“In Napoli ?!” Franca, Silva’s Italian language teacher at the Ark in Rome has marveled grimacing. “Why did you want to go there? You should take her at least to Capri for a Valentine’s day… ”
Well, Naples might not be as exotic as some Italian islands, but it’s still romantic. Moreover, the Italians, for that matter are way more demanding compared to us, simple Slovenes.
Different and special
From Rome to Naples it requires two hours drive by train, which for us, after several thousand kilometers of this trip, seemed really close.
At six in the morning we took the first morning train to Roma Termini and from there to the capital city of the province of Campania, the third largest in Italy with around four million inhabitants.
It had been clear to us that we could not sight-see the entire city in just one day, however city’s cultural heritage, abundant as it is, was not of our primary importance. Once maybe, when we have more time at disposal.
We at least wanted to feel little bit the pulse of the city and check why Naples is so different and special, as interpreted by the Italians here in Rome.
Most ‘Catholish’ city in the World
Did you know that Naples is the oldest city in the world among those which have been continuously inhabited throughout history?
That the Neapolitan port is of one of the most important in Europe and is second in the world for the inflow of passengers, after Hong Kong?
That the old, historic part of the city is included to the UNESCO list of world cities due to its historical and cultural heritage, important for the whole humanity?
Total of 448 historic churches ranks Naples among one of the most Catholic cities in the world, according to the number of temples dedicated to prayer. How many churches are actually full, remains unclear.
In addition, Naples is one of the biggest tourist destinations, both among Italian and European cities.
Known for its chaos
But many, thinking of Naples still associate it with the Mafia, waste and chaos. I have to admit that the place really works somewhat chaotic and can’t be considered the cleanest neither. But the atmosphere is incredibly relaxed.
If there is a place to experience the legendary Italian openness and leisureliness, then this would be Naples. As they say, you either like it or hate it, no intermediate possibilities.
A driving culture gone mad
One another thing. If we shook our heads over traffic regime and chaos in Perugia and Rome, here in Naples we finally gave up complaining about it and just had fun. Crossing the road has become a challenge, the traffic light is a decoration only.
Three practical advice if you ever consider visiting:
1. Do not go by car.
2. Be alert, not with your eyes only.
3. Cross the red light without hesitation, since otherwise you’ll never get to the other side of the road.
Best coffee and pizza in the world
I suppose we could take a month, if we wanted to thoroughly explore and learn about this Italian gem, but we were not here for any culture or attractions.
We focused around two goals (and please feel free to raise a few eyebrows): coffee, which is said to be the best in Italy and pizza, which actually originates from Naples so this is the ‘real deal’.Naples: You either like it or hate it, no intermediate possibilities. Click To Tweet
We couldn’t spot any major difference in tasted coffee compared to the rest of Italy, but I must emphasize that neither I nor Silva are experienced coffee drinkers and therefore couldn’t be considered the best reference when assessing caffeinated drinks.
As far as pizza is concerned, there is a different story to tell. Before we left on the trip, Leszek, our Polish priest here in the community, recommended us the Gino Sorbillo pizzeria, which over time has become a real attraction. Priests should be obeyed, right?
One hour waiting time for the pizzeria
When we arrived to the pizza place for lunch time there was a large crowd already, so we could barely rich the door. But we could not get inside so easily.
There was a man standing in front of the door with a notebook in his hand, writing down the names of people waiting to enter. Every so often, the list was sent inside the restaurant.
So we stood outside, waiting to hear our surnames from the speaker when reaching the start of line.
After an hour we finally could enter. We were lucky, sometimes it is necessary to wait for several hours.
Tradition on a plate
As mentioned above, Naples is considered pizza’s homeland. As you may know, this was the food of the poor initially, but at the time of Ferdinand IV, it became popular even among the higher classes. Pizza Margerita was named after Queen Margerita of Savoy, after having once visited the city herself.
Traditionally, pizza is prepared in a wood-fired oven, Margerita’s ingredients are strictly controlled by law since 2004.
It must contain wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
I can only say that our pizza not only met but even exceeded our expectations. The dough was soft as down, the middle being thin as it goes for Italian pizza and generally being of exceptional taste.
You may think that we had to pay a lot for the pleasure of traditional pizza Margerita, however the price was only around € 4. What could be better for an average person from Gorenjska (real Slovenian Scott for the rest of you) but to get a good quality food cheaply?
It pays off
All in all, we spent Valentine’s Day the way we could only wished for. Not only roaming around the city was pleasant but enjoying the sunshine and watching nice locals, accompanied with some very deep conversations, which also marked our trip.
If you are ever tempted to visit Naples, do not hesitate too much. Without prejudice, without expectation and with an open heart to the city. Accommodation can be very cheap as well. Read here more about how we found some ridiculously cheap accommodation while not dwelling at some community during our trip.