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Spring in Naples is the sweetest season. As in many Italian and Mediterranean cities, the sunlight is gentle and temperatures are mild, which makes walking the ups and downs of the hilly city more enjoyable. And, should the blue of the sky be shaded by the clouds, the white-and-blue celebratory flags which anticipate the long-awaited local soccer team’s victory at the national soccer championship – defeating the Neapolitans’ famous superstition – restore the appropriate shade at every corner of the city.

If it’s still too early – for most of people, at least – to take a swim in the gulf or cruise it on a kayak, this is the perfect time to explore Naples on foot, discovering its unexpected green soul. Parks, woods, gardens and verdant courtyards makes excellent stopovers to reinvigorate body and spirit along the road, and the generous taste of local food works its magic as well. To help you make the most of Naples en plein air, while discovering some lesser-known corner of the city, we’re sharing our guide to a perfect spring day. All you need are good walking shoes and a day card for local transport to be free to cut short some route.

From MANN (the stunning National Archaeological Museum of Naples), the small bus of the 3M circle line – connecting three major museums, including the Catacombs of San Gennaro – easily climbs up to the National Museum of Capodimonte and the Royal Forest, a former royal mansion now hosting wonderful art collections and a beautiful park where local people come to run, walk and meet. Yet, for today, we skip the inner rooms and decide to enjoy the spring sun and fresh air, taking an outdoor seat at Delizie Reali. A part of an annex formerly used as a greenhouse and nursery in the 19th century and thus named “La Stufa dei Fiori” (Flowers’ stove), it has been carefully renovated, keeping the original intense hue of blue – called Cyprus’s vitriol – of the inner walls, and turned into a bistro which serves breakfast, lunch, cakes and cheese boards to match herbal teas, wines and craft beers. We order a coffee and a cornetto (the local take on croissant, more similar to a brioche bread), which tastes even better with the view of the royal palace and the peaceful atmosphere of the park in a quiet midweek day. Next time, though, we’ll try the “Forest snack”: a full tray with artisanal melba toast, homemade apple jam and the delicious yogurt made with latte nobile, a high quality milk hailing from the regional mountain grazing lands. Or maybe, a savory pizzetta.

Then, it’s time to walk and to dive into the very heart of Naples. Leaving Capodimonte Forest from the main gate (Porta Grande), we cross the road and take a small alley leading to a panoramic street and then to the steps of Salita Moiariello, where we greet local ladies cleaning their houses and lazy cats lying in the sun. Almost suddenly, the peace of the alleys gives way to the bustle of the city: in less than half an hour we have reached via Foria, not too far from our starting point at MANN. This time, though, we turn left and walk a few more steps to reach the beautiful Botanical Garden: opened in 1810, the 15-hectares park hosts around 10,000 plant species including rare ones, mostly divided accordingly to specie and habitat. Access is free (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.), though the Garden is not a public park but rather a research facility of the University of Naples Federico II, featuring museums, greenhouses and laboratories. We wander through blooming camellia trees, smelling citrus, bamboo groves and succulent gardens, getting lost into the tropical-like shade of ferns and mangroves.

Next, we leave the garden to plunge again into the lively chaos of the city. We walk through Via Duomo, decorated in blue and white, until we reach the magnificent cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro, and his mural portrait made by the street artist Jorit. Here we make a quick stop at Mon Sciù pastry shop to admire the Easter windows inspired by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, and to taste a delicious chocolate choux pastry. We get back on the road towards piazza Municipio and the massive Maschio Angioino, or New Castle: another royal seat and a landmark of the city, which looks out over the harbor. From here we can take the underground at Duomo station and get off at Municipio, one of Naples’s “Art stations”: designed by the Portuguese architects Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura – and decorated by the artists Mimmo Jodice and Michal Rovner – the station shares the austere and linear design of the new outdoor setting of the huge square, by the same architects, whose seemingly endless construction has been criticized by many locals.

We prefer to wait until the square is finished to give our opinion; in the meantime, we seek peaceful refuge in the lovely courtyard of the nearby Palazzo Fondi, a building dating back to the 18th century and which has been turned into an art and digital culture hub, hosting events, exhibitions, art installations and temporary offices. What is permanent these days is the offer of Barrio Botanico, a nice cafe and cocktail bar whose tables are spread over the courtyard and under the colonnade, adorned with plants and colorful decorations. It’s too early to drink something more substantial, so we order a thirst-quenching, no-alcohol drink (we choose the freschissimo: lime juice, cedrata and ginger beer) and a massive panino napoletano to share: a savory snack made of leavened dough with salami, cheese and eggs.

We don’t want to spoil our appetite, since it’s only a few steps – unless one decides to visit an exhibit or the castle (only upon reservation) – to reach our next destination. Right at the corner of the square, facing the castle and the building site fences, the Sea Front Pasta Bar is a brilliant place devoted to Naples’s most iconic food after pizza: pasta, of course. It’s actually run by Pasta Di Martino, a local brand, with a shop at ground level and a refined restaurant at the upper floor. But for a quick and cheap carb-heavy meal, we opt for La Devozione To-Go right around the corner. At the window counter, we order our serving (125 grams or 4.4 ounces, approximately) of the eponymous recipe, La Devozione. This is what they have dubbed their version of the most basic and worshipped pasta dish in Naples and Campania: spaghetti di gragnano pgi with sauce made of corbarino tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil, with a slice of bread at the bottom to devotedly sop up the remaining sauce. This comes – at a convenient €5 – in the unique branded takeaway box, and we take a seat at the tables in front of the main shop to enjoy our meal in the sun. The takeaway menu also offers other combinations of pasta shapes and sauces, such as rigatoni and carbonara or paccheri and Scarpariello (tomatoes, Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh basil). When the construction finally finishes, the view of the castle and the sea will add some magic to the meal, despite the nonstop traffic.

It’s time for a coffee, and some more walking. We pass by the majestic façades of the San Carlo theatre (this, too, under renovation) and of the Royal Palace, now also hosting a Caravaggio exhibition, and take a quick picture of the grandiose hemicycle of piazza Plebiscito, embraced by the twin colonnades of the basilica of San Francesco di Paola. Finally, the sea awaits us: flanking the deep blue we step out into the so-called Borgo Marinari, a maze of restaurants and cafés nestled on the islet of Megaride, linked to the mainland by an isthmus. The area is overlooked by the legendary Castel dell’Ovo (“Egg Castle”), the oldest castle of Naples, which is unfortunately closed for renovation. But most of people are here to enjoy a seafood dish or a coffee facing the sea, and so are we: we are lucky enough to find a table at Transatlantico, an old-fashioned restaurant still very popular amongst locals and visitors, and we can finally enjoy our espresso (remember to ask for “without sugar” if you like it bitter), feeling almost mesmerized by the soft rolling of the boats docked in front of us end by the shape of Vesuvius in the background.

At this point of the day, we are too tired and relaxed to choose one of the lively and crowded bars of the central area behind the nearby Villa Communale park. So, we take a taxi instead, and head to another of the city’s grand hills: Posillipo, the charming borough which got its name from the ancient Greek villa of Pausilypon, meaning “the place where all the pains end.” The area abounds with panoramic views: from the wide sidewalk in Via Petrarca to the terraces of Parco Virgiliano, overlooking the “other” gulf, with Pozzuoli and the Miseno cape. Yet, since nothing eases the pain (or the weariness from a long, full day) like a good pie, we opt for one last bite: at Palazzo Petrucci, the elegant building hosting the one-Michelin star restaurant of the same name by chef Lino Scarallo. Here, the second floor is dedicated to the pairing of cocktails and pizza (and many other “leavened foods”) made by chef Michele Leo. And so it is here that we end our perfect day with a slice of Margherita and a sip of a bright yellow citrus-and vodka-mix to make a toast, naturally, to Spring.

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Luciana SquadrilliLuciana Squadrilli

Published on April 18, 2023

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