From Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, travelers wanting to experience a vacation in Naples on the southwest coast of Italy can catch a Delta Airlines flight, but face a 12-hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean. You can, however, cut that travel time down to just 1 ½ hours if you choose to enjoy your Neapolitan venture closer to home in Naples on the southwest coast of Florida!
You’ll get balmy sea breezes blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico rather than the Mediterranean Sea, but also get the added bonus of being surrounded by unlimited chances to experience outdoor adventures. Though Naples provides all the modern conveniences, Collier County in which it is located is composed of 80 percent natural areas.
One excellent way to begin an exploration of this region is to visit the Naples Botanical Garden. Established in 1993, the garden spreads across 170 acres, not far from downtown. Most of this area was covered with non-native invasive species when first obtained. But, today most of the garden property has been returned to native Florida flora.
There are, however, some portions set aside for formal display gardens. Among these are Children’s, Brazilian, Caribbean, Asian, Florida and Water gardens. Also, there is a butterfly house and a River of Grass section that provides original Everglades habitat. Adjacent are Wetland and Florida Upland preserves depicting other portions of the Sunshine State.
All of these terrains are tied together by four walking trails ranging from just under ½ mile to just short of a mile in length. If you want to add some angling to your visit, Naples can accommodate you as well. One option is to take to the water with Capt. Bill Baldus for some fly fishing for snook, redfish and tarpon. Or you can rent a kayak from Canoe Outpost to chase those fish with conventional spinning tackle. Another option is to head down to the beach to sample the angling off the Naples Fishing Pier that stretches out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Of course, once down on the shore, the white sand beaches may make it hard to pull yourself away without a dip in the Gulf!
While downtown in the historic district, you might want to stop off for a lunch, dinner or libation at the Old Naples Pub. The food is good, the drinks cold and the atmosphere friendly. Also, on Friday and Saturday evenings you’ll find John Esquivel serenading the patrons on the antique upright saloon piano. He’s been a fixture at the ivories as long as anyone in the establishment can remember.
If you feel compelled to add a bit of Italian cuisine to your Naples sojourn, check out 5th Avenue that cuts through the heart of historic district. There is no shortage of eateries with an Old World flair. And, of course, Naples is known for its world class golf courses. It’s hard to beat the Greenlinks Golf Resort for hitting the links. The Lely Flamingo Island and Lely Mustang golf clubs provide 72 challenging holes at this full service resort.
Bottom line is, once you get to Naples, Florida, you’ll be glad you skipped that 12 hour flight to the other Naples!