Places we’ve loved: Naples, Florida
Reformed Florida basher Blonde and lifelong Florida booster Brunette knew Naples would be featured in one of our “Places We’ve Loved” posts the moment we began to slobber into our bowls of smooth, creamy gelato from Barbatella’s.
Naples, Marco Island and The Everglades promote themselves as being “Florida’s Paradise Coast” and, having spent time in all three recently, their slogan may actually be the truth. That is very hard for a cynic like Blonde to admit – especially when it carries the added burden of saying her sister’s been right for many years. On the other hand Blonde has been right about everything else, so it’s OK.
Naples is the Kate Middleton of Florida: well-bred but not ostentatious, pretty, smart and fun. Marco Island is Pippa but with a bigger bum and The Everglades is that brother of theirs who took a photo of a hairdryer in his underpants (when he was in them too). Something for everyone!
When it was too cool to swim on Marco Island we headed to Naples so Blonde’s credit card companies would cheer up. The damage started on 5th Avenue in the old downtime area of Naples. We found some attractive clothes at not crazy prices at Vogue Petite Shoppe and had fun trying and buying lightweight clothes at Oh My Gauze for our upcoming trip to Dubai. After doing a fairly thorough stroll both ways on 5th Avenue we walked for about 10 or 15 minutes to get over to the newer and pricier Third Street South shopping area.
Third Street has some chains, Tommy Bahama and Eileen Fisher for example, but also some unusual little boutiques such as Valentina Shoes where Blonde dropped more money on a pair of shoes than she spent on her first car. Their Clorinda Antinori shoes are all handmade in Italy, attractive, comfortable, overpriced and sold by two charming women. Blonde recently saw a cartoon in the New Yorker where one woman was saying to another “My philosophy is, if the shoe exists, buy it”. Blonde agrees!
We had a little time to kill before our next meal – seemingly never more than two hours apart in Florida – so decided to spend it somewhere “safe” where we wouldn’t be tempted to spend money – Spruce’s. Brunette had been spending way too much time in home goods stores furnishing her new condo on Marco Island and had no interest in purchasing another thing. Blonde didn’t need home goods in general – much less in Florida where she doesn’t have a home. No risk browsing only. Perfect.
Then we met the very friendly (she gave us wine!!) Sarah and Brunette bought a top (how were we supposed to know they sold clothing too?) and, never one to be outdone, Blonde bought a dress.
When Sarah was ringing up the clothes Blonde heard her talking to someone about how many things were going on sale the following day. Blonde inquired if a rattan footstool she liked would be marked down.
Yes, it would be! Great news!
Blonde purchased it because Brunette (rudely) hadn’t purchased a footstool for Blonde and she had to have one. And you can’t put your feet on rattan and be comfortable so she was forced to buy a lovely rabbit hair throw to cushion her tootsies.
Stomachs finally over-ruled further shopping so, on the advice of Sarah from Spruce, we had dinner next door at the Ridgway Bar & Grill. They have a lovely porch that is over a quiet street and we enjoyed being able to sit outside and savor the knowledge that our friends and family up North were suffering from the extreme cold they were experiencing.
Naples has lots of restaurants and many of them offer the famous Florida “Early Bird Specials”. But as much as we like to snicker at the idea we sure liked those prices and it wasn’t as if anyone we knew could see us eating at unglamorous times. Brunette was quite fond of the deal at Bice. They offer three courses for $24 with one glass of selected wine from 11:30am to 6pm and “Late Bird” from 9:30pm to close. Brunette likes their outdoor seating, live entertainment and authentic attitudinal Sicilian waiter! Cafe Mango is the scene of another of Brunette’s culinary bargains. They have an unbelievable “stimulus package” deal of two entrees and a bottle of wine for $39 and it’s not limited to any particular hours.
There are some lovely high end places to eat that we hope to check out on our next visit. We heard good things about Baleen’s for dinner and The Turtle Club for lunches. We also hear the Ritz Carlton is a great place to have an adult beverage and watch the sunset.
Beyond the basics of food and shopping Naples also has a historic (over 100 years old) public pier you can walk out on. It’s a very short walk from the Third Street South shopping area. We saw fishermen packing up to leave and tourists coming out to see the sunset.
Although we knew we probably wouldn’t find it to be open we drove to the Naples Museum of Art. They were having a concert by Pink Martini that evening and, despite knowing it was sold out, Blonde thought she could show up and have tickets materialize. Wrong again. Not exactly the kind of joint with scalpers in the parking lot. Oops!
It’s a gorgeous building though and from the website several things sound interesting. We’d like to see the Persian Ceiling by glass artist Dale Chihuly. If you’re trying to keep costs down the museum has free admission on the last Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m, they throw in live entertainment and you can have cocktails or even a meal. Next time for sure!
One last feature of Naples (and a whole lot aren’t being mentioned if you can believe that) is the Naples Botanical Garden. Brunette went there after packing Blonde back off to freezing Boston and has cruelly taunted her sister with picture after gorgeous picture of the place ever since. (Wish she’d gotten poison ivy there….). There’s a Butterfly Garden (never knew they were plants until now!) There are also Asian, Brazilian, Florida gardens, a children’s garden, a water garden and a nature sanctuary. This is all very impressive as the place has barely existed for 10 years. Only in recent years have they had the funding to grow up which they appear to have done intelligently (as opposed to, say, Miley Cyrus).
Naples is about as cool as you can get in Florida (we consider Miami to be a sovereign nation) with its combination of good food, lots of art whether in fairs, galleries or museums, lively musical scene and did we mention shopping? They have event after event ranging from wine auctions to a day recently when men were wearing red dresses all over town. And why not?
In March Naples holds an annual Antique Autos Show (on the 16th of the month in 2013) that has more than 100 cars and is free to attend. They would appreciate a donation for a local charity and that seems like a fair deal. Their website says “This year’s show will also feature renowned French artist Rody, who will be on hand exhibiting her paintings of vintage automobiles in the streets of Europe. Also, Rody will give a live demonstration as she paints a carefully selected antique auto from the show”. Cool.
Naples is not the Florida of Mom jeans, fanny pants, and sneakers. It has a casual and somewhat preppy New England look in the styles of many of the residents and visitors (probably because they all went there to escape New England). If you get a chance to visit Naples try to give yourself more than one day as it can’t all be properly “done in one”.
However, if your time is really limited – at least get one of those gelatos before you breeze on past!