Bellini Travel’s Guide to Naples

Bellini Travel’s founder Emily FitzRoy curates her city guide to Naples.

“See Naples and die…” a phrase coined by the Bourbons who felt that no one’s life would be complete without visiting this spectacular city. And they are right.

Naples sits proudly in a beautiful bay against the stunning backdrop of the formidable Mount Vesuvius. It is like no other city in the world: the juxtaposition of the splendid architecture and historical treasures with the sometimes dilapidated, chaotic metropolis is both mind-boggling and fascinating. The Neapolitans welcome visitors with open arms – this is the home of the pizza, after all. After a few days dodging Vespas and discovering hidden treasures in this cosmopolitan city, you can easily escape to the idyllic Amalfi Coast or hop on a boat to nearby Ischia.

EAT & DRINK

A traditional pizzaiolo at work.
All photos courtesy of Roberto Salomone

Restaurants

L’Europeo di Mattozzi

An old fashioned restaurant right in the heart of town. We love the old fashioned dining room with its linen tablecloths and walls lined with polished copper pots and family photos. Classic Neapolitan dishes are served on cheery Solimene plates; favourites include pasta e patate con provola (a pasta dish involving potatoes and a local cheese) but the zuppa di cannellini e cozze (mussels and cannelini beans soup) has to be our favourite. Owner Alfonso Mattozzi can either be charm incarnate, or terribly rude. If you leave a tip, the entire kitchen will normally come out and shout “grazie”!

Da Dora

The atmosphere of a fisherman’s bar hidden down a scruffy narrow street in Chiaia. Dora is all about simple well-cooked fish, excellent primi and a curious selection of local shell fish. Don’t miss spaghetti alle vongole. You won’t be the first to have discovered Da Dora; a testament to the great and good of Hollywood who have dined here in there in the last century hang in framed photos above the pretty pale blue and white tiled walls. Expect a merry vibe, especially from the chef who occasionally will burst out of the kitchen and sing. Booking is essential.

Mimmi alla Ferrovia

If you ever meet a Neapolitan outside Naples and mention Mimmi, chances are they may shed a tear or two. Mimmi is what many consider the Holy Grail of Neapolitan cooking. Tucked away near the train station in one of the least beautiful parts of town, we have friends who’ve taken the train from Rome for lunch just for their stuffed peppers and prized baccalà.

Pizza

Sorbillo

Unmissable and almost worth the ridiculously big queues at weekends, Sorbillo sets the benchmark for Pizza Napoletana. When owner Gino Sorbillo refused to pay Mafia pizzo bribes and they burnt the pizzeria down, undaunted, Sorbillo pulled tables and chairs onto the street and opened as normal. He’s a bit of a hero for us. Queuing, you’ll be entertained by Toppino singing from his balcony next door. Under house arrest for a possible murder or two, he makes his money singing at the top of his voice and lowering a basket into the street below for donations.

If you can’t face the queue at Sorbillo, try Trianon da Ciro. Housed in an old theatre, request a table on the ground floor.

Ciro a Mergellina

Almost as good as Sorbillo, Ciro is all about style and location. An air of old-school Neapolitan elegance pervades this restaurant situated on the posh and very civilised Mergellina waterfront where the super yachts come to hibernate in the winter.  We love Ciro for their pizzas but the rest of the menu is very good too.

Bars

Café Gambrinus

Observe the ballet of the waiters and baristas as they dance between one another, rinsing cups in the marble scalloped shelled sinks before presenting you with the finest coffee in the south of Italy. The pastries are also sensational, especially la sfogliatella, delicate layers of the finest pastry, in the shape of a shell and stuffed with warm ricotta and orange peel.

Aperitivo

Aperitivo culture, historically a tradition from the north of Italy, has well and truly arrived in Naples. The maze of small streets (vico) in the Chiaia area is not only a mecca for stylish, independent clothes shops but in the evening the area springs to life with bars buzzing with chic young locals. The holy triangle consists of Vico Belledonne a Chiaia, Via Bisignano and Via Poerio. The Napoletani love to party and the area stays busy well into the night. 

SHOPPING

Local artisans.

Like everything else in Naples, shopping is a real mixed bag: if you get it right you’ll never shop anywhere else in Italy again, however if you get it wrong you could come home laden with more tat than treasures. Naples has been famous since the middle ages for tailoring and this industry continues to thrive.

Rubinacci is the maestro of unstructured tailoring and its Napoli flagship resides in the spectacular coral pink 16th century Palazzo Cellamare. As well as the suits, we love the cashmere shawls and silk pocket squares depicting Neapolitan landmarks. For shirts, stroll farther down the road to Camiceria Piccolo tucked away in a little courtyard. After being measured up, you’ll need to sort through ceiling high mountains of cottons to choose your material. If pushed these can be turned around quite quickly but make sure they include the double stitch on the central button, the sign of a handmade shirt from Naples (which also prevents buttons popping after a good lunch).

Time allowing, don’t leave town without an umbrella from Mario Talarico Vico Due a pair of cufflinks from Gemelli da Polso, and a pair of gloves from Luigi Marinella on Piazza Vittoria 287.

Antiques, Curiosities & Jewellery

The sophisticated collector will find plenty to whet his appetite. For midcentury Modernist furniture, we like Tullierie. Across the street is  E.Bowinkel, a wunderkammer of prints and curiosities. The Archivio Fotografico Parisio has an extensive and fascinating collection of old Neapolitan photographs. Spaccanapoli has a centuries old history of jewelry making; most of the craftsmen still inhabit their family workshops in the area around Borgo degli Orefici. For cufflinks go to Gemelli da Polso; coral, diamonds or most curiously a pair covered in glass vials filled with Saharan sand. Signor Ventrella is Napoli’s most famous contemporary jewellry designer with beautiful one-off custom jewels plus lovely prêt-à-porter designs to be found in his Carlo Scarpa-esque boutique.

ART, MUSEUMS & GALLERIES

Naples Underground.

National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Italy’s best collection of antiquities, and quite possibly the most important Ancient Rome collection in the world.

Museo di Capodimonte,The beautiful Bourbon palace i snow one of the largest art museums in Italy featuring antiquities, paintings from 13th – 18th centuries, and a collection dedicated to Neapolitan Baroque.

Museo MADRE, Three-storey palace housing a collection of modern and contemporary art exhibitions and installations

Galleria Lia Rumma Napoli’s pioneer of the contemporary art scene always touting big names like Marina Abramovich, Ettore Spalletti and more.

READ & WATCH

Scene from “My Brilliant Friend” based on the best-selling book by Elena Ferrante and adapted by Saverio Costanzo

BOOKS   

My Brilliant Friend                

Naples ’44                   

The Virtuoso                         

The Volcano Lover               

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