Any visit to Naples will involve its share of surprises, good and bad – and where you rest your weary head after a long day navigating around this confounding city can be one of the biggest. Try to make it a good one.
Accommodation options vary tremendously. At the upper end of the spectrum, grand, old-fashioned five-star affairs compete with luxurious new boutique establishments, set in gracious, antique-filled palazzi. Then there are the elegant, Liberty-style villas of the Centro Storico, with their fine period details and garden oases. A burgeoning selection of design hotels completes the picture, along with a good array of unpretentious, good-value options – set in decent locations, these days, rather than bunched depressingly round the train station.
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Every quartiere in the city has its own distinctive flavour. For good restaurants, raw energy and true napoletanità, the Centro Storico, Via Toledo & La Sanità and the Port & University are the best areas to explore.
For romantic views and a relaxed, exclusive feel, as well as a slew of art galleries, Chiaia to Posillipo and Royal Naples leave nothing to be desired. They’re also handy for the ports of Mergellina and Beverello, for quick getaways to the islands. If you prefer leafy peace and quiet, retire to the less hectic, mostly residential Vomero district, set on the hill above the centre.
Check exactly where a hotel is before you book: it may not have good transport links, or could be in too lonely a spot. A more expensive hotel in a central, safer area could save on taxis and tension in the long run.
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Italian hotels are classified by the one to five star system; B&Bs, residences and affittacamere (rooms for rent) are not classified at all, and standards vary wildly. It’s never a bad idea to ask to see your room before registering: if the desk clerk has your passport and credit card, it’s much harder to negotiate.
In any case, it’s always best to confirm prices and your reservation before you arrive, and to bring a print-out of the email with the agreed terms to avoid any problems when you come to check out.
If you’re travelling with children, most hotels are happy to put another bed in the room – for which they should charge no more than 35 per cent extra. If you want a single room and are put in a double, you should be charged no more than the highest single rate, or 65 per cent of the price of a double.
In this guide, we have listed hotels according to their price bracket, based on the cost of a double room per night. We have classified hotels costing around €100 and under as budget; €100-€200 as mid-range; €200-€350 as expensive; and €350 and above as luxury. Prices include continental breakfast, unless otherwise stated. Some places give out vouchers for a nearby bar, where you can have the usual Italian breakfast of coffee and a cornetto (croissant). We have indicated hotels where internet access is available, and where it is free of charge.
Naples’ architecture is loved primarily for its Baroque extravaganzas. Inside and out, churches and palazzi writhe with multicoloured marbles and stuccos, swirling in florid arabesques. When it comes to hotels, however, the classic Neapolitan look is more neoclassical – the style favoured by the aristocratic early 19th-century cognoscenti who came here as part of their grand tour. The stately establishments that lined the Lungomare Partenope captured the era perfectly; the bombs of World War II devastated the strip, but the Excelsior remains.
Perhaps an even better example is the Grand Hotel Parker’s, with Greco-Roman statuary and Empire antiques thronging its public rooms. The hotel’s famous panoramic balcony, however, adorned with graceful, caryatid-like figures supporting clusters of lamps, betrays the style that came next: that of the belle époque. This light, bright, turn-of-the-century evocation of post-Unification and pre-World War I buoyancy spread throughout Italy, as well as the Western world. The exterior of the recently-restored Palazzo Decumani provides a fine example.
Towards the end of the epoch, however, the style began to feel too cloyingly Victorian and overwrought. Influenced by Japanese art, a more mannered yet organic style evolved – that of art nouveau, with its emphasis on sinuous vegetation and floral motifs. In Italy the trend became established as ‘Stile Liberty’, named after the London shop that did so much to popularise the style.
Fine examples of Liberty style in Naples include the Costantinopoli 104 and the entrance and foyer of the Pinto-Storey. Other buildings across the city feature Liberty architectural elements and details, such as curvaceous furnishings and stained glass. The celebrated Gran Caffè Gambrinus provides an accessible example of the transition from belle époque to Liberty.
After the madness of World War I came the Bauhaus and other modernist creeds, and a desperate rejection of all cultural symbolism and motif. Decoration of any sort was banished as dangerously atavistic and confining: mankind needed clean, impersonal lines in open, uncluttered spaces in order to be liberated once and for all from the destructive habits and toxic residue of millennia past.
Fascist architecture firmly adhered to the new ideology – best exemplified in Naples by the Palazzo delle Poste e Telegrafi. The Royal Continental, created in the 1950s by architect Giò Ponti and restored over the last few years, is a less ponderous take on the concept. Ponti’s work is typical of the modernist approach, emphasising stripped-down functionality and teaming primary colours with polished natural woods.
More recently, the austerity of modernism has given way to postmodernism, with its eclectic, omnivorous approach to architectural and decorative styles. Cutting-edge design, with references to the city’s contemporary art scene, is integral to rising stars such as the Romeo.
Today, some of the city’s most appealing accommodation options are actually the most ancient. Remodelled convents and monasteries such as Il Convento and the delightful San Francesco al Monte are artful reinventions of ancient buildings, injected with fresh energy and modern influences.
Bagging a bargain
Although Naples is seemingly full of hotels, there is a glut of business clients (it is, after all, the biggest city in southern Italy). At times, rolling up without a booking really doesn’t pay – you’ll find there’s no room in any inn you like the look of. High season includes Easter, spring, autumn, Christmas and New Year. Bargains can be had in summer when the city gets too hot, and from January to March, when there’s a general lull.
Italy’s anti-smoking legislation means that you cannot legally smoke in a public space. Although officially designated smoking bedrooms do exist, most hotels have simply banned smoking altogether.
Monuments in May
If you’re planning to visit Naples in May, book a hotel room well in advance: the Maggio dei Monumenti (see festivals & events in Naples) invariably attracts hordes of visitors to the city.
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