Eating Naples

Despite all the hype, I didn’t find pizza in Naples to be any better than the pizza in other parts of Italy. But it was still really, really, really yummy. And the seafood, oh the seafood. Below are some of the culinary highlights.

Antonio e Antonio. A mildly touristy seafood restaurant near the water. Spaghetti vongole (clams, white sauce with cherry tomatoes), fried ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, mussels, and some of the best fried calamari I’ve ever tasted.

Bellini. An insanely popular pizzeria whose pizza is worth the hype. We were squeezed into a corner table in the bustling upstairs room. My pizza ortolana (veggies) was heavenly washed down with a couple bottles of local falanghina wine.

Gay Odin. Luckily it’s plenty warm enough for gelato even in December in Naples, and we enjoyed some sumptuous dark chocolate variations (chocolate peperoncino and chocolate cinnamon) at Gay Odin. We also had a good gelato experience at Motus.

Ciro. Another great pizzeria, another great pizza ortolana.

La Stanza del Gusto. Fancy food Neapolitan style. The vegetarian tasting menu contained many delights, including thick homemade noodles with an intense tomato and cheese sauce, a squash soup with a ricotta cigar, and something that appears in my notes as ‘melty cheese course.’ I’m not usually a big dessert person, but the ricotta and chocolate mousse made my knees weak with lust. Scott’s purple octopus was pretty, too.

Even food for sale on the street looked beautiful in Naples.

Well, almost all of it. We did have to pass on the street pizza with hot dogs, french fries, and mayo.

If you have a favorite Naples restaurant, please share it in the comments!

Not getting robbed in Naples

Technically my first trip to Naples was over a decade ago, but my grandmother refused to let us get out of the bus – too dangerous. My second visit was similarly brief, although it involved a little more foot-to-pavement time.  So this time, my third visit, I was ready to soak it all in. Surely all those rumors about crime in Naples were exaggerated?

Struffoli like my grandmother used to make

We were welcomed by a taxi driver who tried to charge us double for our trip to the hotel, and I wondered if all this fear of crime might actually be founded. But my doubts quickly faded as we eased our way into life in this fascinating city.

The last time I was in Naples, this square contained a sculpture of horse parts

Naples is a wonderful walking city, with so much life and vibrancy. It also has a galleria so similar to Milan’s that I could look up and be confused as to where I was.

Via Toledo is the main shopping street, and over the course of three days we wandered up and down it many times. A network of narrow walking streets was lined with shops selling nativity scene figurines and Pulcinellas. I’m guessing they sell other tourist trinkets the rest of the year.

Christmas lights over Via Toledo

There were nativity scenes and Christmas decorations everywhere you looked, including inside this giant wheel of parmigiano:

We spent most of our time in Naples walking or eating, but we did squeeze in a couple of sites, too. The Archeological Museum contains more Roman statues than you can shake a fig leaf at. Other highlights include various plunder from Pompeii and the mildly pornographic ‘forbidden room,’ which is more titillating to anticipate than to actually view.

We also loved the Castel dell’Ovo, an imposing structure which juts out into the water and houses the odd free art exhibit. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the interesting architectural spaces that we wandered through.

In Naples we found the locals to be friendly and the prices low. And the food, well, it deserves a post all its own.

Do subways do this in other cities?

Christmas in Rome, part 2

The activities in my first post about Christmas in Rome were just ways to kill time between meals. I really go to Italy for the food.

Christmas Dinner at Osteria Sant’Ana (not affiliated with the guitarist, as far as we could tell) was a welcome feast of everything delicious about Italy. Appetizers of smoked buffalo mozzarella, fried artichokes, and prosciutto.

Spaghetti cacio e pepe, lasagne, salads, and big plates of meat for those who still had room for them.

Wild strawberries, Sicilian cannolis and cassata for dessert, followed by fresh clementines, and of course a little limoncello. For a restaurant filled mostly with tourists, they certainly fed us well.

Another blogworthy meal was lunch at Trattoria Da Luigi. We had a hard time choosing between all the delicious offerings, settling on tagliatelle ai carciofi, risotto con radicchio tartufato, grouper with zucchini flowers and pine nuts, grilled radicchio, and carciofi alla romana. Alas we had to resist the gorgeous antipasto on display as we entered the restaurant, since our stupid stomachs aren’t bottomless.

Before we knew it, it was time to hop on a train to Naples. Arrivederci, Roma.

In which we are very lucky travelers, despite Eyjafjallajökull

“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” is a phrase that has been running through my mind a lot for the past couple days, except in place of “Spanish Inquisition” I put “Icelandic volcanic ash.”

Long story short, we are some of the very few European travelers from the past couple days who actually made it to our destination, and only eight hours after initially scheduled. Pretty impressive given that we were originally scheduled to fly via Amsterdam’s Schipol airport, which closed the day before our flight and hasn’t reopened since. As it turned out, our Munich to Atlanta plane took a more southern route than usual in order to dodge the ash as we made our way out of Europe. We landed in the US to the news that airports (including Munich) as far south as Switzerland had closed while we were in the air.

Cancelations at Munich Airpot

We breezed by the long, long lines of stranded travelers waiting to be rebooked in Atlanta’s international terminal, glad that we already had boarding cards for our second flight. We started to think it was really going to happen, we were really going to make it. Not only was our connecting flight to New York on time, but we even got upgraded to first class. As I said, lucky, lucky, lucky.

This morning in New York the local news is full of stories about area airports full of stranded passengers and canceled local concerts due to musicians stuck in Europe. And me? I’m busy trying to learn how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull while enjoying my breakfast bagel. Mmmm.

Christmas in Rome, part 1

I’m a bit behind on my travel blogging. I’ll skip over a couple trips all together, but our winter adventures in Italy deserve a little more attention than they have received so far.

We arrived in Rome on Christmas Day to find the metro closed. No signs, no information, just a big metal gate closing off the entrance. Luckily our hotel was within easy walking distance of the train station.

Speaking of our accommodations, Albergo Ottocento is a nice, well-located boutique hotel within walking distance of many places of interest in Rome. And walk we did. The Christmas tree on the Spanish steps was a bit of a disappointment, but the sunset view from the top wasn’t.

The next day we headed over to the Vatican to see their tree and giant nativity scene*, and happened to catch a glimpse of the pope speaking to the crowd from a comically far-off window. I think he was discussing his new plan to get child molestation down to acceptable levels.

We saw a lovely art exhibit at the Chiostro del Bramante and then did some more wandering, including through the Christmas market at Piazza Navona. It was giant and loud and bright and tacky; nothing at all like a German Christmas market but fun anyway. A passing tourist’s remark about the “Panthanon” sent me into a giggling fit that could only be cured by a Campari-laden cocktail at the oh-so-charming Caffè della Pace.

More art at the Villa Borghese, which is a nightmare of rules (reservations required, you get kicked out after two hours, the required bag check refuses to take coats) but they get away with it since their art collection is so wonderful. Bernini statues, I will never get tired of looking at you. There was a special Carravagio Bacon exhibit going on; while I enjoyed the paintings I came out still having no clue what the justification was for putting those two artists together.

I get to the important stuff in part 2 of this post – coming soon.

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* My husband was surprised to see that one of the wise men was black. Guess it’s not like that in Montana.

Moved

So, I finally got around to moving this blog from Blogger to WordPress. I still have a lot of tweaking to do, but the new site should be mostly functional at this point. Stay tuned for new posts, an updated blogroll, and other exciting new content. And please let me know if you notice anything that’s horribly broken. Danke!

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