Naples has been given a bad press but the San Martino district in the hill town of Vomero is a good spot to live, with plenty of charm and easy access to the centre but with none of its drawbacks.
Naples may be in the headlines as a decadent and sometimes dodgy port city but elegant pockets make it an ideal home base. Up the hill in Vomero, above the swarm of Vespas, the San Martino district is an oasis of old-world charm.
East of Piazza Vanvitelli, there’s a promenade where pensioners ride up on escalators and children pour out of schools in the afternoon. Being higher up, the climate is cooler than the city centre, which is close at hand thanks to funiculars that whisk people down in minutes.
Lucky residents still find cobblers, shirtmakers and barbers steps from their door. And then there’s the biggest draw: balconies with stunning views of Capri and the Sorrento peninsula.
BA – up to three flights daily
Lufthansa – three flights daily
Iberia – one flight daily
Air France – one flight daily
Except for the Sant’Elmo fortress and San Martino monastery, which lends its name to a district of Vomero, the hilltop area was open pasture until the start of the 20th century. The 1920s and 1930s witnessed the construction of four- and five-storey palazzos designed in the Liberty style – an Italian offshoot of Art Nouveau. The most prominent examples are in Via Luigia Sanfelice. Roof terraces are common and ideal for sunbathing, while front doors feature peepholes and some have security cameras (this is Naples, after all).
Via S. Gennaro ad Antignano 110, + 39 081 578 9580
Vomero residents are choosy when it comes to cheese but this shop sells the original article: mozzarella di bufala from Aversa. Buy it plain or smoked by the half kilo.
Mercato di Antignano
Piazza degli Artisti
This morning market serves as an all-purpose alimentari, with fresh fish, cold cuts and vegetables. There are stalls devoted to household items, shoes and apparel.
De Paola Cameo Factory
Via A. Caccavello 67, + 39 081 578 2910
The family-run De Paola bottega has hand-carved cameos from Mediterranean coral and red Caribbean seashell since 1917. Particularly prized are its pieces featuring Greco-Roman motifs.
Via Giuseppe Bonito 7, + 39 081 556 5646
Neapolitan tailoring is in good hands at Camiceria Olga. From their tiny atelier, the husband-and-wife team craft bespoke cotton shirts for the sartorial minded.
Estate agent 4 V
Via Giovanni Merliani 51, + 39 393 335 0055
Neighbourly property agent Giampaolo Valerio can assist with house hunting and help new arrivals get their bearings.
Via Luigia Sanfelice 20, + 39 081 556 5535, villaerta.it
The one-time residence of a German volcanologist, this neoclassical villa now hosts banquets, weddings and company functions. Take in the view of Vesuvius from its spacious terrace.
Via Domenico Cimarosa 60, + 39 081 578 5362 It may not be the oldest pizzeria in the neighbour- hood but locals give Acunzo top marks for its pulcinella pizza made with mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms and prosciutto.
Via Scarlatti 78, + 39 081 558 7498 gelateriaotranto.it
Veteran gelato maker Antonio Vestrucci serves up dozens of flavours. We are partial to benevento ice cream, spiked with Strega liqueur.
Osteria Donna Teresa
Via Michele Kerbaker 58 + 39 081 556 7070
For three generations the Sorvino family has waited on hungry residents in this cosy nine-table restaurant. Order pasta al forno.
Caffe’ Antico Mexico
Via Alessandro Scarlatti 69, + 39 081 556 5865
Antico Mexico has staked its claim as the best espresso in town – just know sugar is already added. Pick up one of its house blends in 1950s-style packaging to take home.
La Cantina Donna Elena
Via Tito Angelini 16, + 39 081 578 6033
Hidden from view, this no fuss trattoria next to Castel Sant’Elmo is the perfect spot to sample a caprese salad and plate of gnocchi alla sorrentina.
Via Domenico Cimarosa 44, + 39 081 578 3130
Since 1938, Friggitoria has specialised in one thing: street food. Tuck into yummy fried pizza in sunflower oil or get it to go in traditional wrapping.
Via Domenico Cimarosa 29, + 39 081 556 7044 hotelcimarosa.it
Popular with artists and stage actors, who lodge here when performing at nearby theatres, the understated 19-room property occupies two floors of a 1928 palazzo. Recently renovated, book one of the sea-facing rooms.
To buy: €6,000 per sq m To rent: €800 per month
Apartments are typically two to three-bedroom properties in the early 20th-century Liberty style.
It’s best to use a licensed property agent when buying in Italy but expect to pay 3 per cent of the purchase price in fees. Buyers also need to hire a notary to complete the transfer of deeds – fees average 2 per cent.
When searching, ask doormen in palazzos for tips on vacancies. Once you’ve found a property, there’s a preliminary contract (compromesso) and deposit to be made – as this is legally binding, iron out any discrepancies before signing.
Purchase tax is 4 per cent if the buyer declares it as their first home and this applies for residency, otherwise it’s 10 per cent. Tax is based on the statutory value of the property (valore catastale), which is lower than the market value. Budget two months to complete paperwork.
32, event organiser
“Vomero is like a city within a city. It’s well connected with the metro and funicular so you don’t need a car to move around or worry about finding a place to park.”
Maria Luisa Liguori
38, call centre operator
“I’ve lived here since I was born. The quality of life is better than other parts of Naples. It’s filled with shops and the people seem more relaxed.”
“You are higher up so the air is cleaner and you’ve got the view. I think it’s a better area to live in than the city centre. And Vomero has got cultural landmarks such as the castle and the San Martino monastery.”
“What I like about Vomero is that I take 10 steps and I’ve got everything I need: post office, bank, hairdresser, florist. Plus everybody greets you when you walk by the shops, which is nice.”
30, property manager
“Vomero is on a hill so the temperature tends to be cooler. Local authorities also do a better job of cleaning the streets compared with the rest of the city.”