Naples, Florida — Part I

Naples Pier

Naples Pier, on the Gulf of Mexico.

Pelicans at Naples Pier

Pelicans at the Naples Pier.


I left Southern California in October 1994 to spend a working winter vacation in Naples, Fla., where my mother owned a villa. I stayed seven years. This is the farm stand where I worked in Naples. The farm is no longer there; the land has been developed, a place called Treviso Bay. I wonder if you can still hear the zzz-ing of the cicadas in the adjacent woods.

Founded in the late 1880s as a fishing village and vacation winter resort serving mostly the elite from Kentucky and Ohio, Naples, on the Gulf of Mexico, way down almost on the southwest tip of Florida, began to grow as a city in the 1920s when the railroad came taking fish to market and bringing in tourists. Barron Collier, a New York millionaire, arrived in 1923 and bought up the land. He bought the Rod & Gun Club in nearby Everglades City, too. There he hosted foreign dignitaries and U.S. presidents. Ernest Hemingway came. The newly arrived traveled a lot between Tampa and Miami and they soon realized they needed more than a couple of sand ruts upon which to drive. So, federal funds in tow, they set up their supply depot at Everglades City and, beating their way through the jungle with machetes, shovels and fly swatters, set to work building a road connecting the two cities. When the federal government ran into a financial snag, Collier offered to finish the road in return for the new county being named after him. He made Everglades City the Collier County seat. The new road, the Tamiami Trail, now U.S. Route 41, opened to great fanfare in 1928.


This is the train that brought them to Southwest Florida.

Naples Depot Lamp & RR Logo

Everglades City is Ernest Hemingway’s Florida. It is Key West and the Keys 70 years ago. After Hurricane Donna struck in 1960, ripping out the torso of Everglades City, older than Naples and too weak financially to rebuild, everybody conceded that Naples, just up the Gulf, was the more important trade location at which to build. Since then, Naples has blossomed into home for not only vacationers but home for the retired from jobs of intrigue such as the Secret Service and the FBI, retired prominent figures and the wealthy. Stephen King is said to have a home here. He is said to have a home in several Southwest Florida cities. Fans have sighted him all around the area, even at Publix, the supermarket chain. I think I might have seen his Mercedes once. Other celebrities have magnificent homes in the area, too. And, many Canadians, Europeans and Russians visit. Here are some photos from around town:

Painted House

The Flower House: A historic home on the beach in Naples, painted with flowers.

Painted House 1

Naples Depot & Fifth Ave S

Fifth Avenue South, the heart of upscale Naples.

Naples Depot & Fifth Ave S 2

Historic Naples Depot.

ACL Logo & Caboose

ACL Logo & Caboose 1

Luggage Cart & Gulf Bch 1

Below, Naples Pier and the Gulf of Mexico.

Luggage Cart & Gulf Bch

Banyon & Coco Palm

A banyon tree near the beach in Naples.

Banyon & Coco Palm 1

A nearby coconut palm.

Below are two photos I took at the 729,000 acre Big Cypress National Preserve, a short drive east of Naples:

Big Cypress Swamp 1

I visited Big Cypress mainly to see the black and white photography of Clyde Butcher and his Big Cypress Gallery and studio where he explained how he develops his black and white photographs. Big Cypress was set aside in 1974 to protect the flora and fauna and recreation in this region and particularly the importance of the Big Cypress watershed to Everglades National Park. The park was established in 1934 and dedicated in 1947. Big Cypress refers to the vast cypress strands spanning this area.

Big Cypress Swamp

Pictured above, Spanish moss in Big Cypress National Preserve of the Everglades at Ochopee, Fla. Big Cypress is located on U.S. Route 41, the Tamiami Trail, about midway along the 125 mile route between Miami (on the Atlantic coast) and Naples.

In 2000 I lived in a little apartment on Henderson Creek, a tidal creek in Naples. My neighbor across the creek had a mango tree that became so laden with mangos in June that he had to hire a group of Mexicans to come pick them. I wished I could just swim across in the night and pick a few mangos. But, then, there were the alligators….  This is the boat dock outside my apartment (I didn’t have a boat.)


My next-door neighbor here had basically one item in his wardrobe. Eponymously, I called him (not to his face) Loincloth.

mangrove roots

Roots of the mangrove trees next to the dock.

Morning Reflection 300 copy

The view above is from the screened lanai of my mother’s villa.

–Samantha Mozart

8 Responses to Naples, Florida — Part I

  1. Liz Brownlee says:

    Looks like a colourful place – I read somewhere that people in Florida are ignoring the fact that when the seas rise they will flood – is that true? ~Liz

    • sammozart says:

      Colorful people, that’s for sure, Liz. Re rising seas, read my “O” post, “On Marco Island,” and find out more.

      Thanks for coming by. Nice to meet you on the A-Zs.

  2. Interesting seeing the pictures from a different time, Samantha, particularly accompanied by your descriptions of a place that is no longer there. The villa with the colorful flowers painted on it — so joyous. The view from your mom’s place, so peaceful. I imagine it was lovely spending quality writing time in such a nice place.

    • sammozart says:

      I think I did some of my best writing in Florida, Silvia. I don’t know why that is. I didn’t really like Florida. Yet, maybe it was the clean air that smelled like orange blossoms, the humidity (even though I don’t like humidity) and the relaxed quality of life. Most people there generate enough income during the tourist season to take the summers off.

      We knew that the farm market was temporary. My boss leased the land from a developer who kept testing the wells for salinity.

      Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived and wrote in rural Florida, and it seemed just the right atmosphere for her. There’s something about the mysterious goings on in the the swamps that conjures up the imagination.

      Thank you, Silvia.

  3. Pat Garcia says:

    Of course, when I saw the title of this posting, I first thought it was about Naples, or Napoli, Italy. Funny, how our minds play tricks on us. Naples seems to be an interesting place to live. I have been all over the east coast of Florida but never went totally down south of the State or West. I did stay a couple of nights in Pensacola but that was it.
    I enjoyed the photographs and your excerpts. I do believe I must plan for a eight week trip or more in the United States.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    • sammozart says:

      Or, next year maybe The Prophet and Child will visit Italy and we’ll travel with them. Actually, there are a lot of Italians, mostly Italian-Americans in Naples. When I was leaving L.A. to go there, an Italian-American I knew said he had lots of relatives there, that he had been there and enjoyed shopping at Publix. :-).

      Of course some of the architecture there is Neopolitan style, but more so Venetian — there’s a Venetian Bay, and largely Spanish. The Old Florida style, which makes the most sense, is disappearing.

      Anyway, here’s to our visiting Napoli one day. Thanks, Patricia.


  4. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Lovely and interesting pictures. You really should be writing for travel magazines. You can inform people about your area. Great post.

    • sammozart says:

      You’re the third person that’s said I should be writing for travel magazines, since I’ve been writing on this A-Z theme. All I need is the funding to travel. I’d love it! What a great career. Funding to travel and take a friend. Let’s picture that. 🙂