B&B and Beyond: Bed & Breakfast del Corso, Naples
Simon Calder explores Italy's ultimate comfort-food city from a cheap, spacious base that's handy for the airport
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Sunday 27 January 2013
On a short break, proximity is a virtue. With a clear run, Naples' Capodichino airport is just 10 minutes from the Piazza Garibaldi, location for the central station, whose western side is bounded by the Corso Garibaldi – the city's prime north-south artery.
A couple of minutes' walk north of the square is a courtyard that includes small businesses. To the left is a metal gate that opens at the foot of a spiral staircase. Wind up to the second floor, and the constant Neapolitan babble subsides. The reception desk is outside the hosts' apartment door; your home from home is in the apartment opposite. Drop your bags, and within half an hour of touchdown, you can be exploring one of the Mediterranean's most fascinating ports – or tucking into the first of many pizzas or ice-creams in the ultimate comfort-food city.
As many as five million souls cram into the shoreline between the volcanoes and the Bay of Naples, but once in the B&B del Corso you would not know it. The 19th-century mansion block that houses it is generously proportioned, and the three rooms allow plenty of space. One room can hold a family of four, with a double bed and bunk. The en-suite facilities are similarly spacious.
Rooms are simply furnished, with something of a 1960s vibe – and some elaborate light fittings that, when fitted with energy-efficient bulbs, rather lose their sparkle. The television is tremendous if you are a fan of Italian sport or soap operas, but lacking in a wide choice of channels if you are seeking anything else. Wi-Fi is free throughout, but the closer you are to the transmitter on the landing, the better your chances.
Were the B&B a hotel, you would be hard-pressed to give it more than a couple of stars – but low prices, excellent location and cheerful hosts make a winning combination.
Served in your room, at a time to suit you. Do not anticipate the greatest Italian feast: toast and jam, plus coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Plenty to keep you going until elevenses – and happily in Naples the nearest snack opportunity is never more than 10 metres away.
Patrizia and Nicola are cheerful and helpful, and offer meticulous advice about everything from the best local restaurants to the intricacies of the Circumvesuviana – the railway line that rattles around the bay via Pompeii to Sorrento. The hosts will work around your timings, which is useful if you have an early or late train (flights to and from the UK all arrive and depart at civilised times).
Whatever the charms of the B&B, the average visitor will spend little time doing anything other than sleeping there – the city outside is brimming with extraordinary sights and experiences. To see where the Greeks founded their "new city", or Neapolis, nearly three millennia ago, head first for the Castel dell'Ovo, on a thumb of land dangling from the city's southern shore.
Aiming north from here takes you across the vast Piazza del Plebiscito and along the Via Toledo to the spectacular collection in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (00 39 081 564 8941; bit.ly/NapArch), containing treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Next, head uphill and fast forward through a good few centuries to the regal Bourbon hunting lodge, now the Museo di Capodimonte (00 39 081 749 911; bit.ly/MusCapo) – given its rich collection, featuring Titian and Caravaggio, it receives strangely few visitors.
Then plunge into the Centro Storico, an anarchic grid of cobbled streets and alleys dotted with churches that are themselves works of art.
Pause for coffee or an appetite-sharpening beer at the Bar Nilo – a shrine to Diego Maradona, the Argentine footballer adopted by the city. The most popular pizzeria in town is Di Matteo at Via dei Tribunali 94 (00 39 081 455 262); order the original and still the greatest pizza, a marinara (tomato, basil, oregano and olive oil) for €4. Round off at the best gelateria in town, almost opposite the B&B: the Carraturo at Via Casanova 97 (00 39 081 554 5364; carraturo.it).
B&B del Corso, Corso Garibaldi 340/C (00 39 081 20 40 87; en.bnbnapoli.it); the out-of-hours mobile to call is 00 39 366 540 7432. Doubles cost €49 (the website shows lower rates, but these don't include city tax). You can fly to Naples from Gatwick on British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) or easyJet (0871 244 2366; easyjet.com); the latter also flies from Stansted. Buses from the airport stop a few minutes' walk away on Piazza Garibaldi.
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