As far back as I can remember, I have always felt an irresistible attraction for the islands. I like their particular lights, their changing landscapes during the day and especially the feeling of moving away from the world. You have to know how to tame them and get lost to taste their sweetness. Despite a few niggles related to its highly touristic reputation, Capri was certainly one of my most beautiful island encounters… I could not resist the desire to stay with my kids during our last family trip to Italy, to discover the Bay of Naples.
At home, the end of summer often begins with a trip to Europe before the big rush of the return. And I admit that it is always with a certain delectation that we go to the airport to fly to some beautiful discoveries before going back to work! This year, it was in the south of Italy that our suitcases took us. For many travelers, the only contacts with Italy are in Rome, Florence or Venice. So this time, I decided to share with you our special attachment to this region with a big heart where we really feel Italy vibrate: Campania.
On the way to the Bay of Naples and Capri in the footsteps of the writer and humanist journalist Curzio Malaparte or Jean-Luc Godard, who lived in the famous villa with Brigitte Bardot, two hours of flight separate Paris from Naples, so but a trifle for a real change of scenery. When you have the chance to go on this beautiful coastline out of season, in this case in mid-September or spring, it is essential to stay a few days in Capri to savour all the treasures to every hour of the day.
A superb steamer suspended gracefully on a cliff, the Capri Palace Hotel & Spa ***** majestically overhangs the sea offering to its guests a spectacular view of the Gulf of Naples. This privileged location makes the hotel one of Capri’s key addresses for an authentic and exotic stay. Itinerary
My advice: It is undoubtedly by the sea that Capri reveals itself most beautifully. From the port of Naples, I advise you to take the ferry for an hour of crossing which will delight your youngest travellers. The arrival on Capri is magnificent and one embraces the island at a glance, which is as much prized for its rugged landscapes as for its beautiful shops and local craftsmen and nightlife. However, for thrill-seekers, the hotel also offers a transfer in private speed boat or helicopter.
Located in Anacapri, in the west of the island, the hotel is a real haven of peace just fifteen minutes from the bubbling centre of Capri. The Capri Palace particularly seduced us because it keeps its promises in terms of a family stay. More than half of its 68 rooms are linked and suitable for families, not to mention its six suites with a garden and private pool. As for the contemporary Mediterranean decor of the rooms, it is really soothing.
The hotel, of course, offers all the necessary equipment for the comfort of the little ones and has a great asset, a Beach Club that is spread over three terraces installed on the side of rocks. The view is amazing! The spa unveils a very complete care card which can be enjoyed by entrusting your children to the babysitting service of the hotel. For excursions, we opted for beautiful boat trips to discover creeks with clear turquoise waters, another way to discover the sea for our dear little ones that we do not forget to cover with a hat and sunscreen for the occasion!
Contrary to popular belief, I find that Capri is a nice destination for families. Its rich and contrasting landscapes offer young people the opportunity to learn about the beauty of nature, the pleasure of walks and the art of contemplation. It is important to dare to choose destinations where you do not only find amusement parks or tourist shops.
This little spot full of emotions cannot leave anyone indifferent. To get around, there is a well-supplied network of public transport, taxis and also hotel shuttles, not to mention more local means such as scooters that can go anywhere, including with the family. We were surprised to regularly see families of 3 people (sometimes even 4!) on the same scooter! This is of course not recommended but is totally part of local folklore.
The blue cave (directions) with its electric blue water. Thanks to the subtle refraction of the sun’s rays, the light penetrates this dark cavity via a very narrow access point, giving the water its unique reflection. It is reached by sea when weather permits, by means of rowing boats rented at Lido di Gradola on the north-west coast. Capri has been famous for its beauty since antiquity and this preserved site was already known and appreciated by the Romans.
Another fun local attraction for children is the funicular (directions), which leaves from the island’s main harbour, Marina Grande, and climbs up to the old town of Capri.
The island is also famous for its many remains of villas dating from the time of the Emperor Augustus such as Villa Jovis (directions), one of the 12 residences of Tiberius (who was the second Roman emperor after Augustus) located in belvedere at 334m altitude. With its 7000 sqm, it is like a palace and says a lot about the festive life of the emperors in Roman times … A plunge into history that will not fail to interest the youngest. More contemporary, Villa Malaparte (directions) can provide a beautiful walk with breathtaking views. It was built for Curzio Malaparte, a writer, journalist and contemporary Italian war correspondent, former editor of the Stampa and a character known for the beauty of his writing.
On the gourmet side, Capri is home to a delicious ice cream parlour, the Gelateria Buonocore, famous for its warm, quick cookie cones, which contrast beautifully with ice cream (directions). And finally, the beach! Because it is while bathing that we can savour the best the blue waters which surround Capri. Attention, many bathing points are only accessible by the sea, an opportunity to enjoy the boat tours offered by the Capri Palace.
From Naples to Amalfi, the Amalfi Coast reveals its riches and offers panoramas of beauty. In winter, the deep blue of the omnipresent sea mingles with the intense yellow of lemon trees, while rocky coasts and beaches of fine sand coexist with ancient vestiges and baroque architecture. And, in bad weather, when Vesuvius darkens under the clouds, the atmosphere becomes even more spectacular with the culmination, of course, of the site of Pompeii, frozen forever by the anger of the volcano.
After having slept for thousands of years, on August 24, 79, Vesuvius awakened with spectacular violence and covered the city of Pompeii with ashes, which was petrified forever. This striking archaeological site is of great cultural interest for a family visit (directions). In this place steeped in history, we decipher the culture of the Roman world and discover everyday life at the turn of each street. It would, of course, take several days to properly discover this vast site but a few hours may be enough for the youngest to understand the way of life of the Romans.
It is recommended to take a guide adapted to the young public or to have audio-guides and plans that offer suggestions of circuits among the maze of streets. The most spectacular is reserved for the youngest, the Anfiteatro, which can accommodate 20,000 people. And next door, the house that our children preferred, the Casa di Venere, famous for its remarkably well-preserved fresco depicting Venus with a shell.
If you are travelling with young kids, visit the site during the spring season to avoid the heat that invades the site at the finest hours of summer. Anyway, caution is required face of the rays of the sun for toddlers. Find all our tips in our articles about baby sun creams and baby sunglasses.
« See Naples and die. ». This expression, used by the Neapolitans means that their city is so beautiful that once it has been seen, the rest does not matter! And I must admit that I totally get it. It took me just a few hours to fall in love with this authentic coastal city that offers the visitor a mix of casualness and elegance.
A lively and colourful stopover, Naples offers its virtues to those who want to discover them. In Naples, there is no rule for a successful stay. You have to know how to get lost in the intimacy of the city, to feel your heartbeat at 100 miles per hour. You must blend in with local life and habits. Behind its hectic face, Naples reveals a complex personality that’s both endearing and disproportionate. The girls loved the joyful atmosphere of the city as well as the cultural and gourmet breaks that we skilfully mixed together.
My advice: Avoid taxis and opt instead for local means of transport that will delight children. The metro (air-conditioned) has only a few lines but is very convenient, train side, the rail network is rather dense and cities such as Pompeii are very well served. More original, a funicular connects the city centre to the pleasant residential area of the hill Vomero where is located Castel Sant’Elmo, imposing medieval fortress that has no great interest in terms of visits but where we have the most beautiful 360° view of the Bay of Naples and the city centre (directions).
Right next to it is the Certosa di San Martino, one of the most beautiful remains of monastic life in Naples, perched 250 metres above sea level (directions). A true jewel of the Neapolitan Baroque style, it is famous for its beautifully kept hanging gardens and its dapper cloister. This former convent has several museums including a beautiful department that contains a collection of cribs made by Neapolitan artisans over the years.
Finally, to finish with the means of local transport, do not miss to take the traditional pedal cars that are found everywhere on the seafront and allow to walk kilometres with family and in the good mood!
Naples is so full of riches to discover that I would take care not to give you an exhaustive list, but I noted some spots that we particularly appreciated.
Let’s start with a bit of culture with a must-see place, the Museo Capodimonte which houses the Farnese collection with some beautiful pieces in paintings or sculpture. Justine has retained the paintings of Joachim Bueckelaer, Dutch painter of the sixteenth century who represents in his paintings markets so realistic that one would almost want to eat the products stalls! The fish market or the butcher’s shop is amazing (directions). Note that if you walk to the museum of Capodimonte, you cross the very popular area of Sanita that allows you to truly immerse yourself in the spirit of the city. We did it on a Sunday morning and it was a joy to meet the Neapolitans who greet you with joy by launching cordial « Buona Domenica ». Attention, as often in Naples, some departments are open to the public only in the morning while others are only open in the afternoon. It is, therefore, better to inquire before the visit to select the right niches…
A change of style with a visit to the Madre Contemporary Art Museum, to show our children that culture is not just « old stuff »! There are permanent exhibitions with works by Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons and Italian artists such as Umberto Manzo and Gianni Pisani. But also temporary exhibitions (directions). When we went there, there was a particularly interesting connection between Pompeii and the Madre museum. We did not always understand everything but it was very refreshing in terms of its openness!
Our favourite is the beautiful Galeria Umberto I, a shopping arcade built at the end of the 19th century, reminiscent in many respects of Milan’s famous Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery (directions).
Now let’s get down to business with a few words about local cuisine. The richness of the Neapolitan cuisine makes it very accessible to all and one is sure to always find happiness, especially in terms of pasta or pizza! For starters, a kind of legend, the Antica Pizzeria and Friggitoria Di Matteo who has built his reputation in recent years on the visit of President Bill Clinton in 1994 at the G7 (directions). While strolling along Via dei Tribunali, one of the typical shopping streets of the city, the American President had simply savoured Di Matteo’s real Neapolitan pizza and had not hidden from having greatly appreciated it. You can either order a pizza or one of the delicious fries to take away, or sit for a moment in the dining room. In the middle of the summer season, finding a table is a miracle!
In the same street, it is absolutely necessary to push the door of Limoné, an authentic factory of Limoncello which works with ancestral methods and in bio (directions). Depending on the time, you can see some stages of production and taste the lemon products that are made there. Did you know that to make limoncello, it is necessary to macerate during 10 days barks of lime and not of lemon yellow as the colour could indicate it because the lime contains more essential oils, beneficial to the digestion?
Another famous pizzeria where it is good to dine in his little garden is Mattozi (directions). We are here in the luxury shopping district, just above the seafront, in the famous Via Gaetano Filial. A little further on the same street, the Gran Caffè Cimmino where you can enjoy delicious snacks at any time of the day, including the famous Sfogliatelle accompanied by a cappuccino (directions). We think to go there at the time of the Aperitivo where the atmosphere is at the top. Athénaïs and Justine particularly enjoyed the granita (Granita) with lemon.
A few streets down, for the youngest, a nice concept for lunch or dinner, Gourmeet. This real Food Court where you will find a supermarket, a bar, a wine cellar and a counter with small snacks, also contains a quiet and pleasant Osteria where to enjoy contemporary Italian cuisine that is inspired by traditional cuisine… A great spot for a family with a warm welcome that goes hand in hand (directions).
Finally, still in the same neighbourhood, a few steps from Piazza dei Martiri, a narrow alley leads to a small square where there is a restaurant with an improbable entrance. And yet, you can taste l’Altro Cocoloco one of the most interesting gastronomies of the city in a very pleasant setting (directions).
For the rest, everyone will appreciate Naples feeling, according to his desires and moods of the day. We can not over-recommend a trip to Naples, with the desire to live like a true Neapolitan.
Catherine, married, Justine’s mom, from Paris