Tailoring icon Gianluca Isaia’s guide to Naples
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Travel news every morning.
Most of my days in Naples are spent in and out of our workshops in Casalnuovo, an area that has a long tradition of tailoring excellence. I was born in Naples and I’ve stayed here – I love this city and I love what I do. In that respect I’ve only ever worked a few days in my life.
Naples is beautiful all year round, but most of all when late spring turns to summer. The energy feels stronger, and the sunrises and sunsets over the sea are especially spectacular. The best place to view these is the hilltop of Posillipo, where you get the famous panorama across the bay to Mount Vesuvius. Up here you’ll also find my favourite spot for a leisurely lunch: Rosiello’s, where I’ve been eating alfresco on the terrace for over 30 years. The restaurant has an arrangement with the local fishermen, so the seafood is always extremely fresh.
From the city’s heights, go down to the Sotterranea of Naples – the ancient belly of the city and a cool escape from the heat. One entrance is just off Via Tribunali, where you descend along underground 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 amid the hustle and bustle of the winding streets around Centro Storico. Instead of a hotel, I recommend that visitors stay in a beautiful apartment in these old areas, especially in the Quartieri Spagnoli, as it’s where Naples really comes to life. Even everyday tasks like grocery shopping become entertaining. People are always sharing something: gossip, advice, a cup of coffee. Here in the Quartieri Spagnoli and in the nearby area of Chiaia is peppered with artisan boutiques full of beautifully handcrafted items, from antiques to silk to leather goods. The shopkeepers aren’t just selling their produce. You chat, you see the workshops and the quality of the workmanship. Most of these places aren’t well signposted, so it’s a case of making discoveries as you wander.
Look up from street level and you’ll see balconies and lines of washing hanging between the buildings. These are the colours that inspire my clothes collections. We based our AW22 line on the stuccoed houses and basilicas of the Sanità quarter, which is near the Capodimonte art gallery. Inside this 18th-century palazzo is a huge collection that includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian and Artemisia Gentileschi – you could spend days there.
For SS23 we are dedicating a collection to the Neapolitan singer Renato Carosone, who first sang the famous “Tu Vuo Fà L’Americano”. But the greatest music for me now is found at the San Carlo Opera House. I’ve come to a greater appreciation of opera through working on projects with the house, and the acoustics here are fantastic. The interior is exquisite, decorated at the height of baroque opulence. The royal box is connected to the Royal Palace by a secret passageway, so Bourbon kings could attend the theatre without having to venture outside. Did you know it was built 41 years before La Scala in Milan? It’s such a historic place.
Nightlife has been quite subdued in the past two years. Before, I’d go out in the vibrant Marechiaro area, many of whose bars are now finally reopening. Luckily, we’ve had our culture of pizza and coffee to see us through. The trouble is, once you have tasted these in Naples, you are ruined for anywhere else. Concettina ai Tre Santi is the place to go for the full range of pizza toppings, from the traditional to the imaginative. And for coffee go to Gran Caffè Cimmino and indulge in a rum babà, the Neapolitan brioche cake soaked in citrusy rum syrup.
On weekends, I take my boat across to Capri and just relax. I’m there so often that I’m officially an island resident. For a Capri-style seaside lunch, you’ve got to try the pizza all’acqua in Aurora Restaurant, and in the evenings Bar Tiberio is a must for an aperitif in the Piazzetta.
Wherever I travel, I take Naples with me. Some people may have a jaded view of the city that comes from TV programmes such as Gomorrah. But my response is always to tell people to come here, I’ll show them around, show them life in our fantastic city. You’ll notice that Neapolitan designers and tailors abroad always speak highly of each other’s work. Of course –we’re proud of where it is from.
Get alerts on Travel when a new story is published