With its fine art, epic architecture and culinary masterpieces, Naples is far more than a gateway to the Amalfi Coast, says Julia Buckley
1. About: Most visitors come to Naples and head straight to Pompeii, Capri or the Amalfi Coast, but they’re missing out. Although it isn’t one of Italy’s most obvious city breaks, Naples is an entrancing destination. Cleaned up in recent years, its grandiose architecture, big-hitting cultural attractions and great food are now firmly in the spotlight. Time to add a little city break to that Amalfi Coast road trip.
2. Hotel: Traditionally, Naples has been all about culture and the Amalfi Coast views, and the Romeo Hotel combines both, sitting on the city waterfront with views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Floor-to-ceiling windows make the most of the panoroma, while rooms are as luxurious as their five stars suggest. The real highlight, though, is the rooftop pool overlooking the Mediterranean. romeohotel.it
3. Attraction: The archaeological museum, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, is almost certainly Italy’s finest classical collection — and that’s saying something. Filled with finds from nearby excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, as well as the private collection of the Medici family, any visit demands a full day. Don’t miss the mosaics or the
Secret Cabinet, filled with louche adults-only finds from Pompeii. cir.campania.beniculturali.it
4. Building: Many people come to Naples for one thing: Pompeii. The Roman town, obliterated along with its neighbors in the Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79AD, lies on the outskirts of modern Naples. A visit here is a step back in time, as you walk the cobbled streets, tour the preserved houses and see the citizens’ way of life frozen in time for nearly 2,000 years. pompeiisites.org
5. Shop: The Galleria Umberto I is a mall so beautiful, it’s a landmark in itself. Modeled on Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, it’s formed by two intersecting neo-classical arcades with beautiful glass vaulting and mosaic flooring. The stores come second here, but you’ll find local brands such as Antonio Barbaro, clothes stores and pastry shops, as well as a few pop-up stalls. Don’t miss Naples’ specialty: sfogliatella, a ricotta-filled pastry.
6. Restaurant: There’s only one thing you should be eating for dinner in Naples: pizza. And one of the best places for it is new kid on the block 50 Kalo, which opened last year. Owned by third-generation pizzaiolo (pizza chef) Ciro Salvo, darling of the local press, its farm-to-table philosophy results in magnificent pies with airily thin dough and locally sourced, seasonal toppings. 50kalo.it
7. Bar: Happening is one of Naples’ best cocktail bars, located in the trendy Chiaia district. Looks are as important as taste here, with the most beautifully presented cocktails. And, in the unlikely event that nothing tickles your palate, there’s a drinks list of over 250 bottles and therefore plenty of options other than cocktails. Thursdays through Saturdays are party nights, though be warned — Saturday also doubles as singles night. happeningbar.it
8. View: A medieval fortress perched on a hilltop near the Certosa di San Martino, Castel Sant’Elmo (one of Naples’ four castles) is the perfect spot to get a sweeping view of the surrounding area — including Vesuvius. Dating back to the 13th century (though the current star-shaped building is from the 1500s), it’s a sight in itself, but the main draw is the 360-degree ‘terrace’ above the castle walls.