5 Shops in Naples: vintage Italian designs, bespoke tailoring and more

I was born and raised in Naples, and one of my earliest memories is my grandmother taking me to the local fruit markets every day. Decades later, I still recall the vendors’ catchy songs and their colorful signs. In Naples, even selling is an art. As a major Mediterranean port, Naples has traded goods and ideas for over 3000 years, exporting products and culture while welcoming others. This perpetual exchange has fostered continuous development, making the city a capital of excellence in many fields.

Naples offers an abundance of everything you could dream of. From handmade goods to retail, design and luxury, you can find it all at street vendors, independent workshops, markets, shopping districts and malls. Let’s explore some of Naples’ most historic and representative shops for a true Neapolitan shopping experience.

Figurine display in a Naples souvenir shop
Pastori on display in Di Virgilio © Federica Bocco; Artisan Genny Di Virgili handpaints a Maradona pastore Artisan Genny Di Virgili © Laura Lezza/Getty Images

Best for souvenirs: Di Virgilio

If you take home one memento from Naples, it must be a pastore from the historic shopping district of San Gregorio Armeno. Pastore, meaning shepherd, refers to handmade figurines for a presepe, the wooden nativity scene that Neapolitan families display every December. This tradition dates back a millennium, long before the Christmas tree became popular. Pastori can be any figures, often not related to the nativity itself – perhaps shepherds, fishers, bakers or dressed in ancient peasant garb. The tradition is ancient and profane, with little to do with Catholicism.

The oldest workshop is Di Virgilio, established in 1830 and passed down through generations. The shop in San Gregorio Armeno features handmade terracotta figures of varying sizes and prices, ranging from €20 upwards. In an eclectic mix of legend and reality, past meets present as myriad celebrities, politicians, artists and athletes sit alongside the Holy Family in the nativity scene. Di Virgilio also takes commissions for personalized pastori statues based on your likeness or a friend’s, perfect for display on a shelf.

Fabric, ties and men shoes on display in one of Naples' oldest tailor shops
Fabric, silk scarves and men’s shoes on display at Maison Cilento, a shop that has been producing handcrafted garments and accessories since 1780 © Federica Bocco

Best for local design: Maison Cilento

Naples is home to many renowned design houses, including E. Marinella, whose ties have adorned the necks of King Charles and JFK. Near the picturesque park Villa Comunale di Napoli, you’ll find M. Cilento & F.llo, one of Italy’s oldest and most successful fashion houses and one of my favorites. Specializing in tailor-made suits, shirts and ties, as well as shoes, bags, belts and accessories, Cilento has been crafting bespoke garments for eight generations since 1780.

Walking into the boutique feels like entering a charming, living-history museum, with one-of-a-kind items and historical pieces displayed in glass cabinets. The artisans at Cilento work on each custom-fit garment for a total of 60 hours, so allow for turnaround time. If you are not staying in Naples long enough to commission a bespoke garment, consider taking home a ready-made accessory like a leather bag or a silk foulard (€120), to add some Neapolitan flair to your everyday style.

Second-hand stylish womenswear on display in a Naples boutique
Retrophilia Vintage is small but has a sprawling range of designer pieces by brands Miu Miu, Moschino and Fendi © Federica Bocco

Best for vintage: Retrophilia

Vintage and thrift stores line Via Mezzocannone, popular among students from the nearby university. Retrophilia stands out for its authentic and fashionable retro and vintage clothing. The neatly organized, two-floor boutique offers unique and rare pieces, including silk dresses, leather jackets, vintage soccer shirts and tailored pants and skirts. You can find Italian designer brands, such as Moschino and Fendi, and one-of-a-kind items designed by local artists in Naples.

Given Retrophilia’s popularity, each garment hardly stays in the boutique for long, snatched away by the first lucky customer to spot it. Such is the store’s renown for unique pieces, that celebrities often shop here to avoid showing up on a red carpet wearing the same dress as somebody else. Pair your items with hard-to-find accessories like bags, jewels, hats and sunglasses, and rely on the expert fashion advice of the approachable and style-savvy staff.

Chocolate on display in Gay Odin, Naples
The Gay Odin chocolate factory on Via Vetriera has been entered into the register of ‘historic shops and businesses‘ of Naples © Federica Bocco

Best for food: Gay Odin

Calling Naples the city of food is an understatement. Napoli, the inventor of pizza, offers countless specialties. Gay Odin, the historic Neapolitan chocolate factory established in 1894, caters to nearly all palates with chocolate in every form. While there are various Gay Odin stores, the store on Via Vetriera is the most charming, featuring ancient equipment, antique furniture, vintage ads and chocolate sculptures.

Try the signature chocolate, cioccolata foresta (100g = €7), a milk chocolate log that resembles the bark of a tree and is presented in a gift box painted with historical views of the Bay of Naples. The rich and decadent chocolate liqueur is also a must. The maestri cioccolatieri are true artists, decorating their creations with themes linked to Naples, like soccer victories or significant city events. Currently, the star of the shop is the gigantic chocolate egg celebrating the 800th anniversary of Napoli’s Università Federico II (the first ever state-run university in the world).

Old books on display in a Naples bookstore
Colonnese is an antiquarian bookshop and cultural hotspot and gathering place in Naples © Federica Bocco

Best for books: Colonnese

Don’t leave Naples without visiting Librerie Colonnese, one of the city’s oldest bookshops. Near the Conservatory and Piazza Bellini, Colonnese boasts thousands of titles in various languages in a charming space with antique wooden furniture. The bookstore sells old editions, titles that are out of production and genres of all sorts (there’s even a section dedicated to cats). It also specializes in tarot cards (from €16). Tourists will appreciate shelves dedicated to Naples and the region of Campania, offering travel inspiration. The owners are always happy to help customers. If your luggage is full, consider purchasing an old print as a postcard (from €5) or a vintage ad from the bookstore.

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