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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 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.

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 locals come to run, walk and meet up. 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). They taste even better with the view of the royal palace and the peaceful atmosphere of the park on a quiet, midweek day. Next time, we’ll try the menu’s “forest snack:” a tray of artisanal melba toast, homemade apple jam and yogurt made with latte nobile, a high quality milk hailing from mountain grazing lands. The savory pizzetta also looks tempting.

After our coffee, it’s time to walk and 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-hectare park hosts around 10,000 plant species (including rare ones). Access is free on weekdays (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, fragrant citrus plants, bamboo groves and succulent gardens, getting lost in the tropical-like shade of ferns and mangroves.

We finally leave the garden to plunge again into the lively chaos of the city once more. 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, the seemingly endless construction of which 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 non-alcoholic freschissimo (lime juice, cedrata soda 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 our next destination is only a few steps away (though an exhibit can always catch the eye, or we could have reservations for the castle). Right at the corner of the square, facing the castle and the building site, 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 on the upper floor.

But for a quick and cheap carb-heavy meal, we opt for Di Martino’s takeaway counter, 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 another 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 del Plebiscito, embraced by the twin colonnades of the basilica of San Francesco di Paola.

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 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 (“without sugar,” if you like it bitter as we do), lulled by the soft rolling of the boats docked in front of us and by the shape of Vesuvius looming in the background.

At this point of the day, we are too tired and relaxed to walk to 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.

This article was originally published on April 18, 2023.

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