Napoli is the capital of Campania in southern Italy, and sits on the Bay of Naples. We decided to take a long weekend to visit the city of Napoli as well as nearby Pompei and Ercolano which were destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 CE. We stayed in a bed and breakfast in Vomero, which is situated on a hilltop and accessible via a funicular railway. From our room we looked across the bay or towards the Castel Sant’Elmo fortress. I hadn’t realised how much I miss hills and the sea until I saw them from our window. We travelled from the main shopping area of Vomero to our accommodation via two sets of escalators. This could be a good alternative to the Birdwood St steps in Karori. Apart from the view, the key feature of our accommodation was breakfast. As I have said Italians have coffee for colazione and maybe a pastry at the weekend. Our hostess presented us with a veritable feast every morning. When we arrived in the dining room looking out across the hills and the small orchard garden,the table was laden with slices of bread, meats and cheese, not to mention squacquerone and ricotta. As we settled down, we were presented with a plate of freshly made pancakes. Then scrambled eggs with cherry tomatoes. Next, she went through all the pastries and homemade items on the table. As well as two or three kinds of pastry there were homemade cakes, specialities of the region. I did my very best, however, on the last day, when I had eaten pancakes, scrambled eggs, a pastry and a slice of cake and was declining a slice of the second cake, our host looked me in the eye and said, “you don’t eat very much”. I felt I’d let the side down.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Napoli without pizza. We were hosted at a pizzeria by the parents of someone we have met here in Bologna. It is so great eating with locals who can help you navigate the menu. I chose friarielle with sausage and scamorza, a type of local cheese. Friarielli is a type of brassica which I was told was specific to the Napoli region and only found there. In fact, it is sold in Bologna as cima di rapa. In the UK it is known as turnip tops. Whatever we call it, it is delicious on pizza. Peter had seafood. We were assured that we must only drink beer with pizza so that’s what we did. I was later told by an Italian that there are two ways to spot a foreigner – drinking cappuccino in the afternoon and drinking wine with pizza. You have been warned.
We also ate at Mangianapoli which was recommended by our hosts and is recommended to you by me. For antipasti Peter and I shared a dish which can only be described as a pasta “box” filled with sausage and friarielli. Sounds weird, was delicious. In the metro there were advertising videos including a daily recipe of a typical Neapolitan dish. One morning I watched the preparation of pasta patate, pasta with potatoes. I was intrigued. So when I saw it on the menu I had to order it. I did not regret this. Peter went for his favourite linguine alla vongole. For dolci , we shared a typical Caprese cake with salsa inglese (we know this as custard). If you are in Vomero also eat here.
Napoli is a wonderful vibrant city. It is reminiscent of the Wellington landscape with its hills and harbour. It also has its share of earthquakes. I found it very noisy or in Italian, rumoroso – such a lovely word. The Mediterranean climate supports the cultivation of deeply flavourful fruit and vegetables. We only scratched the surface and there is so much more to see and do in this bustling rumoroso city. If you only have time for one thing I suggest you make it pizza, with beer.