Thursday, 28 February 2013 11:25 AM
Alex Stevenson discovers another Travelbite hotel hot spot in Naples – Hotel San Francesco Al Monte.
From the packed narrow streets of Spaccanapoli to the throngs of crowds in the Piazza Plebiscito, Naples is a city which just doesn't let up. I've walked the length of the city, from the Museo di Capodimonte with its famous artworks on a hill near the airport all the way to the busy port terminal and the bay beyond. It's the intensity of the place which stays with you.
So it's with an air of relief that you board the funicular railways lines to the Hotel San Franesco Al Monte, located three-quarters of the way up the hill to Vomero. This is the district which overlooks much of the rest of Naples – and is, in my view, itself often overlooked.
When you arrive (it's a flat walk from the funicular, thankfully) don't be surprised if you find yourself gaping at the modern art on the walls as you get shown to your walls. The hotel's very impressive paintings form part of the collection of longtime modern art lover Peppe Morra, whose Fondazione Morra exhibition space can be visited in an old electric plant closer to the arty Piazza Dante.
Once you've seen the external views it becomes harder to pay attention to the paintings, however. These are simply astonishing from the corner rooms, or from the transparent elevator which climbs up the outside of the hotel. But it is at its best from the roof garden, complete with a swimming pool. "You can visit Naples from the roof!" says Marianna Serno.
All the sights are there to see: from Capodimonte, where the Bourbon monarchs went for their hunting, all the way down to the glass dome of the 19th century Galleria Umberto I and the medieval Castel Nuovo near the port. It's a great place to review your day – or plan an itinerary for what's to come in the morning.
The restaurant is a real highlight: a well-timed dinner gives visitors the opportunity to eat a sunset meal enjoying the full extent of the view, with the mass of Vesuvius looming over the gathering gloom in the city below. This is not a cheap meal option but the food is impeccably well-presented, making the whole experience something of a visual feast. The chef is passionate about food and serves traditional dishes with a twist.
There's a lot more to this hotel than meets the eye. The third floor is remarkable – in what feels like a very modern building there are a set of rooms to explore that reveal its past. Fragments of frescoes adorn the walls. A votive chapel, refectory and the intriguing Hall of the Oven make this something of a tourist attraction in its own right.
In some of the oldest parts of the building it feels like its roots are burrowed deep into the steep hillside. But it's on the top floor, where the swimming pool actually disappears into a small cave of sorts, that this feeling is strongest. Behind and above the hotel there rises broken ground leading to the protected vineyard of the Certosa di San Martino, one of the richest monuments in Naples. Up here on the hill has been a place of reflection for centuries. The heart of Naples is accessible within minutes – but seems a very long way away. The monks knew what they were doing, alright: and with the religious roots of this building, that peaceful sense continues to filter down to visitors who return time and time again.
For more information visit the Hotel San Francesco Al Monte website.
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