THE PIZZA. It really is that good. My cousin and I randomly entered one of many pizzerias near our hotel in Naples last night — here, they’re actual restaurants with a full menu and a wine list, not counters where you get a slice and a soda — and ordered a Margherita and another with provolone and basil. Best pizza of my life. It’s the water, they say, but it’s also the bufala mozzarella and the tomato sauce and the way they bake the crust, thin and crispy on the edges but chewy toward the center. We didn’t make a fetish over seeking out any particular place; Susan’s taxi driver had told her, “There’s no bad pizza in Naples,” and we took his word for it.
From our balcony at the Grand Hotel Saint Lucia, above, a grande dame perched on the Bay of Naples, the smell of the sea and the sound of the gulls is ever present. We can see Vesuvius to the left of us, shrouded in clouds, Castel dell’Ovo, below, a site with 2,000 years of history, straight ahead, and the city curving around to the right.
After Milan, Naples doesn’t seem particularly chaotic. Crowded, hectic, noisy, yes. Construction everywhere, yes. But mainly just full of life, as we discovered walking around today from the seaport area up through the center of town. We looked into churches and another Victorian iron-and-glass shopping center, Galleria Umberto; had a peek at Cafe Gambrinus where Oscar Wilde and other 19th c. notables hung out; stopped at the cafe/bookstore Intra Moenia on leafy Piazza Bellini for a glass of Prosecco.
Then we ran though the unparalleled National Archaeological Museum, below, where we took in the Pompeiian frescoes and whatever else we could manage to see in the hour we had before meeting Susan’s Neopolitan friend, who took over from there.
Massimiliano, a 28-year-old businessman in the fashion industry with a sideline as an aspiring pop star, steered us expertly to artisan shops to show us a creative side of Naples — small clothing and jewelry stores, an 80-year-old leatherworker’s studio, an art gallery with works made of concrete, resin and cork — greeting friends and acquaintances all along the way.
We had a memorable lunch at Pizzeria Mattozzi, but we didn’t have pizza; we had a variety of seafood dishes, including fried anchovies and fried calamari the way it ought to be, octopus in red sauce, tiny tasty shrimp you eat without peeling, then pasta with razor clams (no parmesean with seafood in Naples, ever).
We thought we would never eat again.