I arrive in Naples just before voting for the General Election commences, and posters bearing Silvio Berlusconi and his unfeasibly white teeth cover the walls on the way into town. The former prime minister’s teeth are the only pristine things in sight: when they tell you Naples isn’t precious about its once glamorous looks, this is no lie, and there is the feeling that these posters are the only thing that are keeping some structures together. While there is no shortage of character in the different shades of crumbling decay the architecture of the city has to offer, I have to say it’s a relief to reach the Caracciolo. Restored to splendour by M Gallery hotels, who specialise in occupying historic spaces, it is an imposing building – massive archway doors open onto an expansive grey basalt courtyard flanked by wide arcades, providing wonderful cool spaces to retreat to with your limoncello in summer.
The reception areas are bright and welcoming in the modern-meets-slightly-gilded-baroque style familiar in Italy. A Venetian blown-glass light hangs above the front desk, drawing attention to the impressive high ceilings. (It is clear that the family after whom this pad is named – the Caracciolos – had some clout, as is underlined amply later in my visit to their funeral monuments in the church opposite.) If you wanted to really appreciate the view upwards, you would have to book one of the deluxe suites in the hotel – grand rooms with coffered ceilings for honeymooning sorts. However, I am staying in one of the duplex rooms that exploit the space in a different way – situating the bed on a mezzanine upstairs from a little lobby and bathroom. This has the advantage of cosiness while retaining the gracefully tall windows onto your peaceful courtyard or busy street view, and of course allows the hotel to fit double the room into one space, though there is the minor disadvantage of negotiating your descent to the loo should the need arise in the middle of the night after too much Lacryma Christi.
The décor of the room is clean and modern, with a grey, white and silver theme, complemented in my case by a strange cloudscape complete with awkwardly painted flying Pegasus (or tumbling stump-winged donkey). The bed is very comfortable, the linen crisp and the bathroom sparkling. In the evening, they come and ask you whether there’s anything you need and hand you a card displaying the following day’s weather forecast, which I imagine usually means they are bearers of happy news. Sadly, this is not the case during my visit, when the weather is as troubled as the politics.
Breakfast, looking out onto the courtyard, is good – though my advice is to skip the hot food, which is not what Italy does in the morning, and instead slice yourself some prosciutto off the bone, grab some of the excellent bread and order a thick, black espresso. The pastries, an underrated speciality of the region, should be sampled too, especially when eaten with a spoonful of fresh Morello cherries. Finish off with a blood orange, straight from the tree and wonderfully sweet.
As far as its location goes, the Caracciolo has struck out on its own a little by being in the Centro Storico, while many of the four- and five-star hotels cluster protectively down around the smarter Rivera di Chiaia area, where boulevards are wider, and piles of rubbish more infrequent. But I prefer proximity to the narrow streets, which are full of life being lived in public, and to the blackened churches, and to the art museums, and of course, to the perfect Pizza Marinaras on Via Tribunali, eaten at the table in packed rooms for just three euros. C
Hotel Palazzo Caracciolo, Via Carbonara 111, Naples
+39 081 016 0111; accorhotels.com