Naples lives on its traditions, legends and popular beliefs. On its stories, which have been told for centuries and which every good Neapolitan truly believes. To feel like citizens of Naples, you cannot do without listening to these evocative stories, the stories that come from our past.
Naturally, Naples offers a lot of interesting places to see and visit, but it is also fun to get away from the usual routes and devote yourself to the most interesting things to do in Naples today. Put yourself in the shoes of the Neapolitans and live in first person the most intriguing Naples attractions and experiences connected to what has always accompanied the spirit of these people: tradition, charming popular beliefs and religious fervor (a religion that includes football, as Naples has had Maradona, the hand of God).
Cross Piazza del Plebiscito with your eyes closed
The purpose of this game is managing to go between the equestrian statues in the center of the square, sculpted by Antonio Canova and depicting Charles III of Bourbon and Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies (the statue of the latter monarch is attributed to Antonio Calì). Rules of the game: close your eyes or wear a blindfold. Procedure: starting from the gate of Palazzo Reale, walk straight for about 170 meters. Do not be surprised if, on opening your eyes, you realize not only that you have not managed to cross the space between the two statues, but that you are somewhere else entirely. According to legend, it is all Queen Margherita’s fault: she is said to have granted a pardon to the prisoners of the Kingdom who passed this test, however, a curse launched by the Queen herself prevented the competitors from being successful. As a matter of fact, the particular conformation of the square, with its surface of not perfectly linear cobblestones, hinders walking in a straight line, making this a very difficult thing to do in Naples with kids, especially during the night.
Leaving a “suspended” coffee
A symbol of Neapolitan generosity, the suspended coffee is a custom born in Naples after the war, when in a period of great crises, the solidarity of the Neapolitans became more intense. Upon entering a bar, people paid for two espressos, one for themselves and one for those who wanted one, but who could not pay for one. A tradition that is still perpetuated and that has given rise to a blueprint of supportive purchases even outside the Neapolitan borders and in other contexts: books, clothing, and food.
What a beautiful thing is a day at the Gaiola
In front of the Posillipo hill, the Gaiola emerges: it is an islet that is part of the protected marine area Parco Sommerso della Gaiola, which can be reached on foot from the Marechiaro village. This Naples attraction is wrapped in an aura of mystery and sinister legends that have developed since Roman times: the Neapolitans suggest that it brings “jella” (bad luck), but they continue to go there assiduously. In fact, the island is enchanting and it is worthwhile forgetting about the rumors and diving into the crystal-clear water, admiring the seabed and the underwater treasures.
Adopt a capuzzella at the Fontanelle Cemetery
This is one of the most typical things to do in Naples: the Fontanelle Cemetery, within a tuff quarry in the Rione Sanità, was the common grave of the plague victims of 1656 and of those who died in the cholera epidemic of 1837. Don Gaetano Barbati placed here the skulls and bones of the victims, who became to the people “pezzentelle”, abandoned souls, stranded between the earth and the afterlife. It is a place of great passion and devotion, where the Neapolitans come to adopt a capuzzella (skull); they give it a name, light a candle, and venerate it in exchange for a favor or a lucky number to play in the lotto. And if the favor is not granted? You change capuzzella!
Pilgrimage to Maradona’s votive shrine
Between 1984 and the early 1990s, at every soccer game played at home, the San Paolo stadium the stands would shake, and a roar welcomed the entry onto the field of Diego Armando Maradona. It is difficult to explain what the Argentine phenomenon meant for the city of Naples and its citizens. The golden boy has enchanted the Neapolitans to the point of being almost sanctified; many were the children born in those years who were baptized as Diego, and the whole city is plastered with posters, murals, and small altars dedicated to him. But the best known niche is that of Piazzetta Nilo, on the façade of the bar named after the square: it holds a precious lock of the champion’s hair, some images, and the advice to stop and have a coffee to be told the anecdote of Maradona’s hair by the bar owner.
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The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated January 6 with a national holiday in Italy, and the tradition of La Befana are a big part of Italian Christmas celebrations. Epiphany commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men arrived at the manger bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. The traditional Christmas holiday season in Italy lasts through Epiphany.
Like children around the world, kids in Italy as well, look forward to the arrival of the red-suited Babbo Natale on Christmas Eve. However, this relatively modern tradition pales in comparison to the anticipation generated by the arrival of an old witch in early January. For Italians, La Festa dell’Epifania on January 6th is as significant a holiday as Christmas Day; especially for Italian children!
According to the Italian legend, La Befana, a witch-like woman riding on a broom, refused to join the Wise Men on their journey to see the baby Jesus. When she regrets her decision, she sets out to bring gifts to the Child but never finds him. Instead, she leaves gifts for other children. Italian children leave out their shoes or put up stockings for the Befana to fill on January 5th, Epiphany Eve.
And the legend continues that every Epiphany Eve, the old, tattered and soot-covered Befana flies around the world on a broomstick and comes down chimneys to deliver candy and presents to children who have been good during the year. For those who have fallen a bit short of model behavior, la Befana will leave lumps of coal. Knowing that all kids can’t be perfect year-round, some shops in Italy sell carbone or black rock candy that actually looks like pieces of coal… so even those not quite perfect can still enjoy a sweet treat.
Unlike Santa Claus, La Befana has been an Italian tradition since the XIII century and comes from Christian legend rather than pop culture.
The arrival of la Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods such as panettone and marks the end of the long and festive holiday season in Italy. In honor of the Three Wise Men, Italians go to church and enjoy spending the day with family.
Naples is one of Europe’s largest and oldest cities. It’s a chaotic, surprising and intense place stuffed with character; modern life and history clash on every street. More so than any spot in Italy, your mantra whilst there will be eat, pray, pizza (and football), sleep, repeat. With sunny islands, ancient history, beaches and a volcano, there’s enough here to fill an entire summer break—especially as you’re likely to lose track of time while wandering through ramshackle alleyways stuffed with the world’s best pizza.
Best things to do in Naples
What is it? You know about Pompeii already, of course, but it’s genuinely overwhelming in real life. Its perfectly preserved streets manage to remain eerie despite rivalling the footfall of Oxford Circus on a Saturday. Why go? Always good to have a reminder that humans are ultimately at the mercy of Mother Nature. Few things say carpe diem like the plaster cast of a corpse who was looting a jewellery shop.
What is it? Pompeii may have got all the glory but nearby settlement Herculaneum also got completely engulfed by lava, and revealed even better-preserved scenes of everyday Roman life. A row of 12 boathouses, for instance, which were excavated in the 1990s, turned out to be the final hiding place of more than 300 people. Why go? Though still popular with visitors, you get a bit of personal space at Herculaneum. All the better for getting to grips with the astonishingly old suburbia you’re exploring.
Pay respects to the pizza gods at Sorbillo
What is it? One of the few things that all Neapolitans can agree on is that they make the best pizza. You can get the signature chewy, crispy dough all over town but you have to start somewhere, and that should probably be La Pizzeria Sorbillo. Why go? Gino Sorbillo’s dad was one of 21 siblings, all of whom were pizzaiolo. His dough is totally trad but – very unusually for Italy – he messes with convention on the toppings.
Drink like the locals in Piazza Bellini
What is it? Like a meeting post for the young and thirsty of Naples, this bar-lined square bubbles over with students, locals and tourists come aperitivo time (and beyond). There are also some ancient ruins left casually unprotected in its centre. Why go? The walls at Intra Moenia are covered with rows and rows of vintage postcards and curios. Buy one to send home then claim a table outside to sit back and sip while the crowds gather.
Drink coffee in Mexico
What is it? Popular with everyone from local workmen to holidaying hipsters, Caffè Mexico in Piazza Dante is the best coffee bar in town. Stop in for an espresso, which in Naples generally comes sweetened unless you demand otherwise. Why go? Its sunny yellow awning and bright orange espresso machine will perk you up as much as the caffeine does.
Go mad for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea (MADRE)
What is it? A world-class museum of modern art that’s named after the gothic fourteenth-century church that sits within its walls. Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina’s beautiful main building holds site-specific works by Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and many other superstars of the visual arts. Why go? You might, at some point, want to gaze appreciatively at something that’s not older than Italy itself.
Feast on fish at Mimì alla Ferrovia
What is it? It’s not just pizza that Neapolitans nail. This seaside city is awash with fantastic seafood, and Mimì alla Ferrovia is a great place to eat a load of it. As well as traditional food done right this local favourite also boasts excellent house wine and staff who could moonlight as Naples tour guides. Why go? One of the restaurant’s many famous customers was legendary tenor (and food enthusiast), Luciano Pavarotti.
Go deeper underground at the Fontanelle cemetery
What is it? Beneath the heat and bustle of Naples’ streets is an old quarry that became a burial site in the seventeenth century when a plague took out 250,000 of the city’s residents. Though the Fontanelle cemetery’s piles of bones are undeniably unnerving, the local tradition of caring for a lost soul’s skull lends the place a very spiritual feel. Why go? Watch for the odd Italian nonna on her way to tend to her designated skeleton in the hope of releasing its soul to heaven in return for a wish.
Get a breath of sea air on the Lungomare
What is it? A 2.5km strip of pedestrianised road that runs along the seafront, providing the perfect stress-free route for a stroll. Stop for lemon granita at the beach kiosks, claim a rock to sunbathe on or stop for a sundowner. Why go? The views of Mount Vesuvius, Capri and Naples itself are spectacular. Add in a colourful sunset and it could be a Studio Ghibli set.
Experience Catholic grandeur at Gesù Nuovo
What is it? Over in the west of the city a spacious piazza is home to the almost brutalist-looking facade of a church called Gesù Nuovo. Its ridiculously opulent interiors will have you wondering whether it wasn’t only Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen’s hair that was Jesus-esque. Why go? Learn more about Dr Giuseppe Moscati, who dedicated his career in the early nineteenth-century to healing the poor. Thanks to a miracle or two he was made a saint in 1987.
Watch a match at the San Paolo Stadium
What is it? The only belief system to rival that of the church in this town is football, and its much-loved poster boy is Diego Armando Maradona. Go to San Paolo Stadium to watch SSC Napoli and you’ll likely be rewarded with a world-class match; they play in Italy’s top league, Serie A. Why go? When surrounded by 60,000 fans all chanting for a common goal you’re guaranteed goosebumps. Remember to make the pilgrimage to Bar Nilo afterwards to visit the reliquary containing a strand of Maradona’s hair.
Take the funicular to Castel Sant’Elmo
What is it? Though you’re not likely to need the metro during your visit, it’s worth seeking out the funicular lines that shunt residents up to the hilly suburbs. Their colourful carriages are used by 10 million passengers per year. Why go? For the panoramic views from the top. Take the line from Montesanto to Morghen then walk to the medieval Castel Sant’Elmo. The tangle of Naples city centre’s buildings is framed by the sea on one side and Vesuvius on the other.
Take a boat to Procida
What is it? Of the Bay of Naples’ three islands, it’s Capri that is most ridiculously beautiful, but that also means it’s constantly smothered in tourists. Ischia offers thermal spas, but it is Procida’s charming colourful houses and cobbled streets that make it the off-the-radar offshore choice. Why go?Procida seems to want to keep its secret to itself, although it’s popular with napoletani looking for a summer escape from the steaming, chaotic city. .
Drive the road of 1,000 bends, from Sorrento to Amalfi is one of the most magnificent coastal drives in the world.
Facing north over the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is situated towards the end of the mountainous Sorrentine peninsula, over the hills from the famous resorts of the Amalfi Coast. In mythology, this area is often identified as the land of the sirens, beautiful maidens of the sea whose song lured mariners to their doom. Sorrento is built on a historic site settled from prehistoric times onwards; there was a Greek town here, and then the Roman town of Sorrentum. A few relics of these times can be seen in the town museum. This was an obvious site to build a settlement; surrounded by low cliffs on one side and ravines on the other, it had a natural ring of defences, as well as access by sea and a fertile hinterland. Nowadays parts of the ravine are filled in – a bridge and town gate were demolished to make way for the modern town’s heart, Piazza Tasso. But even without these physical defences, Sorrento has managed to keep its historic town centre reasonably intact. Although many properties are now converted to tourist businesses, the mellow old buildings still help create the delightful authentic atmosphere which gives Sorrento a big advantage over modern beach resorts.
Sorrento and its sister towns, Sant’Agnello, Piano di Sorrento and Meta di Sorrento now spread all the way along the large plateau that was once primarily agricultural. The towns are all separated from the sea by low cliffs, and there are hardly any beaches – one of the most important things to realise for travellers planning a summer holiday. Sea access is mostly from wooden boardwalks built out over the water, although there are a few scraps of sandy beach along the coast, and enterprising visitors can find attractive coves and pebble beaches around the peninsula.
Positano is a stage set of a town, its cluster of cubed, multi-hued buildings tumbling down the mountainside and closing around the grey shingle beach around which life revolves in the summer months. Once one of Italy’s most exclusive resorts, it has been thoroughly discovered by mass-tourism, but if you stay overnight, or come out of season, it’s still possible to get an elusive whiff of la dolce vita.
Insider’s tip: The only level street is the beachside walk. Anywhere else you need to go means negotiating lots of steep steps, so comfortable shoes are a must. Also, to get the best of the astonishing views, start in Positano and drive the cornice from west to east.
Ravello, set like an eagle’s nest above the dizzying landscape of Italy’s Amalfi coast, is the most peaceful and charming resort on the Neapolitan Riviera. Early summer is the best time to explore its largely traffic-free lanes or to wander among the terraces and pergolas of its elegant gardens, from where there are vertigo-inducing glimpses of the Mediterranean miles below.
Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy and Tennessee Williams all holidayed here, and the place still has an air of restrained glamour (though neighbouring Amalfi has more in the way of beach and nightlife).
The busiest town on the Costiera, famous for paper-making and lemons, Amalfi was once a glorious Maritime Republic. Although unbearably crowded in high season it is a very pretty little resort wedged between the sea and the mountains and fringed by lemon terraces. At its heart is Piazza del Duomo, an open-air salon crowded with café tables and tourists and dominated by the striped façade of the Norman-Arab style cathedral a top a flight of steep steps.
Since the 13th century, Amalfi has been known for its papermaking. It’s natural setting, wedged into a deep gorge rich with gushing streams that opens into the sea, provided the perfect conditions for the craft to flourish. In the late 18th century, there were 16 paper mills in the area; today there are just two. The small but fascinating Museo della Carta (housed in a 15th-century mill) documents the history of paper-making in Amalfi.
We are in December. December means Christmas, holidays, presents and sitting under the tree. But these aren’t the only things to do in December. Let’s find out some of the best events for this month.
HERE SOME EXHIBITIONS YOU CAN’T MISS IN DECEMBER
LONDON SHADOW. LA RIVOLUZIONE INGLESE DA GILBERT & GEORGE A DAMIEN HIRST
19/10/18 – 20/01/19. The London Shadow exhibition recounts, through twenty-three works, the spirit of artistic renewal that began in Great Britain (YBA, Young British Artists) in the late eighties and early nineties. At the end of the decade, these young artists finally glimpsed the possibility of breaking with the “old” generation imposing signs, messages and new expressive codes. Leader of the movement is Damien Hirst.
14/07/18 – 15/01/19. Expanded Interiors explores ancient Roman wall paintings and Roman artefacts through fine-art practice at the two UNESCO World Heritage sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The project will develop site-specific fine art installations within two distinct architectural contexts: the House of the Cryptoporticus, in Pompeii, and the House of the Beautiful Courtyard, in Herculaneum. Expanded Interiors is planned by Newcastle University and brings together an experienced team from contemporary art, archaeology and digital technology.
13/10/18 – 29/12/18. The retrospective exhibition dedicated to the Sicilian futurist and photographer Olimpio Greco, also called Grecolio. The exhibition, curated by Viktor Grobheiten, will present photos taken between 1919 and 1925. As Grobheiten says: maybe it’s time to shed light on Italian futurism artists, who didn’t have the visibility and the success they deserved. And it is certainly the case of Grecolio, a great interpreter of photodynamism.
18/10/18 – 11/01/19. The Mapils Gallery presents Bianchi i giorni che sovrastano le notti, from Jean Loup Champion. Jean-Loup offers an unpublished production realized in the last few years. The trauma caused by three consecutive liver transplants, made him discover, and then express, another body and another world, white and three – dimensional. In 2017, Jean-Loup Champion worked on a new series of works entitled Monumenti. These works refer to the Baroque funerary monuments of Naples and the Cy Twombly white sculptures. Made in wood and various materials, they are always painted in white.
20/10/18 – 03/02/19. Klimt Experience is an immersive and multimedia journey dedicated to the life and works of Gustav Klimt. The main purpose is to thrill and fascinate the spectators, inviting them to deepen the knowledge of the man and artist and the understanding of his works. A multimedia jump in Klimt’s art and history. The exhibition includes the biography told by the monitors of the visual room, a magical kaleidoscope with signs and images projected on walls and ceilings in the hall of mirrors; virtual reality with the Oculus VR. A different way to approach art, a dreamlike journey.
13/12/18 – 21/02/19. Peppe Esposito on show with his personal Presenze Assenze 1978 – 2018. 50 images between black and white photos and color portraits on display at the Private Baker Fideuram offices. A visual tale of Napoli, an ideal metropolis immortalized by the photographic eye of Esposito that conquers bodies and spaces, revealing the city’s many identities and its transformations, from 1978 to today.
8/11/18 – 24/04/19. Thanks to unpublished material, letters, photos, videos, costumes, posters, manuscripts and typescripts, this exhibition shows up like a some kind of dialogue between the De Filippo family and the public. People will meet Eduardo through the movies, through the poems, through the songs, will live his strength, his rigor, the importance that the theatre and the audience had for him and that took him not to stop even when life was terribly tough with him.
01/11/18 – 22/04/19. Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli will house the works of Maurits Cornelis Escher, one of the world’s most famous graphic artists. There will also be a large section dedicated to the influence that his work have had on subsequent generations: discs, comics, advertising, movies. A big journey through 200 works, from Escher to the present day.
DINOSAURI IN CARNE E OSSA (DINOSAURS IN FLESH AND BLOOD)
12/11/18 – 09/03/19. Dinosaurs are back, and they and they have established themselves at the. Astroni Crater, an extinct volcano just 5 km from Naples. It is a unique experience that helps us to reflect on a question: can you survive a mass extinction? A small group of survivors gave life to different species of animals, that have dominated the earth. Extinction is part of evolution, but over the past 350 years, our actions have placed the planet at risk of a new mass extinction. The exhibition tells the history of life, from Paleozoic till the present day.
BRIKMANIA, UN MONDO DI MATTONCINI (A WORLD OF BRICKS)
13/10/18 – 27/01/19. The world’s biggest exhibition of Lego is here. 2 million of bricks, with vintage cars, pirate galleons and the Star Wars saga and an area with a pool full of bricks where children can play.
24/10/18 – 05/05/19. Taijiquan is a Chinese fighting technique suitable for everyone and is based on a harmonious balance between body and mind, restoring the energy flow and psychophysical well-being.
NATALE AL CASTELLO DI LETTERE (CHRISTMAS AT LETTERE CASTLE)
10/11/18 – 06/01/19. In the wonderful Archaeological park in Castello di Lettere, it will take place Natale al Castello. The Castle will be set up according to a traditional Christmas Market. The event, is the favourite destination for adults and children who spend a very special moment during the holidays, between tradition, games and typical tastings. With kiosks in which artisans, masters of the Neapolitan manger, producers and farms, will propose their creations.
MERCATINI AL CASTELLO DI OTTAVIANO (MARKETS AT THE OTTAVIANO CASTLE)
01/12/18 – 16/12/18. More than 100 exhibitors at the Mediceo Castle, organized in typical wooden houses, will offer a wide range of products. Christmas lights, artists, concerts, choirs and shows are the perfect setting for this typical Christmas atmosphere.
02/12/18 – 21/12/18. The National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa will be transformed into the city of the Christmas, giving visitors unforgettable emotions. If you visit the markets you can freely access and visit the National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa. Children can visit the house of Santa Claus, view the locomotives of the Polar Express, meeting characters from fairy tales and listening tales like Snow White, Pinocchio and The Pied Piper.
10/12/18 – 24/12/18. For 14 days Borgo Martucci will turn into a historical road. Take a leap into the past and experience history in an original way. Ladies, knights, jugglers and minstrels, let yourself be guided towards the magic.
HERE SOME THEATRICAL SHOWS YOU CAN’T MISS IN DECEMBER
MADE IN CHINA POSTCARDS FROM VAN GOGH
04/12/18 – 09/12/18. An original comparison between Van Gogh, the artistic genius, and China, the serial reproduction for commercial purposes. A very original show in which the reference made in China, suggests food for thought on contemporary society.
07/12/18 – 09/12/18. A restaurant, the owner, his son, two waiters and the cook. Every Sunday after the closing, they go to the basement of the club to play poker all the night. This routine is broken by the arrival on the scene of a mysterious character. A character that brings to the life of the protagonists imbalance and curiosity, adding suspense to the developments of the story and, above all, to the game that will be played.
07/12/18 – 16/12/18. In a near future, the water is privatized and the rivers are guarded by the government guards. In an abandoned parking lot there is a homeless community, frayed by anger and conflict. Aldo and Nina, a rebellious and unpredictable girl, who will prove to be the biggest of their problems and, at the same time, the key to a social redemption, will be part of the community.
AVEVO UN BEL PALLONE ROSSO (I HAD A BEAUTIFUL RED BALLOON)
11/12/18 – 16/12/18. Margherita is a young Catholic girl who, after moving to Milan, in a few years becomes “Mara”, leader of the Red Brigades. The show, through the conversations between her and her father, tells the story of Margherita and outlines the intimate and dramatic relationship between father and daughter, which mixes with the history of Italy.
12/12/18 – 16/12/18. A wrong e-mail address, triggers a spark between 2 strangers. Based on the book by Daniel Glattauer, with millions of copies sold all over the world, the show describes the birth of an intense and virtual bond. Can a relationship of this kind survive to a real meeting?
14/12/18 – 16/12/18. In 2007, with Magic People Show, Giuseppe Montesano told the global consumer, the average human being, the slave of the advertising, and then, national economy healers, air to breathe sellers, souls sellers and buyers. Ten years later a new version of the show, which mixes opera buffs and drama, made up of ridiculous monsters drugged by the dream of money, of deluded prisoners of being free and people who have buried passion and love. A new tragicomic chapter of the sick Italy.
09/11/18 – 30/12/18. Do you believe in paranormal activities? With this tour, the De Rebus Neapolis, which represents the Paranormal Research and Analysis Center in Naples, will explore the results of a surprising survey in the alleys of the ancient center of Naples. This tour will provide some precious knowledge to all those who want to approach to the paranormal. The purpose is to make contact with the occult.
ANGELI E DEMONI. A TOUR IN THE MOST MYSTERIOUS CHURCHES IN NAPLES
16/11/18 – 28/12/18. The history, the anecdotes, the curiosities about the three churches of mystery: Church of Gesù Nuovo, Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore and the Basilica of Santa Chiara. Ghosts, angels and other entities, a walk that will tell the miracles, the mysteries and the paranormal. Every corner and every facade of these churches carries a hidden history.
08/12/18 – 29/12/18. In the wonderful Filangieri museum, a work inspired by the concert La traviata, from Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Placido Domingo. Between the great Italian opera and the Neapolitan tradition, and speaking of Neapolitan tradition, O’ Sole mio and Torna a Surriento, are just a couple of the songs in which the tenors protagonists of this evening will challenge themselves.
The home of every Italian dish you know and love, Naples offers everything from classic pizza and pasta to fresh seafood and powerful volcanic wines
Although you probably already know that humanity’s finest pizza and pasta graces the whole nation of Italy, the culinary history of Naples is notorious, and older than Rome itself. The traditional food in this region is characterised by the simple ingredients of the poorer classes, executed with great skill and a sense of perfection.
Neapolitan street food offers everything from fried morsels of fish, to fried pizza, cheese-filled pastries and even pork offal for the bravest foodies. Restaurant creations of meatballs doused in ragù may be served alongside pasta, cheeses, vegetables and sweets. Naples is a place to forget your waistline and enjoy every culinary masterpiece you find. We suggest you take on the flavours of the city with full force, so eat like a local by following these tips.
Need we say more? Naples is the motherland of pizza as we know it. Pizza slathered with tomato sauce, cheese and basil existed here as early as the 18th century, but later named Pizza Margherita after the queen of Italy in 1889. The texture should be chewy, the cheese is always mozzarella, and the basil is fresh. Most importantly, look out for a slightly charred crust, the signature of a stone oven.
Where to try: Almost every slice in Naples will leave you in pizza euphoria, but for some of the best of the best, head to Di Matteo (Via dei Tribunali, 94) where you’ll find fried variations, too.
Better than the stuff in tightly sealed glass jars in aisle at the grocery store, and probably better than your grandmother’s, Neapolitan ragù pairs with pasta to make the perfect marriage. Chefs start with good, volcanically enriched tomatoes and add meat to create a robust flavour unique to Naples. The sauce is traditionally mixed with pasta of the ziti variety. Just so you know, the town of Gragnano in the Municipality of Naples produces some of the finest grades of pasta in the world.
Where to try:Tandem (Via Paladino Giovanni 51) is a favourite among locals and serves generous helpings of their slow-cooked speciality ragù.
Ragù cheats on its partner, pasta, with these tender meatballs that come in twos or threes. Polpette showered in spoonfuls of ragù make a filling, protein-packed meal for any hungry traveller. Throw vegetarianism out the window, forget the noodle bits, and munch on this treasured, spherical meat.
Where to try: Try Neapolitan meatballs encased in sandwich bread at O’Cuzzetiello Panineria Take Away (Via Rimini 51) or find the dish at various restaurants throughout the city.
Impepata di Cozze
It goes without saying that you simply can’t visit Naples without trying the fresh seafood brought in daily. Aside from delicious fish and squid dishes, make room for Impepata di Cozze; a simple bowl of mussels prepared with tomatoes, peppers, and white wine. Chunks of bread soak up the juices at the end.
Where to try:Trattoria Da Patrizia (Via Luculliana, 24) is by the harbour and serves a range of seafood dishes.
Fried foods of all varieties in a convenient handheld cone. The brown paper cups contain fried eggplant and zucchini nestled with items like battered fish and shrimp, golden brown mozzarella bites, and potato croquettes. It may be hard to discern what some of the fried lumps are just by looking at them, but don’t worry; you can’t go wrong with deep-fried Italian food.
Where to try:Il Cuoppo (Via San Biagio Dei Librai 23), the brainchild of brothers Giorgio and Andrea Sangiovanni, hands cones of cuoppo stamped with their blue logo to sidewalk strollers every day of the week.
Many compare the panino or panini to its other toasted sandwich cousins, but these Italian sandwiches find a special place in the hearts of those who purchase them in Naples. Panino Napolitano looks like a cross between a sticky iced bun and a calzone. Thick bits of pancetta and molten provolone ooze out the sides of this dense street food, making it a holy trinity of meat, cheese, and bread.
Where to try: Try Panino Napoletano at any of the dozens of kiosks and stands that sell the sandwich to take-away.
This shell-shaped pastry shows off its paper-thin folds in glass cases at bakeries across the city. Created by monks and first sold commercially by Neapolitan pastry chef Pasquale Pintauro in 1818, these light bites still thrive on the market today. Sfogliatella are baked until the ridges bloom and separate, cooled and filled with ricotta or almond paste, and finally dusted with powdered sugar.
Babà of the rum variety are found in patisseries throughout the city and resemble glistening, spongy mushrooms. These tiny cakes are often garnished with whipped cream and berries. To eat appropriately, take an espresso in one hand and a babà in the other; alternate between bites of the confection and sips of coffee.
A speciality of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi coast, this neon-yellow liqueur is typically made using grappa infused with the zest of local Sorrento lemons and sweetened with sugar. There are endless homemade varieties, often created in bars and restaurants, and a chilled ceramic cup of Limoncello is the perfect summertime digestivo.
Where to try: If you’re looking to bring some bottles home go in market and choose made in Sorrento or Amalfi bottles. If you’re only in the mood for a sip, try any restaurant in the city.
This celebrated wine is produced on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, and archaeologists have declared it the nearest equivalent to the wine consumed in Ancient Rome. It’s available in white, rosé, and red varieties – so there should be one for every occasion! Lacryma Christi has been immortalised in books by authors like Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, so relax with a glass and taste a piece of history.
Where to try: Pop into Enoteca Belledonne (Vico Belledonne a Chiaia 18) or book a wine tour at one of the vineyards on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius outside the city.
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