Just Back From Naples

A destination for savvy travelers since the Grand Tour

UNESCO has added Naples' magnificent historic center to its very select list of World Heritage Sites. The traffic may be chaotic and purse-snatching a sport (leave your valuables in the hotel safe), but Naples has been a destination for savvy travelers since the Grand Tour—and for good reason.

Grandest of the Grands
Upper-floor rooms with a sea view are best at the Grand Hotel Vesuvio, which faces the 16th-century fortress Castel dell'Ovo and the harbor of Santa Lucia. Suites (the Caruso Suite) are perfection, with antiques, luxurious silks, and 18th-century paintings. The lobby's grand staircase is frescoed with Neapolitan scenes, and the roof garden restaurant has palm trees and a superb view of the Gulf of Naples. The brand-new Echia Club has a gym, sauna, and steam bath. Personal trainers and massages can also be arranged. $257-$1,163. 45 Via Partenope; 39-081-764-0044; fax 39-081-764-4483. www.vesuvio.it

Room with a View
The Hotel Excelsior's corner location offers incredible views. A few doors up the street from the Vesuvio and owned by the same people, it's midway through a sweeping yet unobtrusive restoration. Rooms with a sea view will be the last to be renovated, but mine was in perfect condition. Room 212, a junior suite with a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Naples, Capri, and the Sorrento Coast, is decorated in deep rose and ivory silk. A buffet breakfast is served in the spectacular La Terrazza roof restaurant overlooking Vesuvius and the Santa Lucia Harbor. Guests can use the Echia Club at the Vesuvio. $242-$727. 48 Via Partenope; 39-081-764-0111; fax 39-081-764-9743.

Old World Feel
Grand Hotel Santa Lucia may be a little less grand than the Vesuvio next door, but it has more Neapolitan atmosphere, and its highly professional staff has not lost the human touch. Murano glass chandeliers and restored neoclassical decor in the public rooms make waiting a pleasure, as the concierge uses his Neapolitan wiles to get you a good table at a restaurant you were told was fully booked. Most deluxe rooms are spacious and have spectacular terrace views. $190-$1,454. 46 Via Partenope; 39-081-764-0666; fax 39-081-764-8580. www.santalucia.it

Top Tables
Bamboo-covered walls and cushioned bamboo chairs give La Cantinella a relaxed, seaside atmosphere, although there are no longer outdoor tables overlooking the gulf. Be sure to try the linguine Santa Lucia (with shellfish and fresh tomato). For a second course, the catch of the day is prepared in two equally exquisite ways: baked in a crust of salt or al' acqua pazza (poached with tomato, olives, and herbs). Gianni, the sommelier, is invaluable. $100. 42 Via Cuma; 39-081-764-8684. For more info ( in Italian): www.lacantinella.it

La Sacrestia
sits on a panoramic hillside with a terrace overlooking the bay. Bas-relief stucco decoration on its vaulted ceilings, huge gilt mirrors, and candlelight set an elegant backdrop for starters like a small crusty focaccia filled with escarole, olives, and capers. Excellent pezzogna, a white fish found only in the gulf near Capri, is baked in salt. For dessert, try an intoxicating babà al rhum. $115. 116 Via Orazio; 39-081-664-186.

Power Ties
Since 1914 Marinella's custom-made ties have been favorites of statesmen, including Jacques Chirac, Bill Clinton, and Boris Yeltsin. Ready-to-wear ties can be bought at the shop, or you can be fitted for the length and width you prefer. Every Friday new sample prints are presented, and only four ties are made of each pattern. The handmade-tie firm also has a corner in Bergdorf Goodman The Men's Store in New York. 287 Riviera di Chiaia; 39-081-764-4214.

Ancient Boudoir
Recently opened is the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Room) at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Full of erotic frescoes, statuary, and items that once decorated the gardens, bedrooms, and brothels of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the objects had been hidden away from the public eye since they were excavated. Reserve a guided tour (obligatory) when purchasing a ticket to the museum. 19 Piazza Museo Nazionale; 39-081-440-166. www.cib.na.cnr.it