Napoli – the streets, the people, the food and the music

By December 14, 2015Blog, food and travel

My father had warned me not to visit Naples. He said they would steal my wallet and told me a story he’d heard from a friend who’d had his bag stolen as the straps were cut by someone speeding past on a motorcycle. I remember heeding my father’s words and rushing through the Naples train station on the way to the Amalfi Coast years ago, clutching my bags, trying not to meet anyone’s eye.

fish monger in Naples-Italy on my mind

In more recent times and having fallen madly in love with Sicily, I hadn’t considered going to Naples as my trips to Italy are already split between so many beautiful places. And I love re-visiting a place I love so I didn’t think I could add another to my already long list. But when my friend Carolyna went there earlier this year and raved about it, posting one beautiful photo after another on Instagram, I started thinking that I might be missing out. Really, I didn’t always do what my father told me to do (or did the complete opposite particularly as a rebellious teenager), so why hadn’t I visited Naples yet?

streets of Naples-Italy on my mind

Napoli-pizza-Italy on my mind

The opportunity presented itself when I was doing a bit of research on the food people eat in the bars and the streets of Italy. I was chatting to Holly and Gianluca from restaurant Michel’angelo in Capri at a cooking class I ran in November and Gianluca, who has spent a lot of time in Naples, strongly recommended I go there. He said that it wasn’t as dangerous as its reputation, if you avoided going to places that were dark and empty, and were always alert, like you should be in any large city. And he explained that Naples is all about street food, giving me tips on where to visit and what to eat. So I booked my train ticket and accomodation, staying in a private room in an Air BnB apartment in the historic centre. My hosts Gloria and Roberto were generous to a fault and passionate about their great city. They spent time poring over the city map with me and marking places I should go. Each day, camera in hand and money belt in place, I went walking for hours, avoiding many of the large tourist traps and sticking to the lesser known streets and areas.

man on street-napoli-Italy on my mind

tripe-motorbike-Naples-Italy on my mind

The funny thing about being in Naples in December is that in spite of it being cold, everyone was on the streets. Both in the historic centre and in the Spanish Quarter off via Toledo where I spent most of my time, people seem to love being outdoors. Shops spilled out onto narrow streets with display trolleys full of goods being wheeled out daily. Street markets selling clothing, gifts and food filled the narrow streets making it impossible for anyone apart from a seasoned napoletano to squeeze past in a car. Fishmongers displayed fresh fish and shellfish in wide tubs of seawater, perching the tubs on colourful milk crates on the street. This town seemed to thrive from the outdoors, even in winter. It was loud, bustling and full of life.

streets of napoli-Italy on my mind

fruit crates-washing-Naples-Italy on my mind

And the food of course was incredible. I visited the historic pasticceria Scaturchio, the oldest in Naples, and the queue to pay the cashier before purchasing anything snaked out into the piazza. The napoletani love sweets and there are the local speciality sfogliatelle for sale on every corner. There are two types: ricce that have layers of thin filo-like pastry fanned out on top of the little cake; and frolle with a thin layer of sweet shortcrust pastry. Both have the same filling – sweet ricotta with candied citrus peel and can generally be bought warm. There is debate as to whether you are a ricce or a frolle fan – the general consensus I believe from talking to locals is that you cannot be both. There are also plenty of baba al rhum and pastiere for sale on the street, both a speciality of Naples.

scaturchio-sfogliatelle-Italy on my mind

pizza Naples-Italy on my mind

Then there was pizza, you have to eat pizza in Naples. Naples is the queen of pizza. I found pizzeria Brandi in the Spanish Quarter and read the plaque out the front stating that they invented pizza Margherita when the Queen of Savoy came to Naples in the late 1800s. A lot of people had the same idea as me as they were milling in the narrow laneway, waiting for a table. I didn’t have time to wait but knew I had to eat pizza at least once whilst here. On the day that I went to the archeological museum to see the works of art from Pompeii, I walked past one of those display trolleys that are wheeled out of shops. It was in front of a pizzeria and there were rows of pizzas for sale – with a tomato topping and basil leaf, only two euros. This was my pizza opportunity so I bought one and sat in the nearby piazza eating the crusty, doughy, delightfully simple pizza from a wrapping of butcher’s paper.

fish-Naples-shadows-Italy on my mind

mosaic-cross-napoli-Italy on my mind

Lastly there was music, an overlay on every other vibrant part of this city. It was everywhere, rhythmic jangles, drum beats, tambourines, electric guitars and singing, taking the form of amplified rock music, drumming or the Tarantella, which is traditional of Naples. I think I have just added another city to my long list of places in Italy I must visit again. Soon.

21 Comments

  • Vanna says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed Naples. It is one of my favourite places on earth. Mum was born there and I feel I am home any time I go back. It is vibrant, colourful and full of history. The people of Naples are gregarious, humorous and generous. The sfogialtella ricce are delicious. Now I can’t wait to go back!

  • Yet another lovely post leaving me filled with dreams of our next trip to Italy! I especially want to visit the Tripperia! Marry Christmas, Paola!

  • Lyn says:

    I have only visited Napoli once. It has a uniqueness about it that is so different to anywhere else in Italy.

    • You are right. I am in Bologna right now and it is equally beautiful but in a very different way – they do seem like almost different countries. That is one of the reasons why Italy is such an incredible place

  • Sue says:

    Just look at your post from Napoli was lovely to read , in the future I must make a trip to see Italy with it beautiful food and lovely buildings .💕 🇮🇹 💕

  • salcollins says:

    Your photos are lovely Paola. Sounds like you had a great time wandering and exploring. x

  • Debra Kolkka says:

    I love Napoli too. I visited the city alone and wandered all over, day and night, and didn’t feel unsafe at any time. It is one of the most alive and fascinating places I have ever been. I am going back next spring.

  • Bellissime foto! I’ve been in transit through Napoli many times, but have only stopped once for a half day! Not because i am afraid for my safety, but it just didn’t work out. I am a total archeology nerd, so really want to get to the Museo Archeologico-i’ll keep trying! Buon Natale, Cristina

  • Patricia Ditria says:

    Another lovely post leaving me filled with dreams of my next trip to Italy!!
    Napoli has a uniqueness about it that you need to visit to experience it!
    It’s particularly beautiful over the Christmas period, especially when you wonder through the streets to see the hand made ‘Presepio’ ornaments. Their pizza’s and pastries are to die for.
    The Tripperia would be interesting to visit! My mother makes the best trippa in the world, always loved it since I was a child.
    Anyway Paola, enjoy your festivities in Italy, (lucky you, here in Adelaide it’s going to be 39 degrees!) as I have always wanted to be in Italy for a white Christmas. One day soon, in the meantime I will keep dreaming.
    Ciao, Buon Natale. 🙂

    • thanks for dropping by Patricia and I am so glad you enjoyed the post. My mother made trippe often but I never liked them (and I have to admit that I still don’t). I do think Naples should be on everyone’s bucket list though – such a vibrant place.
      Buon Natale to you and your family and I do hope you have a lovely celebration planned

  • Paola, another lovely post leaving me filled with dreams of planning my next trip to Italy!
    Napoli has a uniqueness all of it’s own. The Napoletani are very vivacious, and also very heartwarming people.
    I visited Naples pre-christmas also, and your right, despite the cold, they are out their in droves. Their pizza and pastries as mentioned are just to die for. I think deep down i visited just for the cuisine!! Wasn’t disappointed!
    Anyway, i take this opportunity to wish you a Joyous Christmas. BUON NATALE PAOLA
    Patricia

  • Jan says:

    What a great post Paola – and what fantastic photos. We only managed a day in Naples but would love to go back – it seemed such an exciting city and nothing like what I was expecting.

  • paninigirl says:

    Naples is definitely on my list! For a long time I thought my grandparents came from there only to find out that when they emigrated they took the ship from Naples-they were actually from Calitri east of Naples in the Irpinia area.

  • mikyriccia says:

    Never been but wish I could visit with a local

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