Naples

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Romance under the volcano

In a nutshell… 

This sizzling southern Italian city spreads around a beautiful bay and is perfect if you like foreign trips with a buzz. To experience it at its best, stroll down the Spaccanapoli (‘split‐Naples’) in the heart of the city and watch the Vespas dodge by. The gothic and baroque architecture is as bewitching as the crowded and colourful back streets with the washing lines strung out overhead.

The classic Neapolitan dish is the pizza and no trip to the city would be complete without a Margherita baked in a wood‐fired oven. If the bustle of the city is too much, then it is easy to escape to the Roman settlement of Pompeii or along the coast into the volcanic landscape dominated by Mount Vesuvius.

Magnetic attractions

  • Mount Vesuvius The world’s best‐known active volcano, it last erupted in 1944. Why not take a bus‐ride there through orchards and vineyards and climb the zigzag path to the top where you will be rewarded with splendid views over the Bay of Naples?
  • The Duomo Inside the cathedral is the Chapel of San Gennaro, where you can find the patron saint’s head and two phials of his blood. Gennaro himself is supposed to have saved the city from all manner of disasters, especially volcanic eruptions.
  • Piazza del Gesu Nuovo This square is where the baroque church, Gesu Nuovo, and the gothic Santa Chiara are located. Santa Chiara has beautiful cloisters with plants and coloured tiles. Not to be missed.
  • Pompeii The ruins of Pompeii are a city frozen in time ‐‐ 79 AD to be exact ‐‐ when Mount Vesuvius erupted and embalmed Pompeii and its inhabitants in ash. If you can’t make it here, then don’t miss the Museo Archeologico Nazionale which contains the best of the finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Romantic rendezvous

  • Certosa di San Martino Catch the delightful funicular railway to Vomero on the hilltop immediately behind the old town. The Certosa was a monastery in the 14th century and from the gardens, there are wonderful views of the Bay of Naples.
  • Amalfi coast Hire a scooter, get your sunglasses and headscarf on and speed off along the Amalfi coastline, one of the most spectacular in Europe. There are hundreds of chic hotels where you can stop for a stylish drink.
  • Castel dell’Ovo This is a Norman castle very near to the waterfront, surrounded by a picturesque tiny fishing village, the Borgo Marinaro.

Love bites and love potions

Neapolitan cuisine is superb and the pizza is the classic symbol of the city. However, if you like yours piled high with toppings, you’ll be disappointed. The two classic varieties are the Margherita (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil) and the marinara, the same, but without the cheese. Head for Da Michele on Via Cesare for superb (and cheap) pizzas. Street markets around the Forcella quarter offer excellent snacks, but for more of a splurge visit the Caruso Roof Garden Restaurant on the ninth floor of the Grande Hotel Vesuvio, where you can enjoy delicious food and great views.

Propose here

Escape from the buzz and noise of Naples and head to the gardens of Certosa di San Martino, where the splendid views of the coastline and the peace and quiet will be more conducive to eliciting a favourable answer.

To get you in the mood

Watch The Talented Mr Ripley. It’s set on Ischia, a beautiful island in the bay of Naples. The sight of Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett and Jude Law sipping Sundowners in the harbour wearing stylish 50s clobber should do the trick. To get a sense of the beauty of the bay of Naples, see Il Postino (The Postman) which is also set on a small island there. The film casts an enchanting spell with its hypnotic blue sea and dizzying cliffs, as Mario (the postman) decides that the way to win his Beatrice’s heart is through poetry.

Susan Sontag’s novel, The Volcano Lover, should get you in the mood for your trip to Vesuvius. The romance is set in 18th century Naples and is based on the lives of Sir William Hamilton and his celebrated wife Emma and her affair with Lord Nelson.

For a bit of music, look no further than old crooner Dean Martin. Although he was born in Ohio, his parents were Italians, and his songs are full of references to Napoli ‐‐ the perfect soundtrack for your spin down the Amalfi coast.

Language of love

Buon anniversario! = Happy anniversary

Ti amo = I love you

Auguri! = Congratulations!

Mi voui sposare? = Will you marry me?

Stags and hens

Just a hydrofoil trip away from Naples, the pretty island of Capri, with its dizzying cliffs is partly remembered as the orgy capital during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. Now, rather more sedate, it serves excellent ice cream and is a great place to spend a few days’ bathing and frolicking.

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