Naples: Sarasota’s Opulent Neighbor

Naples, Florida is a coastal city of wealth as well as a city of philanthropy, and it’s about 100 miles south of Sarasota.
By: Susan Ladika
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Mention Naples, Fla., and one word typically springs to mind: Money. This is a coastal city of wealth, as well as a city of philanthropy, and it’s about 100 miles south of Sarasota. Its roots date back to the late 1800s, when articles touting the area’s mild climate and rich wildlife began to draw Northerners to the area. In the 1880s, the area grabbed the attention of Kentucky Sen. John S. Williams and Louisville Courier-Journal publisher Walter Haldeman, who built private homes and a pier in the area along with a 16-room hotel. Eventually Haldeman bought out Williams, making the Kentucky newspaperman owner of the entire town. Later, millionaire Barron Gift Collier came to the area and built paved roads, telegraphs and electric plants. The county in which Naples is located is named for Barron Collier. 

Yankees, young people and art

As Naples grew, so did the influx of wealthy Northerners. For many years it has been a haven for retiring company executives, as well as a place for them to buy second homes. But Naples has changed with time, as young professionals began moving to the area, as well as Germans drawn to the lifestyle of southwestern Florida.

Over the years, the arts scene in Naples has also evolved, much of it fueled by the Philharmonic Center for the Arts (known to locals as the Phil), where you can listen to the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, take in a Broadway show like Mamma Mia!, or gaze at paintings, sculpture and other art works on display at the Patty & Jay Baker Naples Museum of Art.

And what’s a city without shopping? Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South in Naples are full of art galleries, shopping and fine dining. The nightlife in Naples has heated up, with bars and clubs springing up along Fifth Avenue South.

Along with spending money on private luxuries, Naples residents like to give it away; philanthropy is a major pastime in the city. A key event is the Naples Winter Wine Festival, a three-day affair that brings together top vintners, chefs and patrons for the benefit of the Naples Children & Education Foundation. Since the event’s founding in 2001, it has raised $69 million for local charities that aid underprivileged and at-risk children. 

The great outdoors

Collier County is also a haven for those who love the outdoors. There are miles of beaches to wander, myriad golf courses and plenty of boating and fishing in area waterways.

Naples is a gateway to the Everglades, one of the most famous national parks in the country. Collier County also has Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a preserve that’s home to black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer and alligators. There’s an abundance of birds of nearly every description, and if you look closely you might spy an orchid blooming in the wild. 

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