“Grape Pie Capital of the World” or “Finger Lakes Simplicity” or “Easy like Sunday Morning” or “Nooks and Crannies” or “Where People are Just Plain Nice.”

What is the potential tagline for Naples, New York? When you work in tourism your mind often goes to taglines. What quick phrase can sum up the feeling you have when you’re in a place?  Naples is a small village of approximately 1,200 residents who are gearing up for what some estimate to be visitors to the tune of 70,000 or more for the Naples Grape Festival. The folks in Naples sure appreciate all those visitors, and the festival remains our most requested special event. Why not, we all agree.  It’s fun, it’s busy, it’s purple, it’s tasty. And, despite all of this, I suggest that people take the time to visit the “non-grape-festival-weekend” Naples as well. Why?  Well, let’s get back to the title conundrum. What is Naples, NY?

Like many people, I feel I’ve “known Naples” for years. But learning is never over and a new perspective can always be gained.  There’s nothing like having your feet on the street to make you more intimate with a place.  Our colleague Carol lead the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection tourism team on her Insider’s Tour of Bristol and Naples this week, and we all got a glimpse of the non-grape-festival Naples that I wish everyone could experience. 

Oh, definitely still go to the grape festival (it’s the last weekend of September), but absolutely go deeper into Naples as well.  Here are the highlights of our tour.

Burning Springs. Finger Lakes Visitors Connection staff was lucky to start with a behind-the-scenes lesson at the geological wonder known as the Burning Springs in Bristol. The springs appear as bubbles of natural gas gurgling up in the shale creek bed. The French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle visited here in 1669 and set a torch to the bubbles and saw it “burn like brandy.”

Beyond searching for the geological phenomena of the bubbling brook, our guide’s most important lesson was to encourage us to think about the land we were walking on. Yes, we were asked to stop and think about what lay directly beneath our feet and who had walked there before us - Native Americans, pioneer settlers who tied Bristol, England to Bristol, New York and just plain folk living their daily lives. 

History in the Reorganizing. Ten thousand man hours is what it is estimated to put the collections of the Naples Historical Society and the Vierhile family into order for a future public museum at The Naples Mill, a building that once used water power to make flour and now serves as a holding tank for all the Naples historical memorabilia collected by the recently deceased town historian, Bill Vierhile.  Literally, the nooks and crannies of the old mill are filled with Naples artifacts. Passionate people like Naples Historical Society president John Murphy are making an inventory of these objects in anticipation of someday having regular museum hours. 

This is the Naples you need to see to really understand this place.  While those nooks and crannies are being sorted out, look for the special events like the Fall Foliage Trail of the Ontario County Historical Society when the Mill will be open for the public on Oct. 17 to get a glimpse of Naples future treasure trove.  

Year-round arts and crafts with a local spin. At the Naples Grape Festival you’ll get options of lots of locally made crafts and art. But, my suggestion don’t think that you’ve “done” the Naples art scene if you’ve done the festival. Go before, go after, go during, but definitely take an easy like Sunday morning stroll down Naples main street. Check out the special stores and meet the artists in a calmer setting where you can really admire the handwork and the “heartwork” of Naples. We went inside the Sweetblessing Boutique at 128 S. Main St. and saw handmade vintage jewelry and crocheted baby sweater sets.

We sauntered down to The Sutton Co. fishing tackle store and were fascinated by the “lure” – pun intended - of a store that’s part specialty factory, part old-time retail. (P.S. buy a t-shirt!). 

Musicians were strolling as well – and by the time we walked past The Grainery, they were enjoying their bagel and strumming their banjo.  Our pace slowed, everyone chatted and waved – and this is Naples, I thought. The Naples I want everyone to feel.

Every day is a good time for pie. Naples will never give up its title as Grape Pie Capital as long as people like Cindy of Cindy’s Grape Pies at 5 Academy Street press on (I know, it’s another bad pun!).  There are lots of grape pie choices during the festival – but it’s somehow “tastier” if you can meander up to the Dutch door, take your time to choose crumb crust or regular --- or both, as we did.

Just plain nice people.  And, finally what about that tagline “Naples: Where people are just plain nice.” I googled that phrase and learned that Scandinavians should hold this title as well. Well, obviously, that writer has not been to Naples, New York.

Hey, you might run into Bob Joseph who spent three years refinishing this vintage Pontiac and pulls it up to Lynnie Lou’s Homemade Ice Cream http://www.lynnielous.com/ each Wednesday night of the summer so people can enjoy a flashback moment in history. Trust me – that’s especially nice with a Lynnie Lou’s fresh peach sundae in your hand!

How about the random person who saw me wandering down the street with my camera and wanted to make sure I was getting some great pictures.  Or, what about the gardener who popped into Artizanns Gifts from the Finger Lakes as brought the owner some free geraniums just because she had some extras?

I’ve traveled a lot and it’s these moments that are moments to remember a place and really feel like you’re part of it.  Often on the evening news we hear about the stresses of the world and you long for a day like we had in Naples.  Although, I still am not sure which tagline fits best – I can tell you that if you just want to “feel good” about life – go “Get your Naples on.”