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Visitors find a cozy charm in Naples B&Bs
This Gulf-side town has become a sophisticated retreat with boutiques, galleries, stylish restaurants, stately mansions and two Ritz Carltons. It boasts more millionaires per capita than any other city in the state and more golf courses too.
Although it doesn't offer an abundance of bed-and-breakfasts, Naples has three downtown inns worth considering -- especially if your goal is to stay in historic Old Naples near the tony shopping areas on Fifth Avenue and Third Street.
The Inn By The Sea
The Inn By The Sea at the corner of Third Street and 11th Avenue (941-649-4124; innbythesea-bb.com) is a traditional 1937 Cracker house. The five-room inn has a tin roof, wooden cove siding, ceiling fans, brass and iron beds, and yellow pine floors and ceilings. In back of the inn in the garden is a charming one-bedroom cottage.
We stayed in one of the two upstairs rooms, the Bokeelia Suite. (Rooms are named after barrier islands -- Gasparilla, Sanibel, Captiva and Keewaydin.) Painted pale yellow, the walls in our suite had pink, blue and yellow floral wallpaper borders. There were tropical watercolor prints on the walls, wooden blinds on the windows and several baskets of sea shells placed around the suite. The sitting room had a day bed, wicker chair and coffee table.
Though cozy, the quarters were confining, and we didn't like having to traipse across the hall to the bathroom (so tiny we could scarcely close the door without scraping the sink).
The rooms didn't have televisions (many traditional B&Bs don't), but we didn't need one for entertainment. After shopping and dining, we had a good time talking with a couple from Osprey (near Sarasota).
The old house has plenty of old Florida charm. The ceramic fish on the sidewalk at the house's entrance was a nice touch, and we loved the backyard orange tree, with fruit ripe and ready for picking, providing a delightful fragrance.
Owners Maas and Connie van den Top bought the B&B a few years ago. Connie, a former art dealer who lived in Paris for several years, and Maas, from Holland, give the place a bit of international flair.
More information: www.innbythesea-bb.com/
Inn on Fifth
If you need that TV -- and a little more space -- consider the Inn on Fifth or the Hotel Escalante at the corner of Fifth and Third. Both are charming newer inns, and both serve free breakfasts.
The Inn on Fifth (239-403-8777; naplesinn.com/fifth/index.html) calls itself Naples' best value, and with off-season rates starting at $130 a night, we agree. This comfortable boutique hotel looks stunning with its Spanish archways, bubbling fountains and impressive lobby filled with traditional oil paintings and fresh flowers.
Guests get not only cable TV in the room, but also plush terry robes, laundry service, iron, a free newspaper, hair dryer, coffee maker, three phones and a computer hook-up.
Our room, painted a subtle lemon, had a firm king-size bed, a good-size desk, a love seat and coffee table and small dining table and chairs on the balcony overlooking a courtyard. The bathroom had a roomy shower stall, good water pressure and an assortment of fine milled soap and shampoo.
The room was so quiet and the bed so comfortable that we rested very well at the Inn on Fifth. Breakfast in the Irish pub on the first floor was more than adequate, with a serve-yourself set up. It was, of course, a much more impersonal breakfast than the one at Inn By The Sea -- where guests gathered around a kitchen table -- but was equally satisfying.
More information: naplesinn.com/fifth/index.html
Escalante (239-659-3466; hotelescalante.com) is a Mediterranean-style garden retreat that has all the amenities of the Inn on Fifth and a very friendly, efficient staff. When we had trouble opening the gate to the pool, a staff member cheerfully came to our rescue. And when our coffee cups were almost empty, we never had to ask for them to be refilled -- the waitress simply appeared to fill them. When we asked for recommendations for restaurants or directions to an art gallery, we got what we asked for -- and with a smile.
The rates at Escalante are a bit higher than the other inns we reviewed, but worth it. Escalante is on 4 acres with exotic tropical gardens and a very short walk to the beach. (Sunsets in Naples are not to be missed, after all.)
Breakfast is served pool-side on pretty china plates with crisp linen napkins. The scones, muffins, fruits and juices are plentiful, and the ambience is peaceful and relaxing. When we visited, many guests spent the better part of the day around the pool and Jacuzzi. We, however, spent some time at the beach, visited the old Naples Pier and checked out shops and galleries on Fifth Avenue and Third Street.
So much to do. So little time.
Our room was lovely, with its mahogany plantation-style furniture, armoire and king-size bed covered with creamy Frette linens. French doors opened to a private patio with an umbrella-covered table and chairs surrounded by tropical plants.
The first afternoon of our two-night stay, I sent my husband off to scope out the galleries while I found happiness on my favorite piece of furniture in the room -- a modern but extremely comfortable recamier next to the French doors. I found a classical station on the radio, poured a cool drink and buried my nose in a Dick Francis book. The patio doors were open wide, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze kept me cool and I couldn't have been more at peace.
Naples is a peaceful, relaxing place, after all. And I've found three peaceful, relaxing places to stay there.
More information: hotelescalante.com