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Savor the Gulf Coast elegance of Naples

Temporarily upended by Hurricane Ian, the city’s shops and restaurants are booming again.
 
Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples, Florida is known for its high-end shopping.
Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples, Florida is known for its high-end shopping. [ Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB ]
Published June 4, 2023

Naples has my heart. Sometimes my New York City soul longs for a sophisticated shopping and dining “slice of paradise” a la Madison Avenue, Worth Avenue or to find that Rodeo Drive je ne sais quoi vibe. What a fab girlfriend getaway, and less than three hours south of St. Petersburg.

After Hurricane Ian hit, Naples was temporarily turned upside down. Today, restaurants are booming, shops are crowded and award-winning chefs are designing new menus. The Naples Art District is back, showcasing over 125 art studios, museums and galleries. The key to a relaxing getaway: Book hotel and restaurant reservations well in advance.

Eat, shop, sleep, repeat

If you want to sleep in the heart of it all, make reservations for the Inn on Fifth at 699 Fifth Ave. S. Upon arrival, your car is whisked off at valet and you can use a complimentary Tesla X (with “wings” that open up as doors) to explore the town for the next 24 hours. The hotel is also oh-so-walkable to explore over 30 restaurants, 50 shops, galleries, theaters and the beach.

Naples, one of Florida's wealthiest cities, is known for its beautiful beaches and magnificent homes.
Naples, one of Florida's wealthiest cities, is known for its beautiful beaches and magnificent homes. [ DARRON R. SILVA | Visit Florida ]

The Ritz-Carlton Beach Resort has been closed since the storm. That hurt. It will reopen this summer and debut its “Evolution of an Icon” featuring a new lobby, bar, three new dining spots, pool and guest rooms. The new Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge will span 4,000 square feet with dramatic-floor-to-ceiling ocean views, and the spa will offer over-the-top pampering.

The golf-loving family option at the Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburon, a golf resort a few miles from the beach, offers an outdoor adventure for families called the “RESERVOIR” with waterslides, a winding lazy river and splash zones. The Ritz Kids Golf Clinics has instruction for the little ones. Since we were staying here for a girls getaway, we didn’t love the fact we had a 20-minute journey back and forth to town but did thoroughly enjoy the pampering at The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge.

Romantic Naples

The intimate Escalante, a four-star hotel a block from the beach in downtown Naples, is a hidden romantic gem with just 11 bungalows. Enjoy the Veranda E restaurant for al fresco dining in a lush tropical setting.

Happy hour and dining like a local

Our happy hour tradition: a chocolate martini at Ocean Prime and then dinner at the landmark eatery called Campiello, a restaurant staple of Naples’s Third Street South for 25 years. The Vine Room has a sexy speakeasy vibe where you feel like Frank Sinatra could walk in any minute as guests sip a smoky cocktail.

Del Mar Naples serves a classic 5th Avenue Margarita and Bar Tulia offers The Espresso Martini. The best mojitos are at Molto Trattoria. Rebecca’s Wine Bar wows with a new 40-foot wine bar and charcuterie room.

A local food critic friend offers other tips: BICE, The Capital Grille, D’Amicos The Continental and Chops City Grill. Andre’s Steak House is the closest thing to Brooklyn’s Peter Luger’s.

For seafood, you can’t beat the ambience and music at Truluck’s, and SAILS is also exceptional. For Italian it’s the Amore Ristorante. Locals love Trattoria Angela, run by owners Enrico and Angela from Naples, Italy. And when in town, we always say hello to Chef Fabrizio and Ingrid Aielli, owners of Sea Salt (the “sister” restaurant of the one at Sundial in St. Petersburg).

Luxury shopping

The focus of life in Naples is the two main districts: Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South.

My girlfriend and I head to Naples every year to get a jump on holiday gifts and head straight to BRUNO for a unique variety: Baccarat and Gianni Versace to Izipizi glasses only found in Paris.

Yamron jewelers has been in business for over 50 years and is the only authorized Patek Philippe dealer on the west coast of Florida. Waterside Shops has other luxury brands: Rolex, Tiffany, Swarovski, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Head to the waterfront Village Shops on Venetian Bay, where you can shop at an eclectic array of stores or dine at any of the six restaurants. But for children’s clothing, try LuLu Belle in the Mercato mall.

Monkeys and mansions

If you are traveling with the kids, check out the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, with lions, kangaroos and more. To explore the waterfront and its magnificent homes, The Naples Princess offers daily cruises, and the popular sunset dinner cruise is a local favorite.

The Naples Zoo in southwest Florida is a popular attraction for families with kids.
The Naples Zoo in southwest Florida is a popular attraction for families with kids. [ Susan Taylor Martin ]

Winter Wine Festival

Traveling to Naples in the winter? Pack the gowns and jewels; residents take the social season here very seriously. The international Naples Winter Wine Festival attracts visitors from around the globe to one of the nation’s top charity auctions in the world. Last February, guests raised $25 million in one evening to benefit the Naples Children and Education Foundation. The next date is the weekend of Jan. 26, 2024, at the Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburon.

FREE FUN: Count the Ferraris at a Cars and Coffee gathering the first Saturday of every month. It’s hosted by Naples Motorsports, one of the top exotic car dealers in the USA.

For more information about Naples, visit paradisecoast.com.