Observing the High Life in Naples
Naples, Florida, located right on Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast, is a place of contradictions. In the city itself, you’ll find wealth all around you–celebrities like Judge Judy Sheindlin (aka Judge Judy) and author Robin Cook make their home there. There are also long-time but unconfirmed rumors about Steven Spielberg and even Oprah Winfrey having homes in Naples. With an average year-round climate of 75 degrees, it’s perhaps no surprise that the city has more golf holes per capita than any other area in the country. It is home to the The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Naples, rated among the top three in the world; the hotel itself appeared in Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List. A favorite pasttime of locals in Naples is going to one of the many restaurants with outdoor seating and watching the cars go by–and trust me, you’ll see your favorite BMWs, Mercedes, Lexuses, Cadillacs, and sports cars.
However, Naples is only a stone’s throw away from agricultural Immokalee, where many of the country’s tomatoes are grown–an area recently made famous in Barry Estabrook’s book Tomatoland for the poverty of the farmworkers who live there. Naples is also the gateway to the western side of the Everglades, the only place in the state where alligators and crocodiles (they’re the bigger ones) reside together. When you peruse tourism brochures for Naples, amidst the ads for high-end shopping and hotels, you’ll find ads for places like Gatorama, Airboats & Alligators (with an alligator appears to burst out of the ad), and Jungle Erv’s Airboats.
On the weekend that Florida Culture visited downtown Naples, the 8th annual Cars on Fifth Auto Show was taking place, which brought together more than 450 classic, sport, and luxury cars to Naples’ famous Fifth Avenue–if the name Fifth Avenue makes you think of the pricey Fifth Avenue in New York City, then you’re not far off. Just think of a smaller, sunnier version of it. Downtown Naples was packed with auto enthusiasts and gawkers. Keeping in mind that Naples is a city famous for luxury cars, it may not surprise you to hear that in the area that displayed the McLaren–known as the fastest car in the world and retailing for about $230,000–we overheard that one of the McLaren models had already been sold.On a less crowded weekend, a visit to downtown Naples involves perusing the shops on Fifth Avenue and Third Street South (just check your wallet first to make sure you can afford things), waiting for a table at one of the many restaurants with outdoor seating, such as Tommy Bahama; visiting art galleries (there are more than 130 in the greater Naples area), and walking along the Naples City Pier. The downtown area has a definite European feel; it is in fact named after Naples, Italy. If you go to Naples in season, expect crowds and lots of wealthy older people, some walking along with their small dogs in doggie strollers.
If you’re looking for self-indulgence,
you can also visit one of the area spas. The aforementioned Ritz Carlton Spa is only open to guests staying at the hotel, but places like the Golden Door Spa at the Waldorf Astoria Naples, Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort, and Spa Terre at the La Playa Beach & Golf Resort are open for reservations for non-guests. A 50-minute Tranquility Massage at the Golden Door will set you back $130.Although Naples is not exactly known for its frugality, you can enjoy Naples on the cheap with a few strategic moves. We picked up some coupon books on our drive from Bradenton to Naples, including the Florida Travelsaver (which is also online), and used one of its hotel coupons to shave a few bucks off of a night’s stay. We enjoyed dinner from the Aura Restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Naples Hotel–a grande salad with goat cheese and a margherita flatbread–but ordered it to go, so there was no charge for drinks or tips. We paid a one-day resort fee to enjoy the Golden Door Spa’s steam room, sauna, and jacuzzi. We also held onto our wallets tightly while walking past the many alluring shops in downtown Naples.