courtesy of the highly engaging museum director, Andrea Villani, who escorted us over the current exhibition, which contrasts archaeological material from Pompeii with works by well-known modern and contemporary artists – names such as Mimmo Paladino, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Sol LeWitt…

Naples has many beautiful buildings, historic churches and castles. It also has the world’s finest archaeological museum, and majestic Mount Vesuvius as a backdrop above a ravishing coastline. Narrow streets, lined with washing hanging from balconies, the walls sprayed with graffiti, contrast with a bay of great natural beauty, the offshore island of Capri dazzling on the horizon. Classic villas and gardens, in the exclusive northern residential district of Posillipo, are a reminder of how affluent Neapolitans live, whereas, in the poorer areas on the other side of the city, crime is rife and life a struggle.

The diverse southern Italian cuisine encompasses everything from street food and pizza to outstanding fish, seafood and crudo (both meat and fish). There are several impressive restaurants that match the quality of those in any other major Italian city. And let’s not overlook an important coffee culture.

We enjoyed a long, lazy weekend lunch in the clifftop area of Marechiaro which, with white sailing boats offshore and Vesuvius looming, made for a wonderful coastal panorama. Here, perched above the ocean, with tables spilling out from several convivial dining rooms onto a large covered terrace or into the narrow street below, the beau-monde of Naples gather for plates of delicious fish, seafood and unforgettable pastas at Trattoria da Cicciotto. And while numerous waiters dart backwards and forwards performing efficient service, nonogenarian founder-owner Cicciotto sings melodies from the past to his faithful patrons.

A direct flight from London, and most northern European cities, will have you in Naples in a little over two hours. The airport is a short ride away from the centre. Combine the delights of the city, with its excellent museums, elegant boutiques and fine tailoring, with a visit to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. Continue south to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast or to the offshore islands of Capri and Ischia across the Tyrrhenian Sea.

This heavenly region of Campania in southern Italy combines culture with ravishing coastal scenery, excellent dining and surprisingly good shopping. It is an essential destination for the coming months.

To do Naples and the Costiera Amalfitana in style, contact us.