The trending opinion from Italy is that the only attractions my beloved Naples has to offer her visitors are crime and graffiti. My mission is to correct that myopic notion. In a city that dates back to the 2nd millennium BC—and was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO—Napoli demands to be viewed from a wide-angle lens because without that broad expanse you’ll be never be able to soak in her spiritual delights (477 historic churches) and her carnal pleasures (did somebody say “pizza”?).
My weekend started at the aptly named B&B Weekend a Napoli, run by Paolo and Patrizia Coppola. Their website boasted “Elite tourism where you’re guided and pampered,” which is precisely what they delivered at a price us 99-percenters can afford. Their property is located in the middle of the bay atop stylish Vomero Hill—think “Beverly Hills without the worry of running into a Kardashian.” It’s equal distance from the stunning cliffs of the Amalfi coast and the ancient port of Pozzuoli—with Naples’ historic city center lying at its feet.
The Coppolas served la prima colazione in their 100-year-old villa’s sun-kissed breakfast room. I happily devoured their homemade WAN (Weekend a Napoli) Muffin—a yummy apple puff pastry known as sfogliatella alle melle. Also homemade is their pastiera, a ricotta cheesecake.
Paolo himself is the chef-in-residence and offers cooking lessons in WAN’s tile-lined kitchen. I took his “Pasta di Gragnano” class where his methodology is clear: The beginning of success starts with the best material. The ingredients were simple—pasta, tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano cheese, olive oil, red pepper, garlic, and basil—and the results divine. In about an hour our lunch had been created and consumed—and my stomach was as happy as Nero at a wienie roast.
I walked off my meal along the lively Via Luca Giordano, one of the main arteries of Vomero. The smells of pizza, pastries, coffee, car engines, and fancy cologne all delighted my nose. At the beginning of the street I found myself dodging traffic and hurried shoppers but further along is a tree-lined pedestrian-only zone where it’s quiet enough to hear the clinking of espresso cups. You can find anything you’ll ever need on this street: grocery stores, refreshment carts, designer clothes, book vendors, espresso bars, newsstands, and the hottest craze to hit the city: french fries, from a Dutch company no less.
Via Luca Giordano is also home to Eboli Jewelers. This is where my grandfather used to buy gifts for my mother and I’ve passed along the tradition to my nieces. On this trip they received a ladybug pendant, a Neapolitan token of good luck and the same design my grandfather had given my mother some 50 years earlier.
Paolo insisted I visit Villa Floridiana, the crown jewel park of Vomero that features breathtaking views of the bay. There are oaks, pines, palms, and cypresses in its botanical garden, along with countless varieties of flowers and canopied pathways leading to secluded niches where you can steal a private moment in a public place. Floridiana itself is a majestic neoclassical villa built in 1816 with a ceramics museum inside and an expansive front yard where you’ll find scenes from life Italian-style: girls sunbathing, boys playing soccer, and locals taking a twilight stroll with arms linked.
Did I see any graffiti? Absolutely, but it’s not a defining feature and just part of the backdrop. As for crime, I experienced none—but like anywhere in the world, as a traveler you have to keep your wits about you.
When I returned to Weekend a Napoli, Paolo and Patrizia set me up with an insider’s track on how to spend my following day. That’s when I realized how passionate the Coppolas were about their hometown’s history, food, culture, and tradition. That sense of passion allows us to honor Neapolis not as a splintered shadow of herself but rather for who she really is: a thriving, modern city with a rich, multi-layered past. And it’s what will propel me, demand of me, to come back year after year.