Heritage, cuisine and culture: A city break in Naples

Naples, Italy’s third largest city, is full of surprises. Although widely regarded as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento and the island of Capri, Naples is a perfect city break option in its own right. It is a city of immense contrasts, dominated in its historic centre by breath-taking architecture which has earned the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

With some of the continent’s finest art on display in its museums, which also trace the history of Naples from the 8th century BC, culture vultures are guaranteed to be inspired. By contrast, a relaxing saunter through the city’s gardens is a delightful escape from the city’s hectic streets – even more appealing in the summer when average temperatures top 25C (76F).

Exploring Naples’ heritage
There are many ways to explore the historic centre of Naples, but wandering aimlessly has its own merits, particularly along the narrow, winding streets lined with traditional shops that have remained unchanged for centuries. It’s almost like looking in on a reconstructed museum exhibit, except for the hustle and bustle that makes Naples old town very much alive.

The National Archaeological Museum – just one of the important museums in the city – houses a fine collection of relics from Pompeii and Herculaneum; if you’re planning a daytrip, you’ll probably wish to view the more extensive collection of exhibits housed in the museum. For an alternative view of Naples’ past, head underground to the city’s Roman ruins, the most impressive of which is to be found under the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, which feature an incredibly complete Roman market.

A culinary delight
Italy is world-renowned for its cuisine, but Naples is one of the country’s culinary leaders, offering an unsurpassable variety of dishes that are certain to delight. From enjoying authentic coffee and a sweet treat at a table in the street to savouring the taste of fried seafood or traditional pizza for a more satisfying meal, indulging in Naples’ foods is an unmissable part of any city break. You’ll be literally spoilt for choice when choosing a restaurant at which to dine.

Beyond the city
A trip to Naples need not mean restricting yourself to the city itself, as some unmissable local excursions offer the opportunity to soak up Italy’s cultural and historic landscape.

Only 20 minutes from the centre lie the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the ancient city destroyed by an overnight eruption of Mount Vesuvius, whose dominant presence still looms over Naples. Wandering idly through Pompeii’s cobbled streets feels like stepping into the shoes of a Roman two thousand years ago, an experience which is as mesmerising as it is haunting.

From Naples, a host of other attractions are easily accessible for a day trip, the Royal Palace of Caserta, with its delightful gardens, and the stunning Amalfi Coast among them.

From large, intercontinental hotels to intimate, family-run establishments – in addition to a large number of rental apartments – Naples offers a wide choice of accommodation to suit all tastes. With an equally impressive array of attractions to visit, you’ll leave feeling you’ve only scratched the surface of this ancient, yet highly underrated, city.

A Holiday in La Cala de Mijas: Spain at its unspoilt best

Located between cosmopolitan Marbella and historic Fuengirola, La Cala de Mijas is a tranquil haven on Spain’s enduringly popular Costa del Sol. Blessed with clean white sands, La Cala de Mijas enjoys dry weather throughout the year and temperatures between 25C and 30C (77F to 86F) in the summer and deep into the autumn. Even in November, the thermometer rarely drops below 20C (68F).

An oasis of relaxation
La Cala de Mijas welcomes but is never overwhelmed by those who visit it. It is a resort that remains authentically Spanish, beautifully maintained by its municipal council, with a host of restaurants and shops catering to every taste.

Holidaymakers brush shoulders with those who live in La Cala de Mijas all year round whether enjoying a leisurely breakfast of churros with chocolate at one of the town’s cafes or sipping a glass of manzanilla sherry on a hotel terrace looking out to sea. La Cala de Mijas boasts one of the calmest spots in the Mediterranean.

Entertainment when you want it
Whether you are seeking a couple of weeks of peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday living, or a holiday filled with activities, La Cala de Mijas is the perfect base for your stay in the south of Spain. There are no less than four eighteen-hole golf courses within easy reach of the town: El Chaparral; Mijas Golf; the Santana Golf and Country Club; and La Cala Resort, the largest golf complex in the country with three championship courses.

For those who enjoy the excitement of a flutter, the horse racing season at Mijas Hippodrome gets under way in October, including evening races under floodlights, when many other racetracks in the country are closed.

The real Spain
Spain is a country renowned for its fiestas (festivals) and Mijas is no exception. The beautiful village of Mijas, a twenty minute drive away into the mountains, celebrates its annual fair in September, which includes traditional dance, costumes and music. And in La Cala itself, in October, the whole town comes out from its homes to watch and follow the statue of its patron saint, Saint Teresa, being paraded through the streets accompanied by its talented home-grown brass bands. It is an event that sees every generation come together and a wonderful opportunity for visitors to join in a celebration that gets under the skin of Spain’s culture.

A part of the world famous for its hospitality, a holiday in La Cala de Mijas may be one that you just never want to come to an end.

Travel Tips: How to Travel Like A Local

For a new generation of travellers and holidaymakers, spending two weeks on a sun lounger without meeting a single person outside of the hotel just isn’t going to cut it. While some real relaxation time is definitely on the agenda for most of us when we go away, we also want to experience a little of the culture, see a few important sights, and mingle with the locals. Some top tips for holidaymakers seeking an authentic experience in Europe are given below.

Order A Local Coffee
Simple, and yet taking coffee with the locals gives a real insight into a country’s psyche. In Italy, stand at the bar with the people on their way to work and order a cappuccino or latte (but never after 11am – for Italians, milky coffee is a breakfast drink). It’s cheaper to stand or perch at the bar than to take a table, and a small coffee with a pastry is likely to only set you back around £1.50 in a local place. In Spain, order a cortado (one part espresso to one part milk). In Vienna, the local favourite coffee is a Melange, similar to a cappuccino.

Take A Cookery Class
The food that’s predominant in a culture says a lot about that culture, and the teacher will usually be a native, too. Cookery classes are a fun and inexpensive way of getting in touch with your host country, and you’ll have a new skill to share with your friends when you get home, too.

Go Beyond the Big Name Sights
It’s natural to head for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Guinness Storehouse if you’re in Dublin. And you should see these things. When you’ve taken your photos though, have a wander through the backstreets, or, even better, see if you can get tips from a local for finding a really authentic local pub, restaurant, or other local highlight. There are also tonnes of “expat” blogs online too, and with articles on things such as “the Hidden Florence”, with a little research you’ll get beyond the tourist traps in no time.

Order Food Like A Local
In Italy, adding cheese to a pasta dish with fish is considered a no no. In Turkey, a dish called menemen is eaten as a weekend brunch food (it consists of vegetables, baked eggs, and cooked tomatoes). Turkish salep is also not to be missed: it’s a hot drink made of orchids which just isn’t available outside of the country as the orchids are not exported. In Berlin, make sure to order Berliner Weisse beer: you can either have it plain, or flavour it with a green or red syrup (the green one is herby and the red one fruity).

So, find out what the typical local treats are and enjoy!