Day 1: A designer hotel for your base
As a thriving cultural capital, Naples is back on the international scene, having established itself as one of the most attractive Italian cities for contemporary art lovers. A symbol of this creative renaissance, the Romeo hotel is one of the few designer, five-star hotels in the city. This modern building, which once belonged to a shipowner, enjoys an enviable location in the port of Molo Beverello. Its extravagant decor is a joyful blend of recent works of art and antiques. The elegant ambiance of your room is enhanced still further by its panoramic views over the Bay of Naples, with the majestic Mount Vesuvius as guest of honour.
Via Cristoforo Colombo 45
80133 Naples (NA)
+39 081 017 5001
Masterpieces at the Madre
You are champing at the bit to go around the city in search of its artistic institutions and more secretive locations. In the heart of old Naples, a stone's throw from the Duomo, an imposing 19th-century palace has been transformed into a contemporary temple of art by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Popularly known as the Madre, the Donnaregina Museum of Contemporary Art will quench your artistic passions beyond all expectations. As you wander through its large exhibition rooms, you will be knocked off your feet by Andy Warhol's screen prints, Richard Hamilton's collages and Sol LeWitt's geometric creations. Spread over two floors, the Madre's permanent collection cannot fail to overawe with its pop art and minimalist masterpieces. Standing in front of Italian visual artist Mario Merz's igloos or Luciano Fabro's crushed metal sculptures, you will grasp the concept of Arte Povera, an art movement that emerged in Italy at the end of the 1960s where artists transformed everyday, non-traditional materials into works of art. You take one last look at Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of nudes, before bringing your visit to an end, overwhelmed by this profusion of creativity.
Pop art buffs, did you know that Naples enjoys a special relationship with this artistic movement? If you need any more convincing, make your way to the Andrea Ingenito Contemporary Art gallery, near to the Royal Palace. This renowned gallery owner has displays of works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, but also by prominent Italian painters.
All this artistic contemplation has made you hungry. Lose yourself in the heart of Sanità, a historic neighbourhood just teeming with life, where the Oliva family has run the Concettina ai Tre Santi pizzeria for four generations. In this popular restaurant, treat yourself to a heavenly pizza with buffalo ricotta, smoked fish and lemon zest.
Donnaregina Museum of Contemporary Art (Madre)
Via Luigi Settembrini 79
80139 Naples (NA)
+39 081 1973 7254
Andrea Ingenito Contemporary Art gallery
Via Cappella Vecchia 8
80139 Naples (NA)
+39 081 0490829
Concettina ai Tre Santi
Via Arena della Sanità 7 bis
80137 Naples (NA)
+39 081 290037
Metro stations transformed into art galleries
Next up are the art stations of the Naples metro. Lines 1 and 6 of the Naples network invite you to take an underground journey embellished by the work of great artists, architects and designers from all around the world. For about 15 years, the city of Naples has been transforming some of its stations into fully fledged art galleries. For the small price of a metro ticket, you can enjoy the most amazing aesthetic and sensory experience. Get off at Toledo, the most stunning of all the stations. Panels incrusted with LED lights, a work by visual artist Robert Wilson, light up as you pass by. At the bottom of an escalator, “Waves”, a blue mosaic work by Catalan Òscar Tusquets Blanca, plunges you into a magical setting that feels like you are at the bottom of a swimming pool. Fascinated, you amuse yourself travelling up and down the Crater of Light, a skylight connecting the depths of the earth with the outside world. On the same line, at the Università station, you emerge into the colourful pop-art universe of Anglo-Egyptian designer Karim Rashid. At Garibaldi station, under a canopy of glass and metal tubes, you come face to face with photos of travellers built into a huge mirror, a work created by Pistoletto, one of the pillars of the Arte Povera movement.
With your senses in over-drive, go back to the Romeo to get some rest. This evening, an incredible dinner awaits you on the tenth floor of the hotel with panoramic views out to sea. From the kitchens of the Michelin-starred Il Comandante restaurant, chef Andrea Aprea will amaze you with his mullet, scallop, mayonnaise, plankton and sea fennel speciality, followed by anise-marinated pigeon served with a hibiscus and pear sauce. It promises to be delightful night overlooking the Gulf of Naples.
Day 2: Exploration of Naples' creative revival
Next day, continue your artistic exploration by going to the uber-chic Via dei Mille, the haunt of fashionistas and lovers of all things beautiful. The Palazzo Carafa di Roccella, a historic palace from the 18th century, is home to PAN, the Naples Palace of Arts. Sculpture, painting, photography, design, cinema, cartoons, architecture… all disciplines are represented in this prominent contemporary art centre. Wander through its huge exhibition rooms in search of Naples' latest talents. You move eagerly from a film screening to a temporary photography exhibition. Then, intrigued, you venture into the experimental art laboratory, before enjoying a cappuccino surrounded by books in the cafe-library.
Next stop is the Plart Foundation, in nearby Via Giuseppe Martucci. This one-of-a-kind institution is proof that even the most commonplace objects have their place in a museum. The permanent collection reveals handbags, jewellery, lamps, toys and electronic devices, objects of everyday life created by the biggest names in design, including leading exponents Lucio Fontana, Haim Steinbach and Tony Cragg.
Palazzo delle Arti Napoli (PAN)
Via dei Mille 60
80121 Naples (NA)
+39 081 795 8604
Via Giuseppe Martucci 48
80121 Naples (NA)
+39 081 1956 5703
Tunnels and startling works of art
Strolling through the narrow streets of the Spanish Quarters, with washing hanging from the windows above and religious icons nestled in the walls, you come to a halt in front of the Antica Capri trattoria, drawn by the enticing aromas wafting from its kitchens. In the dining room decorated with photos of Naples, you sit down to enjoy fresh linguine with clams that are to die for. After a complimentary glass of limoncello from the owner, you continue on your way to the Largo Baracche Art Space. Between two narrow streets lined with clothes shops, a small square conceals a most unlikely place. To your astonishment, hidden below ground is a series of old Second World War shelters transformed into an artist-run space. In this underground (in all senses of the word) gallery, you will discover contemporary art exhibitions that are both puzzling and brilliant.
If you are rather partial to the avant-garde, head out to the town of Casoria on the outskirts of Naples. Get to know this museum which in 2012, burned some of its paintings in protest against budget cuts for Italian culture. The ashes from these works are kept in urns at the Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). Its permanent international collection has 1,200 paintings, sculptures, photos and other installations, and its videos and other gems of art from the Far East will certain hold your attention for a while. Before leaving the museum, make sure you take a look at the work of Naples' most famous contemporary artists.
Via Speranzella 110
80132 Naples (NA)
+39 081 038 3486
Largo Baracche Art Space
Vico Figurella a Montecalvario 6
80134 Naples (NA)
+39 393 364 1664
Casoria Contemporary Art Museum (CAM)
Via Calore 17
80026 Casoria (NA)
+39 081 757 6167