Neapolitans may disagree—extravagantly—about which pizzeria is the best. But they all agree—just as extravagantly—that Naples's homegrown, oven-fired, high-sided pizza is the only one worth the name. Seek out such down-to-earth places as Da Michele (1-3 Via Sersale; 39-081/553-9024), where the line is long and there are but two choices, Margherita (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) and marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, and olive oil). Or try the 81-year-old Trianon da Ciro (46 Via Pietro Colletta; 39-081/553-9426), where the woodburning oven resembles a shrine to a pagan fire god. Which, of course, it is.
When the city sends you into sensory overload, take refuge behind the gates of the Costantinopoli 104, a converted Art Nouveau palace with the air of a genteel country villa. Opened at the end of 2002, the hotel is already welcoming return customers. For warm weather, book the Garden Suite, just off what is the central city's only hotel swimming pool. Rates, $200-$230. At 104 Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli; 39-081/557-1035; www.costantinopoli104.it.
Montevetrano is a plummy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Aglianico Taurasi (an ancient Southern Italian varietal). Produced in tiny quantities by former photographer Silvia Imparato, the wine is described in the 2004 Gambero Rosso, Italy's wine bible, as "one of the six or seven best Italian wines of the last fifteen years." To taste it in situ, head for the village of San Cipriano Picentino, between Salerno and Paestum. Stay the night and dine at Silvia's sister Anna's farmhouse hotel, La Vecchia Quercia, which is always well-supplied with the elusive Montevetrano. Rates, $110-$125; 39-089/882-528.
Worth a Detour
Vietri sul Mare is the Amalfi Coast's most famous town for ceramics and the best place to buy the region's excellent tableware. At Solimene, the workers still make high-quality plates, pots, and jugs by hand. And don't miss the building itself: Designed by Paolo Soleri in 1951, it resembles a giant dirt dauber's nest. At 7 Via Madonna degli Angeli, Vietri sul Mare; 39-089/210-243; www.solimene.com.
In the darkest curve of a Dickensian lane, under the arch of Port' Alba, a plain door conceals one of the city's most stylish bed-and-breakfasts. Owners Gabriella Chitis and Francesca Padolacchia have put their boho-chic touch on the five rooms of Portalba 33, where there's a bicycle in the lobby, a beehive hair dryer in the hall, and a hammock nestling up against a workout station on the mezzanine. While not for everyone, this highly personal spot has great panache. Rates, 180-$205. At 33 Via Port' Alba; 39-081/549-3251.
Lunch for a Song
The young Enrico Caruso made a living singing on the beach at Chiaia—then he'd blow a soldo or two on lunch at Da Tonino. Today the wine bottles lining the walls of this down-home osteria are considerably finer; otherwise the food is just as authentic—and just as cheap. Come for lunch, when owner Tonino Canfora serves up pasta alla genovese (the Neapolitan version made with onion, celery, and braised veal) and seppia in umido (stewed cuttlefish) to a motley crowd of office workers, plumbers, countesses, and—one hopes—the occasional superstar in the making. $ Lunch, $14; dinner, $96. At 47 Via Santa Teresa a Chiaia; 39-081/421-533.
Shells and wagon wheels will never again suffice after a visit to Eder Fantasie Napoletane, where every shape, flavor, and color of pasta hangs from the walls. At 44 Via B. Croce; 39-081/551-7081.
"Bersagliere restaurant is on the docks just below Castel dell'Ovo. You can watch musicians strolling around, which adds to the magic of perfect mozzarella caprese, marinated anchovies, and grilled turbot with arugula."
—MARIO BATALI, CHEF
Grand Hotel Vesuvio
The Vesuvio, a gorgeous Victorian-era building right on the bay, has one of the most winning locations and some of the top standard rooms in the city. Be sure to request one with a view—and a balcony and a marble-lined bathroom. And be sure to try the Echia Club, the hotel's intimate but well-equipped gym and an indulgent day spa. The classically inspired mosaics provide just the right hedonistic touch. Rates, $490-$4,900; Echia Club entrance fee, $38; spa treatments, from $70. At 45 Via Partenope; 39-081/764-0044; www.vesuvio.it.
Buzz on the Rocks
Every morning, Neapolitans toss back hot espresso. On a summer afternoon, they take it cold, often in the form of the caffè shakerato. The ingredients—a shot of coffee, sugar, crushed ice—are shaken and slipped into a chilled glass, where the crema forms a fine Guinnesslike head. Try it at Intra Moenia (39-081/290-720) in Piazza Bellini.
Roberto Campobasso is the city's leading specialist in antique presepi. His elaborate crèches are peopled with wood and terra-cotta figurines. $12,275-$85,950. At 17 Via Carlo Poerio; 39-081/764-0770.
A Hidden Cloister
Most Neapolitans have never heard of the Chiesa dei Girolamini, yet this Baroque cloister is an oasis in the clamoring centro storico. Planted with citrus and loquat trees, the interior garden is bordered by handsome arches. While a sign warns that you are FORBID TO ENTER IN GARDEN, nobody minds if you linger at the edge. At 142 Via Duomo; 39-081/449-139.
The White Stuff: David Lynch's Wine List
Though Naples was the capital of ancient Italy's viticulture, until recently the local white wines tasted so flabby and oxidized they could have been bottled by Pliny the Elder himself. But no longer. Here are two standouts.
Campi Flegrei Falanghina, Cantine Farro Falanghina is the local grape. This wine is flinty, fresh, and fantastic, from just outside Naples.
Fiano di Avellino, Terredora Citrusy and substantial. A central Campanian made for coastal consumption.
Shirt and Tie Acquired
At the exquisite tie shop E. Marinella, Maurizio Marinella carries on the legacy of his grandfather Don Eugenio, attending to every crucial detail, from the silk printed in Kent, England, to the service in the company's bespoke salon. A custom order can take up to ten days, but if you've a plane to catch, the staff will treat your order as a priority. Made-to-measure ties, $110; off-the-shelf, $95. At 287 Riviera di Chiaia; 39-081/764-4214.
There's no dynasty behind Merolla e de L'Ero—the shirtmakers have only been in business nine years—but this shop's star is on the rise. In their atelier on the smart fashion street Via Calabritto, Francesco Merolla and Gabriella de l'Ero obsess over such minutiae as handsewn buttonholes. Shirts require a fitting and take a month to make. But in accommodating Naples, the staff will do its best to adapt to your schedule. Shirts, $160-$245. At 20 Via Calabritto; 39-081/764-3012.
With such a glittering view of the bay and Vesuvius, George's, the rooftop restaurant of Grand Hotel Parker's, could be forgiven if food took second billing. But it does not. Chef Vincenzo Baciòterracino plunges deep into regional cuisine and makes the dishes modern—pizzelle foglie (coin-shaped pasta) with zucchini flowers and candy-sweet cherry tomatoes, and caramelized pears with grape-must gelato. After a perfect meal, sip a grappa and contemplate the beauty of the city lying at your feet. Dinner, $120. At 135 Corso Vittorio Emanuele; 39-081/761-2474.
Guide to Get
While Naples is bellissima, it can also be very confusing—a city where a guide is indispensable. Dolores Caporaso is the one. A graduate of the city's prestigious Oriental University (try her on the subject of chinoiserie in Bourbon Naples), she is as good on the out-of-town sights (Pompeii, Herculaneum) as on the historic center. "I love uncovering the historical stratifications of a 2,500-year-old city," she says. Rate, from $370 a day; 39-338/843-3166.
La Scala South
Naples's Teatro di San Carlo has more charisma than its staid Milanese counterpart, and at their best, the operas staged here are equal to anything up north. Europe's oldest working theater (Callas and Pavarotti have trod its boards) is a red-and-gold jewel; the acoustics are pretty fine, too. Stall seats, $110- $145; gala preview stalls, $245. At 98F Via San Carlo; 39-081/ 797-2412; www.teatrosancarlo.it.
Though it was built in Denmark in 1880 as a fishing vessel, the sleek 98-foot Vera looks completely at home in the Mediterranean. With its teak deck and handsewn Duradon sails, the ship can be chartered with skipper, deckhand, and cook for day trips or longer cruises out of Sorrento to Capri or ports beyond. Past clients include the rock group R.E.M. Rate, $15,675 per week. Contact Gaia del Papa, 39-081/878-2933.
SWEET TOOTH In a city that revels in all things sugary, the seriously hooked gather at Scaturchio (pastries, $17; 17 Piazza San Domenico Maggiore; 39-081/551-6944) for warm ricotta-filled sfogliatella, layered cassate, and rum-drenched babà. The pasticceria also serves amazing gelato and possibly the greatest coffee in Italy.
SIMPLE SEAFOOD Osteria da Dora (dinner, $120; 30 Via Ferdinando Palasciano; 39-081/680-519) has its own fishing nets and consequently the freshest seafood in town (try it poached in acqua pazza, a spicy broth), which means the minuscule restaurant is perpetually packed with families. On warm weekend nights, well-heeled Neapolitans descend on the pretty and casual Ciro a Mergellina (dinner, $120; 21 Via Mergellina; 39-081/681-780), where the simplest dishes—spaghetti alle vongole, fried mozzarella—really shine.
HOLD THE RED SAUCE In Naples, pasta sauce is not tomato red. And while it's called genovese, it's not pesto green. The ür-Neapolitan sauce is composed of masses of onions cooked down to sweetness and flavored with a bit of meat (the name refers to the alleged stinginess of the northern neighbors). The best rigatoni alla genovese is found at Ciro a Santa Brigida (dinner, $80; 71-74 Via Santa Brigida; 39-081/552-4072).
—Anya von Bremzen
Art on the Edge
Naples's galleries generate a grass-roots energy you won't find in the more corporate Milan scene. Here's where to view the new.
RAUCCI/SANTA MARIA Art Basel regulars Raucci and Santa Maria represent artists such as Padraig Timoney and Cathy Wilkes. At 19 Piazza Santa Maria La Nova; 39-081/532-1000.
MIMMO SCOGNAMIGLIO Founding father of the new Neapolitan art scene, Scognamiglio shimmies from big art-world names like Jannis Kounellis to local stars like Maddalena Ambrosio. At 6 Via Mariano D'Ayala; 39-081/400-871.
404 ARTE CONTEMPORANEA Francesco Annarumma has a keen eye for new talent. His shows include works by Angelo Ricciardi and Barbara La Ragione. At 4 Via Ferrara; 39-081/552-9169; www.adrart.it/mostre/404.htm.
LIA RUMMA An old-guard dealer with a feel for the avant-garde, Rumma divides her time between Naples and Milan. At 12 Via Vannella Gaetani; 39-081/764-3619; www.gallerialiarumma.it.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.