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The New Urban Chic

Beth ankerman has spent quite a bit of time overseas in Europe, much of it visiting her family in a small town in England. She loves the compact village center with its “high street” lined with restaurants and shops and grocery stores. Above them sit flats, or apartments, where many people live. Everything anyone would need is right there, and neighborly warmth is felt everywhere.

“I walk there with my aunts, and they know everyone,” Beth says. “I love how people ask each other about their families and their kids.” So when Beth recently moved to Naples, she hoped to find something similar. And she did. Today, she lives at The Strada at Mercato. “You recognize people at the pub or the deli,” she says. “You have that neighborhood feel where you walk around and see people you know.”

Gulfshore Life spent time talking with Beth and several other residents at Mercato to find out more about what it’s like living at one of the trendiest addresses around.

Beth Ankerman

Originally from Colorado, the 28-year-old singleton most recently lived in New York and Orlando. She decided to move to Naples to be closer to her mother. The fact that the beach is nearby didn’t hurt either.

Beth’s wish list for a new home was short—new construction, somewhere she didn’t have to drive everywhere, and close to good restaurants and bars. The Strada fit the bill. “I wanted to be somewhere where I have the opportunity to go out and do happy hours and meet people,” Beth says. “I can go out to fancy restaurants like The Capital Grille or more casual restaurants like the Pub and Piola’s. You have Italian, English, steakhouses, a martini bar. You could probably do something different every night for weeks.”

That includes taking in a movie. The new Silverspot cinema at Mercato is all the buzz lately, thanks in part to it playing host to last fall’s first-ever Naples International Film Festival. The luxury movie theater features large, plush leather seats and a full restaurant and cocktail lounge. “The movie theater with the reclining chairs and a bar is just so much fun,” Beth says. “You go with your girlfriend, grab a bottle of wine and watch a movie.”

When she’s in the mood to stay in, Beth enjoys sitting on her balcony and people watching. She can also listen to the live music from bands that participate in Mercato’s First Fridays concert series. The Strada is playing her song. “That’s why I chose here—everything is at your fingertips,” she says.

Alan & Kathleen Majewski

“The opportunity to have an urban lifestyle in a place where you are close to the Gulf beaches is wonderful,” says Alan Majewski. “It is the best of both worlds for us.”

Alan and his wife, Kathleen, live full-time in Pittsburgh, where he is an executive in the steel industry, and she’s an executive in banking. The couple’s home is near the city’s downtown, and their work sees them traveling to many other big, metropolitan areas around the United States.

So when it came time to look for a vacation home, the Majewskis—with their young daughter in tow—quickly settled on the Naples area, where they had spent time with family. But they still wanted to experience the urban lifestyle to which they were accustomed.

Voila! Welcome to The Strada at Mercato. “The thought of being able to go places without having to get into the car—it was a huge draw for us,” Kathleen says. “In theory, we wouldn’t even need a car. We could walk everywhere.”

Like the village markets of centuries past, residents at The Strada at Mercato have scores of stores and shops right under their windows. From Books-A-Million to Sur La Table, from Coldwater Creek to Jos. A. Bank, everything you need is just a few minutes from your front door. “I love the fact that I can just go down to Whole Foods,” says Kathleen. “It’s a five-minute walk, and I can get what I need and be right back home. It’s just so convenient.”

For Alan, the lifestyle upstairs in the residential area of The Strada is exactly what this busy businessman needs to unwind. “The amenities deck is fantastic,” he says. “I went up to the pool, took a swim, lay in the sun. Then I went into the clubhouse right off the pool, and there are two large plasma TVs and a pool table. It was a great place to watch a college football game and then go back out for a swim at half-time.”

Next on his Naples “to do” list—hosting a cocktail or dinner party. The residents’ clubhouse has a full caterer’s kitchen and serving bar, while the pool deck has large Viking gas grills with roasting spits. “You could do a really cool indoor-outdoor party,” Alan says.

Steve & Deborah Grimaldi

When Steve and Deborah Grimaldi pop into Piola’s pizza joint at Mercato, manager Francesco Bissaro invariably is thrilled to see them. “I get a big hug from him,” Steve says. “It’s a great, comfortable feeling. It makes it feel like home.”

The Grimaldis have become regulars at a number of restaurants and nightspots just a short walk from their new Naples condominium, enjoying the neighborhood tavern atmosphere where everybody knows your name.

The couple is originally from Maryland, and both work in the field of computers and information technology. For a number of years, Steve and Deborah regularly took vacations to Naples and enjoyed staying at the Inn on Pelican Bay. “It didn’t take too long until we had fallen in love with Naples,” Steve says.

They signed a contract on a unit at The Strada at Mercato two years before they would move in. It was worth the wait. “The attention to detail is absolutely amazing,” Steve says. Their two-bedroom, two-bath home features hardwood floors, gas cooking and a nicely sized balcony. “I’m out there in the morning on the weekends, having my hot chocolate,” says Deborah, who is still acclimating to Southwest Florida’s wonderful climate. “It’s a comfortable, casual lifestyle.”

Now, the Grimaldis have made friends with other residents at The Strada. They often join them for dinner and drinks at restaurants around the property, or they head to the community’s regular concert series. While the couple admits they rarely use their car, their bicycles are another matter. “We brought our bikes with us, and we are venturing out,” she says. “We ride to the farmer’s market and bring vegetables back. There is so much close by.”

Meeting neighbors, making friends, sharing news, walking to shops, listening to music and relaxing right in your own proverbial backyard—and you don’t have to travel to Europe to find it.

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