Where to drink in Naples, from wine bars to the best place for a negroni
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
Much of the nightlife in Naple’s centro storico revolves in and around the network of narrow lanes near Piazza Bellini that fill with a boho student-y crowd from aperitivo time on. The bars here tend to be tiny, so punters spill out onto the streets clutching plastic cups of wine and cheap cocktails. Then there are the centri sociali (social centres), which are run by community organisations, students and pensioners with events often involving food and wine. Each centre has its own character; some are heavily political while others are more focused around theatre and music.
By contrast, the upmarket neighbourhood of Chiaia is popular with a more sophisticated clientele who make for the barretti (the network of pretty cobbled streets) for a crawl among some of the best bars – and cocktails – in the city.
This relative newcomer, decorated with bright, splashy murals and popular with a young, hip crowd, has a brilliant selection of international natural and organic wines and craft beer, with several beers on tap. Opened by a couple of friends (one Italian, the other English), it is a laid-back, unpretentious place and the long, shared table where customers play board games and chat over drinks means that it’s a good place for solo travellers. The drinks and food menus change regularly with specials chalked up on a blackboard; snacks include cheese or charcuterie platters plus the likes of avocado toast with smoked salmon.
A reclaimed community space occupying the crumbling but hugely atmospheric cloister of a 16th-century monastery, this centro sociale is run by a cross-generational group of activists dedicated to keeping local traditional culture alive. It is an inclusive, welcoming space where old and young get together for live music, eating and drinking. On most weekends there are live shows with food cooked by local signoras; a tammurriata band with traditional dancing, maybe, or a capoeira or impromptu theatre show.
Bars come and go in this part of the city, but Bourbon Street has been a staple for jazz enthusiasts for years hosting an assortment of cross-generational musicians (including music students from the Conservatory down the road) for live sessions from Thursdays to Sundays. Standards are not always consistent, so check what’s on in advance. Unlike many bars in Naples, there is a decent amount of space inside, and in winter it is a cosy spot to settle in for the evening’s entertainment.
Formerly known as Rising South and once famous for being the only proper club in the centro storico, this long, tunnel-like space with rough brick walls and vaulted ceiling is the venue to head for if you want to wind up an evening of drinking Spritz out of plastic cups on the street corners around Piazza Bellini with some really good dance sounds spun by a roster of great DJs. The most popular of the club nights, and a chance to get dressed up, is the bi-monthly (on Fridays) LGBT+ night with sparkling pop music and vodka redbulls. There’s a regular University Party too, but days vary so check their Facbook page.
Contact: 00 39 081 19810100, galleria19.it Metro: Dante Price: Entrance £££, includes one drink
Ex-Salumeria Cocktail bar
Known as ‘the rum boutique’, this tiny wooden bar – decorated with hanging fruits and a wooden palm tree – lies in an alleyway that is packed at night with revelers clutching drinks in plastic cups. It wouldn’t look out of place on a Carribean beach. This is the place to head if you are looking for a wild night out; lots of people packed into a tiny space with blaring Brazilian music means you are bound to make friends. Exotic drinks (shots in papaya or kiwi shells, cocktails with a fire twist) are mixed by a couple of guys who distill their own spirits and have even been known to make their own rum.
Located on leafy Piazza Bellini, at the foot of an 18th-century Piperno stone staircase, contemporary gallery-meets-bar Nea attracts an artsy bunch. The blank white space hosts an ever-changing roster of art shows, but it’s the setting – overlooking Naples’ loveliest squares with its lively mix of daily bustle and buzzing nightlife – that is the draw. It’s a popular spot for laptop work during the day (there are charging points inside and tables on the piazza where you can order coffee and homemade cake or a plate of charcuterie), but at aperitivo hour, the place fills up with a young, casual crowd who sip on Aperol Spritz served in huge wine glasses to a cool soundtrack of anything from Dylan to Belle and Sebastian to local hero Pino Daniele.
This sweaty, smoke-filled dance club occupies a basement in a narrow alleyway just off Piazza Bellini; you descend the stairs into a cavernous, brightly painted space decorated with African fabrics. This is the place to go in Naples to dance the night away to afrobeats; everyone is made to feel welcome. Originally from Burkina Faso, critically-acclaimed author and DJ Judicael Ouango set up Teranga as a safe space for migrants to come and eat home-cooked food and dance to music from back home by the likes of Davido, Fela Kuti and Timaya. There’s the odd live sessions as well.
They say that Giuseppe Garibaldi had his army’s uniforms made at this former wool factory which occupies part of a 15th-century monastery building and its internal courtyard in the run-down Porta Capuana neighbourhood. Today, the rambling, multi-functional space includes artisan workshops, performance areas and, upstairs, Spazio Intolab, a club famous for its superb sound system and techno nights hosted by big-name DJs plus live nights. If the heat in the small club gets too much, you can sit out beneath the arches of the atmospheric courtyard sipping an iced Peroni or a vodka tonic: chaotic Naples feels a world away.
Francesco Sepe’s small, wood-pannelled bar and grocer’s shop has become famous for its Thursday evening ‘AperiSepe’ sessions when a truly egalitarian mix of folk from all across the city (from professors and lawyers to students and artists) pile in to the heart of the Sanità for a mix of wine, food, music, cultural events and lots of chat. The crowds fill the wide pavement; some standing, some perching on a jumble of wine barrels and upturned plastic crates, glasses of local plonk in hand (dirt cheap at around €1.50/£1 a pop), while Francesco’s mum Giovanna doles out plates of hearty home-cooked food. Her parmigiana di melanzane is legendary.
Contact: 00 39 081 454609 Open: Tues, Weds, Fri, Sat 9am-9pm; Thurs 9am-midnight; Sun 9am-3pm. Nearest metro: Cavour or Museo Price: £
Chiaia to Posillipo and beyond
The network of narrow lanes off Piazza dei Martiri in the up-market neighbourhood of Chiaia are known as baretti; this is where well-heeled Neapolitans come for their pre-dinner aperitivo. The many bars in the area specialise not only in drinks, but also in a spread of help-yourself nibbles included in the price. Barril not only offers 20 different types of mojito, but it also serves up a delicious, ever-changing selection of eats such as pasta or rice salads, mini mozzarelline, vegetable flans, cold cuts and cheeses. In warm weather, the draw is the lovely garden.
Snappily dressed mixologist Alex Frezza and his colleagues whip up some of the best cocktails in the city at this classy bar, located in the trendy baretti and frequented by a smart, sophisticated crowd. Once inside the small, unremarkable doorway, it’s all red velour and dark, moody lighting inside, a cosy, intimate space with the retro echoes of a speakeasy. For a ringside seat, take a perch at the backlit bar with its ranks of colourful bottles and order a classic negroni, or ask the barman to craft something specially for you.
This unusual aperitivo spot is a hole-in-the-wall fishmonger and restaurant by day, but it is also very popular with the Chiaia crowd for a glass of wine and a fishy nibble before dinner. In front of a bright, painted tiled mural of Vesuvius, the wet counter includes super-fresh oysters, cockles and shrimp on ice, but the chefs can also whip up other goodies to go with your glass of chilled local Falanghina. The nautical-themed space is tiny, and it’s always crowded, but if you get there early enough (aperitivi kick off at around 7pm), you may be able to grab a stool; the alternative is to stand in the street. This is one of those places where drinks morph into dinner which is no hardship; the food is great.