Couture icon Gianluca Isaia’s guide to Naples
Most of my days in Naples are spent in and out of our workshops in Casalnuovo, an area with a long tradition of bespoke excellence. I was born in Naples and have lived here – I love this city and I love what I do. In this regard, I have worked only a few days in my life.
Naples is beautiful all year round, but especially when late spring turns into summer. The energy feels stronger and the sunrises and sunsets over the sea are particularly spectacular. The best place to see them is from the top of Posillipo, where you get the famous panorama over the bay to Mount Vesuvius. Here you’ll also find my favorite spot for a quiet lunch: Rosiello’s, where I’ve been eating alfresco on the patio for over 30 years. The restaurant has an agreement with local fishermen, so the seafood is always extremely fresh.
From the heights of the city, descend to the Sotterranea of Naples – the ancient belly of the city and a cool escape from the heat. An entrance is just off Via Tribunali, where you descend along subterranean corridors until you come to perfectly preserved aqueducts that once supplied the Roman city of Neapolis with fresh water.
The other approach can be found amidst the bustle of the winding streets around the Centro Storico. Instead of a hotel, I recommend visitors to stay in a nice apartment in these old quarters, especially in the Quartieri Spagnoli, because this is where Naples really comes alive. Even everyday chores like grocery shopping become fun. People always share something: gossip, advice, a cup of coffee. Here in the Quartieri Spagnoli and nearby Chiaia region, you’ll find plenty of artisan shops brimming with beautifully handcrafted items, from antiques to silks to leather goods. Traders do not just sell their products. You discuss, you see the workshops and the quality of the work. Most of these places are not well marked, so it’s a matter of making discoveries as you walk.
Look up from street level and you’ll see balconies and washing lines hanging between buildings. These are the colors that inspire my clothing collections. We based our AW22 line on the stucco houses and basilicas of the Sanità district, which is close to the Capodimonte art gallery. Inside this 18th century palace is a huge collection which includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian and Artemisia Gentileschi – you could spend days here.
For SS23 we dedicate a collection to the Neapolitan singer Renato Carosone, who was the first to sing the famous “Tu Vuo Fà L’Americano”. But the greatest music for me is now at the San Carlo Opera. I learned to appreciate opera better working on projects with the house, and the acoustics here are fantastic. The interior is exquisite, decorated to the height of Baroque opulence. The royal box being connected to the Royal Palace by a secret passage, the Bourbon kings could attend the theater without having to venture outside. Did you know that it was built 41 years before La Scala in Milan? It’s such a historic place.
Nightlife has been fairly subdued over the past two years. Before, I used to go out in the lively district of Marechiaro, where many bars are finally reopening. Luckily, we had our pizza and coffee culture to go with us. Trouble is, once you’ve tasted them in Naples, you’re broke for anywhere else. Concettina ai Tre Santi is the place to go for the full range of pizza toppings, from traditional to imaginative. And for coffee, head to Gran Caffè Cimmino and treat yourself to a rum babà, the Neapolitan brioche cake soaked in citrus rum syrup.
On weekends, I take my boat to Capri and relax. I go there so often that I am officially a resident of the island. For a seaside lunch a la Capri, you must try the pizza all’acqua at the Aurora restaurant, and in the evening, Bar Tiberio is a must for an aperitif on the Piazzetta.
Wherever I travel, I take Naples with me. Some people may have a jaded view of the city that comes from TV programs such as Gomorrah. But my response is always to tell people to come here, I’m going to show them around, show them what life is like in our fantastic city. You will notice that Neapolitan designers and tailors abroad always praise the work of others. Of course, we are proud of where he comes from.