It was a cold winter day . . . up north . . . in 1932 when Charles Lindbergh landed his plane in the sleepy Florida town of Naples. Residents probably didn’t bat an eye at seeing that famed aviator. After all, “Lucky” Lindbergh and his wife, Ann, often dropped in for supplies on their way to their nearby retreat.

A mere 50+ years earlier, Naples — now known as the “Crown Jewel of Southwest Florida” — was founded by a Confederate general, a Kentucky Senator and a publisher who used his newspaper to tout the area’s wonderful mild climate (especially in winter!), incredible fishing and hunting opportunities, 10 miles of pristine white sand beaches . . . “just like the Italian Riviera!”

The city’s name was a natural. When someone in passing likened the area to the sunny Italian peninsula, the promoters jumped on board, describing their own bay as “surpassing the bay in Naples, Italy.” It’s an obvious draw for the rich and famous. Witness such property owners as Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Buzz Aldrin, Larry Bird, Neal Bootz, Robin Cook, Mike Ditta, Janet Evanovich, Dick Gephardt, Don Healy, Bob Segar, “Judge Judy” Sheinlin and Sean Hannity. The lure of owning one’s own quietly sophisticated piece of Gulf of Mexico real estate is hard to resist.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Naples is one of “America’s 10 Best Undervalued Places to Live.” The secret, of course, to finding the right choice luxury site or home is selecting a Realtor who knows the area intimately, which is why John R. Wood, one of the oldest real estate firms on Florida, is also one of the largest and most successful.

Nearby Everglades National Park and “Ten Thousand Islands” brings in many who are interested in EcoTourism. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and Picayune Strand State Forest are testimony to the “we care” attitude of the area’s residents.

And how it does draw those Ohio State alums! The OSU chapter had so many members, it earned Naples the honor of being home to the largest university alumni organization in the nation.

For “Material Girls” and their ilk, Downtown Naples is a festival of unique shopping venues with a distinct focus on upscale markets, antiques, art galleries and handmade creations. Luxury residential communities abound, according to John R. Woods Realtors, which maintains a “fleet” of over 300 agents, each well versed in the exclusive opportunities sought by those who can afford the very finest of homes.

Witness the more than 80 championship golf courses in the area, giving Naples full justification for calling itself “Golf Capital of the World.” Naples claims to have more holes per capita than any other city.

Despite its emergence as a sophisticated city offering international cuisines, education, business opportunities and residential excellence, Naples has managed to retain its “sleepy Florida town” ambiance, a comfortable contrast to the hustle and bustle of larger cities. Unspoiled natural settings within easy access have helped keep this city grounded in a simpler past.

Karen Van Arsdale

A full-time Naples resident since 1981, Karen began her real estate career in 1983. Originally from Easton, Maryland, she holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Richmond, with concentration in Marketing and Finance.

Karen’s primary focus is to provide her clients market knowledge to better help them in the purchase or sale of their home. She has participated in over two billion in residential sales establishing herself as one of the top real estate professionals in the United States.With decades of experience in every tier of the Naples luxury market, Karen ranks in the top 25 percent among Wall Street Journal’s and Real Trends’ Annual Report of the Top 250 realtors in the United States.