|Florida sun and Italian style
By Deborah Reinhardt
Published: Sep/Oct 2001
The Italian hallmarkif youre going to do something, do it with style. Taste Italian food. Wear a pair of fine Italian shoes. Listen to Italian opera. Look at Italian art. Perfect style. Unblemished grace.
Visitors to Naples, Fla., can experience style in its shops, restaurants and inns. An interesting history is fused with American gusto and Old World charm.
Located in southwest Florida less than an hours drive south of Fort Myers, Naples was founded in 1886 by Gen. John S. Williams and Walter N. Haldeman. After sailing through Gordon Pass into a beautiful body of water, Williams is credited with naming the town after the Bay of Naples in Italy. A good overview of the city is available through Naples Trolley Tours. See landmarks like the Naples Pier, old depot and Palm Cottage, which was built in 1895 and is considered to be Naples oldest house.
Newer attractions include the Philharmonic Center for the Arts and several shopping areas. A two-hour trolley tour costs about $15. Riders can hop on and off at almost two dozen sites around town.
Theres an abundance of shops to explore in Naples, ranging from exquisitely expensive to cheap but fun. Let your whims be your guide.
Third Street South in Old Naples is on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the chic boutiques, restaurants and galleries are located in original buildings. Strolling through the area, dotted with courtyards and fountains, is pleasing to the eye.
Visitors may want to stop at the Third Street concierge court (1203 Third St. ) next to Carmargo House to get the low down on the upscale shops, cafes and art galleries.
While many hefty price tags were found in these designer shops, there were fun surprises, including Ill Never Tell, a jewelry store (1170 Third Street South) featuring synthetic baubles inspired by the worlds leading designers. The Mole Hole (1201 Third Street South) has offered a fine collection of gifts in a generous price range for 30 years.
For a fine meal inspired by Italys Tuscany region, try Campiello Ristorante (1177 Third Street South), but remember to make reservations during season two weeks in advance.
Another shopping destination, The Village on Venetian Bay (4200 Gulf Shore Boulevard), offered 50 waterfront shops and restaurants. Maxwells on the Bay is a popular restaurant here.
Miromar Outlets, at the intersection of Interstate 75 and Corkscrew Road in Estero, Fla. (between Naples and Fort Myers) featured an impressive collection of stores and eateries in an Italian setting. The Montreal-based Miromar Development company based the plazas design on the Italian village of Portofino. Piazzas and fountains gave shoppers a chance to revive, and there is plenty to see at Miromar. Designer outlets, including Donna Karan, Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Saks Fifth Avenue, mixed in nicely with stores often seen in outlet malls throughout the country.
Most stylish cities have a Fifth Avenue, and Naples is no exception. Fifth Avenue South, considered the main street in Naples, is lined with boutiques, galleries and sidewalk cafes. This pedestrian-friendly area features colorful, historic buildings, as well as evening sidewalk entertainment. Dont miss The Wine Gallery that presents fine vintages with fine art created by local artists.
On the other side of the spectrum, Tin City is a collection of fun shops offering inexpensive souvenirs, clothes and refreshments. Have lunch at Bills Pier on Fifth. The seafood is hard to beat here. Bills blue crab soup and oven-roasted, barbecued mahi mahi were wonderful. Terrific food and great views combine for memorable meals.
After shopping or sightseeing all day, youll need a comfortable place to rest. We sampled two excellent hotels. Visitors will enjoy the Mediterranean charm and appreciate the hospitality at The Inn on Fifth. Each of the 87 rooms comes with terry robes, an ironing board, coffee maker and complimentary morning paper. Before its restoration, The Inn on Fifth was a bank. In McCabes Irish Pub and Grill guests can book the private Wine Vault dining room thats located in the old bank vault.
The re-created Irish pub is the brainchild of hotel owner Phil McCabe, a second-generation Irish American. Warm woods, brass and etched glass welcome guests, and the menu is laden with comforting food authentic to Ireland. The restaurant is open for continental breakfast plus lunch and dinner. Its a lively place at night when everybody joins in with Irish songs and glasses of Guinness.
For excellent steaks in a West Indian atmosphere, treat yourself to the McCabe Brothers Steakhouse. Before or after dinner, linger at the Hemingway Bar and enjoy piano entertainment. Service at the steakhouse and pub were first-rate; both restaurants were winners.
In north Naples, The Inn at Pelican Bay, also owned by McCabe, last year completed a $1 million renovation involving each of the 100 rooms. The AAA Three Diamond property is near to beaches, golf and shops in the Pelican Bay community. Enjoy a dip in the pool after a busy day, or sip a frozen drink on the patio. Complimentary continental breakfast is served in the lounge; there was not a restaurant on site.
Located down the street from The Inn at Pelican Bay is the always elegant Ritz-Carlton Naples. If you desire the lap of luxury, look no further.
New amenities include the European-style spa that opened this year.
If the Ritz is not within your budget, treat yourself to the Sunday champagne brunch there. Linger over the extensive selections in the exquisite dining room. Reservations are recommended.
Excellent northern Italian cuisine can be sampled at Panevino Ristorante (8853 N. Tamiami Trail). We asked our waiter, Alfredo, to repeat the evening specials, just to hear his lyrical voice.
Visitors exhausted by shopping can find other diversions in Naples. Mark Hamilton Quinn, director of Adventure Safaris, leads excursions into the Florida Everglades. Nautilus Boat Tours has sunset and nature cruises through intercoastal waterways. Our nature cruise on a twin catamaran included a stop at a secluded beach, perfect for picnics, shelling, strolling or just sunbathing.
Anyone searching for a stylish vacation wont be disappointed with Naples, where la dolce vita is lived everyday.