This Italian-inspired Long Beach community was developed in the early 1900’s as the “Dreamland of Southern California” and consists of three islands filled with narrow streets and walkways, canals, beautiful houses and boats, a plaza with a water fountain, excellent shopping and restaurants on nearby 2nd Street. This seaside neighborhood boasts picturesque bridges reminiscent of Italy’s Mediterranean shore: Naples.
Today it’s known as 2nd Street in Naples & Belmont Shore, and it has become a thriving shopping and dining district that connects downtown Long Beach with its very own coastal – beach regions to the south.
Home to multimillion-dollar houses, sightseers on gondolas, and a popular Christmas-time boat parade, the island community was part of a tidal estuary just over a century ago. Surrounded by the wetlands of Alamitos Bay, where the San Gabriel River discharged into the sea, Naples was in 1903 only an ephemeral island inhabited by ducks and other waterfowl. At low tide, water lapped at its sandy banks. At high tide, it completely submerged the land.
Naples did not occur by accident. A.M. Parsons and his son, A.C., sold lots on the “Peninsula” in 1903. They sold the dream of an Italian style resort village with canals and gondola rides (which actually exist today).
Approximately one mile of canals in Naples includes a large semi-circular Rivo Alto Canal and a shorter, straight Naples Canal. Lining the canals are docks and walkways fronting homes that overlook the waterways. In the evening you can see residents of the quaint community sit on their decks and patios, watching the sunset, and waving to the gondolas and romantic couples passing by. It actually retains a flavor that could be Italian in many ways, though the weather is clearly Southern California amazing.
Five small bridges (some with room for one car at a time) allow you to drive around and take a look at all but one tiny-gated island (Treasure Island). You can also park your car around the Italian fountain and set out on a really nice stroll along the canals.
It’s easy to fall in love with Naples, and is greatly appreciated by many who live on the islands. Many would love to live there but can’t afford the expensive water properties that come with docks. So for the rest, the Gondola Getaway ride provides the excitement and romance for around $100, minus the huge mortgage, taxes and all that goes with purchasing and maintaining multi-million dollar homes. If Parsons were alive today to see what his dream has become, he’d be smiling.