The Best Way To Spend Two Days In Naples, Florida

This article originally appeared in Forbes Travel, February 2018.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. Credit: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC

There’s no better place for a weekend recharge than the shores of Southwest Florida, an everglade oasis where traffic is defined as three golf carts waiting to tee off. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that one of the best addresses for a weekender in this corner of the Sunshine State is The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, a Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star stay-and-play stunner. Once you check into your Club Level room, you’ll see exactly what we mean.

Day One
Start your adventure by heading down to Third Street South in historic Old Naples, the original enclave of the 1930s town. The palm-tree-lined road is an elegant shopping area with great boutiques, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and art galleries.

If you start to get hungry during your perusing, you’re in luck. For at least three blocks, this quaint avenue has a lineup of street-side restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating. We highly recommend stopping by Sea Salt, a seafood-centric trattoria from chef Fabrizio Aielli. The Italian toque stocks his restaurant with more than 100 different types of salt and offers a fusion menu (with a bent toward his native Venice) featuring innovative delicacies such as crispy octopus in a black bean pear sauce, ravioli stuffed with braised veal and salt-encrusted branzino.

The Greens From Your Gorgeous Room. Credit: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC

After lunch, stroll this historic street to find a few souvenirs. Fashionistas know that Marissa is always the first stop. The gorgeous corner boutique is Southwest Florida’s hub for designer favorites as well as edgier labels, including MSGM, Derek Lam and jewelry designer BiBi van der Velden. For the home, browse Gattle’s, a 110-year-old emporium of luxury linens, fabulous flatware and lavish lingerie. 

Beachcombers will love Old Naples Surf Shop, where boards are king and all things beach can be found. On Saturday mornings, the back parking lot turns into the Third Street South Farmer’s Market, an open-air forum of vendors selling tropical fruit and citrus, freshly caught seafood, coffee, dog treats and more.

When you’re ready for your first Southwest Florida sunset, head back to the Golf Resort and hop on the hotel’s complimentary shuttle for a 10-minutes-in-traffic drive to . The Five-Star seaside sister hotel sits on 20 beachfront acres and is surrounded by palm trees. 

Take a walk through the garden to the beach for the sunset and then grab a table at Dusk, the luxury property’s chic sushi restaurant, where craft cocktails are served with creative hand rolls. Shuttle back in time for a nightcap on the 18th hole at the Golf Resort’s Bella Vista Lounge.

High Tee. Credit: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC

Day Two
After a great night’s sleep in your Club Level room overlooking the links, swing by the exclusive Club Lounge for complimentary coffee and a quick bite before making your way down to the greens — it’s finally tee time at the resort’s acclaimed Tiburón Golf Club.

Play 18 in a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Yes, the two tropical courses here are also a nature reserve, so expect to find protected flora and fauna along the holes.

If you’re not up for a full round, simply spend the morning polishing your swing at Tiburon’s Impact Zone Golf Academy.

And If the fairway isn’t your idea of fun, opt to rally with a USPTA-certified tennis instructor on the property’s four Har-Tru courts.

The beauty of Naples is that you are so close to mangroves, lakes and a slew of natural parks. Spend your afternoon with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and sign up for a free nature walk to find turtles, snakes and manatees or take an eco-cruise down the Gordon River.

Kayaking in Naples. Credit: Erica Firpo

Get a closer look at the region’s abundant wildlife with a guided tour by water through Wiggin’s Pass with Naples Kayak Company.

Following your afternoon of activity, indulge in some serious seafood. Snag a river-facing table at The Bay House, a gorgeous veranda restaurant on the nearby Cocohatchee River at Walkerbilt Road. The nautically themed eatery offers true hometown hospitality — a wooden rowboat hangs over the Claw Bar, where local bands play live sets Wednesday through Saturday and walls of windows give you a glimpse of neighborhood trawlers floating by.

Chef Jamie Knapp celebrates Southern cuisine and seafood with his seasonally curated menu of favorites like Charleston carpet bagger steak with bayou remoulade and St. Augustine stew practically overflowing with the day’s fresh catch. The Claw Bar features some of the best crustaceans Southern Florida has to offer.

If you have any energy for a nightcap, make the breezy 20-minute drive from The Bay House down to Truluck’s at Four-Star Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites. The stylishly casual eatery has an intimate piano bar that’s just the place for an evening toast and a reflective chat on all that you’ve discovered over your Naples weekend.

When The Moon Hits Your Eye

This is the cheapest ticket to Napoli
(a Neapolitan fortune)
In February, I went to Napoli and ate what I considered The Best Pizza Ever. The cheese was sweet, the red sauce was sweeter and the crust was dreamy. Completely different from thin Roman pizza, pizza napoletana is thick and chewy on its circumference and thin in the center. After I finished my pizza and some of mini-e's, I realized that I was wrong. The Absolute Best Pizza was the marinara at the table next to me--garlicky, full of oregano and no cheese. Ever since, I've been trying to come up with an excuse to go back to Napoli.

I don’t know if its motherhood or economic crisis residue, but lately, I need raison d'etres, no more je ne sais quoi. Rumor has it that Naples is the southern Mediterranean's magnet for contemporary artists, with the MADRE, Museo d’Arte Donna Regina as its hub. I immediately thought of my friend A who I've seen only a few times this entire year (she lives 2 km from me) and who needs more contemporary art in her life.

Due to aforementioned economic crisis, A would be forced into my cheap and cheerful train regime: the 2 ½ hour, infrequent Regionale at 10.50 euro one way. And also subjected to my stepmom transformation as I had to be back in Rome for mini-e's recital. Total: 4 hours in Napoli. A agreed and easily purchased a ticket on Trenitalia's updated site. The trip was kismet.

Our timing was impeccable. On the way to and fro the MADRE, we popped into a rebel art show on the walls of via Settembrini and the alley off to its side (vicolo Campanile qualcosa). The make-shift and literal side show was protesting the Madre’s Urban Superstars exhibition. Apparently, no Napolitani were chosen for the show so several artists did an in situ exhibition practically on the MADRE walls. It was better.

Note: MADRE's permanent collection (opened in 2005) literally rocks the house. Koons, Clemente, Schnabel, Boetti, Klein, Manzoni, Hirst, and on and on.

Click on this image to really see the beauty, please*

That taken care of, we went to da Michele for a fantasy come true: a marinara and coke in a glass bottle pour moi and a margherita and beer for A. Stuffed, we crawled to the station and still had 15 minutes to lazily seats. A nearly perfect day. The only brutte figure we experienced were getting yelled at on the train for talking too much by a Neapolitan woman who spoke straight out of Gommorah (seriously?) and A's careful and subtle removal of garlic from her slice of marinara. Yes, A, you committed a Neapolitan sin. San Gennaro's blood isn't going to transform this year.

*This is beautiful. Kind of like Il Quarto Stato (Volpedo), aside from the obvious. . .

** . . . and so is her plaid, stocking-wearing motorino fashion


via dei Tribunali, Napoli

Bella Napoli. From what I was told, the pizza is better and women mature faster in Naples. Snapped this nun on the street while eating pizza a portafoglio (perhaps the best pizza in the world) and just before we [almost] hopped the fence into an archaeological site run by a gang of 13-year-olds. They had the keys.

And no, this is not my baby.