For many Naples conjures up negative aspects such as the Mafia and streets strewn with garbage. I’ll admit I was not too keen to visit the city the first time I went, especially with two children in tow, but my opinion quickly changed as I was instantly taken in by the energy of the city.
Naples really is an entity all to its own: the atmosphere, the people, and most definitely, the food. Yes there is garbage, yes you need to watch your wallet, but I never once felt unsafe. I have found the Neapolitans to be friendly, quick with a smile and welcoming everywhere we went. The city is bursting with history and numerous sites to visit, but this trip was designed to learn about some of its cultural and cuisine highlights in order to share with you.
Located just one hour south of Rome via high-speed train, Naples is a great addition to any Italian itinerary. From here you can also easily visit the ruins of Pompeii and travel to the Amalfi Coast.
As we were walking the streets I noticed that the young and old alike were continuously giving coins to the homeless. I saw this over and over again, more so than in any other city I have visited. Then, as we passed a cafè, Ale pointed out a bowl holding receipts and explained that this a called Caffè Sospeso (Suspended Coffee). The receipts are from customers who paid for two cups of coffee, one for themselves and one for someone less fortunate who can enjoy a coffee for free. Though it is not clear when this tradition began, it hit its peak during WWII and continues to this day especially during difficult economic times. Naples may be gritty, but there is quiet and determine sense of community and togetherness here.
Chef Ale promised us exceptional food and she definitely delivered. We let her take over the ordering and she explained the traditions of and how each dish was prepared.
Pizzeria Arcangelo Abbate
One absolutely cannot visit Naples without eating pizza. Incredible pizzerias are found throughout and I have some favorites, but this was perhaps the best. This “hole-in-the-wall” pizzeria is located the notorious neighborhood of Secondigliano. Due to this I pondered if I should even recommend it, but the staff were so kind and I never once felt uncomfortable. I wiIl definitely return myself, but would recommend visiting during daylight hours and taking a taxi to / from.
Seggio del Popolo
Being a fan of European history I love the concept of this restaurant. The chef researches then re-creates dishes from the recipes of the chefs that served the Bourbon Kings when they ruled Naples. With much pride they tell you where the seasonal Ingredients are locally sourced and how the dishes are prepared. Well-worth a visit!
A restaurant entirely dedicated to Ragù! You have a choice of two – Ragù Napoletano or Genovese. Each are cooked slowly for 6-8 hours, left to set overnight, then served with traditional pasta. Ragù Napoletano begins with a soffritto of mixed cuts of meat then copious amounts of tomato sauce are added. Genovese Ragù starts with a large amount of onions cooked down then cuts of meat are added with a small amount of tomato paste. For both versions various herbs and wine may be added according the taste of one preparing it.
When discussing what we should see in Naples, Ale insisted that we visit, according to her, the “most beautiful” metro station in the world. Um…ok. That seemed a bit odd to me, my vision of the metro in Naples was far from anything beautiful. But, in fact, they are quite amazing. Known as the “Art Stations” they were born from the project to upgrade the old metro stations of the city. The stations now include over 180 works of art from a mix of internationally well-known to local artists and architects.
The great cities of Rome, Florence and Venice offer treasures untold, but there is so much more to be discovered in this beautiful country. Let this guide inspire you to travel off the beaten path to discover the soul of Italy.