THE Italian port city of Naples might be knee-high in trash. And, sure, it has
had its share of negative press, from bloody Mafia wars to political corruption.
But there’s real vibrancy, and even a little beauty, in all that chaos. Monumental
piazzas add an aristocratic touch to the noisy markets and Vespa-choked streets.
Mount Vesuvius looms nearby, a haunting reminder that this volatile town can
erupt any second. And then there’s pizza. That savory pie that calls this ancient
city home is reason enough to visit.
1) GET YOUR BUZZ ON
Espresso may not have been invented in Naples, but the city takes its
caffeine very seriously. Get into the local groove with a steamy shot of fragrant espresso at the Gran Caffè Gambrinus (Via Chiaia, 1-2; 39-081-41-75-82; www.caffegambrinus.com), a marbled cafe from the late 19th century
that hosted the rich and famous, including Oscar Wilde. Sit outdoors to
view the Piazza del Plebiscito, among the most impressive squares in Italy,
as well as the parade of well-dressed Neapolitans going about their day.
2) DRESSING THE PART
Now that you feel underdressed, skulk over to Anna Mattuozo’s tiny second-floor atelier (Viale Gramsci, 26; 39-081-66-38-74; www.annamatuozzo.it) for
what some call the finest shirts in the world. Choose from an array of
distinctive fabrics and, with a few measurements, she will sew a shirt
flawlessly fit to your form. Then head over to Antonio Panico’s studio
(Via Carducci, 29; 39-081-41-58-04; www.sartoriapanico.it) for a custom-made
Your Neapolitan look will cost a pretty penny (starting at 300 euros,
or $483 at $1.61 to the euro, for a Mattuozo shirt and 1,800 euros for
a Panico suit). But once you wear it, you’ll understand why.
Second fittings are required, as are appointments.
3) PIZZA PIZZA
Naples is synonymous with pizza, and every resident has a favorite.
Many swear by the legendary Da Michele (Via Sersale, 1; 39-081-55-39-204; www.damichele.net), claiming that its elastic dough makes the pizzas
easier to digest (margherita and marinara only, for about 4 euros).
Others are loyal to L’Europeo dei Mattozzi (Via Marchese Campodisola,
4; 39-081-55-21-323; www.europeomattozzi.it), where Alfonso Mattozzi
wows patrons with colorful pies topped with silky mozzarella and blood-red
tomatoes (about 12 euros with a soft drink). But for a truly unforgettable
pizza, take the funicular to the historic heights of Vomero, and then a
short cab ride to Pizzeria La Notizia (Via Michelangelo da Caravaggio,
53/55; 39-081-71-42-155). The crowds don’t come for the modest décor;
they come for the pizza, which is crisp, light and a perfect blend of sauce
and cheese (6 euros for the margherita).
The secret? “We do not use a lot of ingredients, but the few we use are
of the highest quality,” said the owner, Enzo Coccia. Another secret:
the dough rises for 10 hours.
4) NUOVO ORLEANS
The city isn’t known for its night life, but several venues offer great live jazz.
One in particular, Noir (Vico Acitillo, 58; 39-347-05-12-211; www.noirnapoli.com) in Vomero, features established headliners like the
Billy Hart Quartet and the Ed Simon trio. Or step into Bourbon Street (Via
Bellini, 52/53; 39-334-38-18-158; www.bourbonstreetjazzclub.com), a
lively club on the cafe-lined Piazza Bellini.
As its name suggests, this well-known dive feels and sounds more like
Louisiana than Campania.
5) ANCIENT NAPLES
Pompeii is certainly worth a visit, but to get the real feel for what this lost city
looked like, go to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Piazza Museo, 19;
39-081-44-22-149; www.marketplace.it/museo.nazionale). A gigantic replica
of this once-glorious city brings the buried civilization to life, along with a trove of artifacts like medical scalpels, coins and etched horn dice. There is even a room devoted to Pompeii pornography with risqué frescoes and phallic sculptures. (Children under 11 not allowed.)
6) STREET SNACKS
Locals love their street food and they love it fried. For irresistible bites like
pizza fritta (fried dough stuffed with cheese and ham), arancini (fried rice
balls with meat and cheese) and crochette di patate (fried mashed potato),
head to the Centro Storico, the city’s historical center, where you’ll find
them for about 1 euro each. Some of the tastiest are served by Di Matteo
(Via dei Tribunali, 94; 39-081-45-52-62) or its archenemy, Il Pizzaiolo del
Presidente (Via dei Tribunali, 120/121; 39-081-21-09-03; www.ilpizzaiolodelpresidente.it), run by a rival relative. Feeling guilty?
Visit one of the many churches in this neighborhood to confess your gustatory
7) FIT FOR A QUEEN
If you think coral is just for fish tanks and costume jewelry, glide into Ascione (Piazzetta Matilde Serao, 19; 39-081-42-11-11; www.ascione.it), a high-end
jeweler on the second floor at the Galleria Umberto, across from the
Teatro San Carlo. Its lustrous rings, pearlescent bracelets and other
baubles are all made from coral, in the nearby town of Torre del Greco.
Call ahead for an appointment. Small groups can also tour its museum
next door, filled with cameos and other coral jewelry from 1805 to the
8) DINNER WITH DORA
For some of the freshest seafood in town, reserve a table at Dora
(Via Ferdinando Palasciano, 30; 39-081-68-05-19). Tucked away on a
deserted street, Dora looks like another run-of-the-mill trattoria, with
its bright lighting, old paintings and blue-and-white checkered tiles.
But this unassuming restaurant is always packed with local fish lovers.
Try the catch of the day (22 euros per kilo), gently roasted with olive oil,
salt and lemon and served with potatoes. The spaghetti alle vongole (
19 euros) offers a delicious contrast of tender clams and al dente pasta.
Pair your seafood with a crisp falanghina. Prices (about 70 euros for dinner)
are as decadent as the fish.
9) EGG CASTLE
Follow the fashionable locals to Castel dell’Ovo (or Egg Castle), perched
on a tiny island where Naples is said to have been established some 2,500
years ago. The island lights up at night with lively bars and restaurants,
though many are touristy. For a cool nightcap that feels like an insider’s
secret, descend a narrow staircase to Caffè al Barcadero
(Banchina S. Lucia, 2), a bohemian gem tucked under the bridge,
where a 20-something crowd gathers to chain smoke, sip negronis and flirt.
10) SWEET BREADS
It’s not breakfast in Naples unless it’s sweet, so that means lots of sfogliatelle.
The clam-shaped pastry comes in two varieties: riccia and frolla.
The riccia is the more recognizable to Americans — a flaky pastry shell filled
with sweetened ricotta. The frolla has a smooth shell. And since sfogliatelle
aren’t created equal, make the effort to find Attanasio (Vico Ferrovia, 1-2-3-4),
a small bakery that serves a heavenly sfoglia riccia hot out of the oven.
11) THE PASSEGGIATA
Neapolitans love their traditions and rituals: stores close for the midday
pausa, cappuccini are not drunk after 10 a.m. and grated cheese never
goes on top of seafood pastas. And on weekends, residents take to the
streets for their daily passeggiata, or stroll. If the weather holds up,
everyone walks toward the Gulf of Naples, alongside the Villa Comunale park.
It’s a runway show of sorts: children lick their gelatos, women saunter
arm-in-arm in their Sunday best, and men discuss what men in Italy
always discuss: politics. It’s a true slice of Naples.
Eurofly (www.euroflyusa.com/US) flies direct from New York to Naples,
but only from May through October. There is a special fare of $499 for May;
after that, flights start at $875, according to a recent online search.
Other airlines, including Iberia Airlines, Delta and American Airlines, require a
connection, with higher fares.
Because Naples is a great walking city, it’s best to stay in the city center.
For grand luxury, book at the Excelsior (Via Partenope, 48; 39-081-76-40-111; www.excelsior.it). With special prices, a double room can start as low as
206 euros ($331.66 at $1.61 to the euro).
For less glamour but more charm, reserve one of the 13 rooms or 6 junior
suites at Costantinopoli 104 (Via S. Maria di Costantinopoli, 104;
39-081-55-71-035; www.costantinopoli104.com). Most of the rooms,
which start at 220 euros, overlook the pool and garden, making it easy
for guests to forget they are smack in the middle of town.
Or try the less pricey and aptly named Chiaja Hotel de Charme
(Via Chiaia, 216; 39-081-41-55-55; www.hotelchiaia.it). The 27-room hotel,
part of which once housed a brothel, is in the center of town and lists
doubles starting at 99.80 euros
source: New York Times
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