Since I was pretty much on my own during the day on this part of the trip, I think I can more easily combine these days and give you a list of hits and misses for Naples. We’ll resume with the regular format for day twelve.
— Santa Chiara. This was the church of the Angevin Kings in Naples. It’s gothic, originally constructed in the 14th century, with lots of great sculpture. In addition to seeing the church, you can also visit the cloisters that house a museum with relics from Roman times and from the Middle Ages. There’s a lovely garden area with some truly amazing lemon trees in the atrium area and also remains of a 1st century Roman bath that you can visit within the cloister area.
the altar of Santa Chiara
This is how I need to be buried!
lid from a child’s sarcophagus
Madonna and Child at Santa Chiara
The Neapolitans take their nativity scenes very seriously. This is a huge one on display in the cloisters at Santa Chiara.
The cloisters at Santa Chiara has some amazing frescoes and mosaics.
sumptuous lemon trees
— San Lorenzo Maggiore: I didn’t actually get to see the basilica since it was closed by the time I got out of the scavi and museum, but that’s ok, because I felt the scavi were worth the visit regardless. The museum houses some pieces associated with the area dating from the Roman times through the 19th century. But the real fun comes in visiting the ruins (scavi) underneath the cloisters by the church. Here you can descend a stairway into an actual Roman street and walk around a few blocks of preserved ancient Roman and Greek city. The ruins date back to the 4th century BCE and include market stalls that still have the benches for their wares and one home/room(?) that still contains an oven. I went once on my own and once with my husband and enjoyed it both times. In fact, the on the first visit, I was down in the excavations by myself so I just wandered in and out of the stalls, rooms, and buildings at my leisure and enjoyed every minute.
the cloisters at San Lorenzo
This room was the seat of the Napoli government for a time.
close-up of part of the ceiling
Oh, how those Italians do love a painted ceiling! Taken from another room at San Lorenzo’s cloisters.
sarcophagus top from the museum
fast asleep… forever.
— Il Duomo. The main cathedral of Naples. This is a 13th century Gothic church that houses the remains of Naples’ patron saint, San Gennaro. The church is very pretty and has TONS of relics. Unfortunately, you can’t get close the relics because they are closed off in small chapels, but still interesting to look at all the boxes of bones, clothing, hair, blood, etc. Supposedly, the Duomo has two vials of San Gennaro’s blood that boil twice a year. There is also in an incredibly elaborate gold and silver chapel dedicated to the saint. The Duomo also contains the remains of an earlier basilica and what is reported to be the oldest baptistry in the West (dating from the 4th century, complete with Byzantine mosaics).
looking down the nave
from the crypt of San Gennero
relics of San Gennero
one of several relic chapels
another relic chapel
Just look at all those bones!
I was truly fascinated by the sheer number of saints’ relics this church had.
paintings on high
the altar of the silver and gold chapel
apse mosaic from the older basilica that is now a chapel to the main church
My favorite chapel– it was just so colorful!
what’s left of the 4th century mosaics in the baptistry
— the gay pride parade! We got to partake in a few minutes of raucous fun as we were trying to make our way back to our hotel to meet some people for dinner. Lots of fun music and half-nekkid men.
— The Chapel of Sanservo. Here you can visit the Veiled Christ statue, which IS extremely beautiful, but not much else (well, besides two perfectly preserved circulatory systems from the 1700s…) While I had studied the Veiled Christ in art history classes and wanted to see it, this just isn’t worth the 7E it cost to get in.
— Castel Nuovo. This a medieval castle built for the Angevin kings. In it, you can visit the Barons’ Hall, a couple of small chapels, and a museum of 15th and 16th century paintings. In all the guidebooks it is billed as free (and apparently it’s billed that way on the cruiseships that dock in Naples since I overheard an argument going on between a couple of cruisers and the ticket sellers), but in reality, it costs 6E. The cost would be fine if you got to see more, but really, you don’t get to visit very much of the castle. I was disappointed overall.
The Barons’ Hall
One of the chapels you can visit at the Castel.
Most importantly, FOOD!:
-Hosteria Toledo- So good we ate here two nights! Since I covered both dinners in the post on Day 5, we’ll just say that I did in fact love this restaurant and highly recommend it!
-The pizzeria that shall remain nameless… since all I really remember is the sign that said Vera Pizza which is really what you want to look for anyway when you are in Naples. Pizzerias with the Vera stamp of approval meet a strict set of guidelines allowing themselves to be branded as they are. It’s sort of like Europe’s classification of wine. Vera pizzerias must use a wood-fired oven, a particular set of ingredients (Tipo OO flour, San Marzano tomatoes, all natural Fior di Latte or Bufala mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and yeast — only fresh, all-natural, non-processed), and there is no mechanical dough shaping allowed. The pizza chefs at these restaurants are trained relentlessly to produce a high quality product by hand. We were told that this particular pizzeria was one of the first 100 in the city of Naples, but I have no way of confirming that. What I can say is that the pizza was pretty darn good. The husband had a pizza Margherita with the bufala mozzarella and I had a pizza with fresh tomatoes and rocket. The house wine was quite decent as well. With pizza, wine, and water, the bill was only 12E per person.
-Fantasia Gelati- We ended up getting gelato here a couple of different nights and it was quite good. They had lots of candy related flavors. Two of my favorites were the dark chocolate and lemon.
-Zi Teresa- A seaside restaurant with a view. This restaurant had mostly outdoor seating so we ate in open air enjoying the evening as the sun went down. Our original order of wine was just ok, so one of the husband’s colleagues decided to order a wine he’d been wanting to try for our 2nd (and 3rd) round of bottle. This wine was the Tears of Christ Vesuvian wine, or Lacryma Christi. I’ll tell you, this stuff was so good I wanted to cry! This wine was full-bodied and smooth with just enough earth and spice flavor— sooooo good! While we were serenaded by a gentleman who walked around singing with his guitar, we dined on some pretty tasty dishes. The husband had some fried zucchini flowers to start and then followed it with a seafood risotto that looked creamy and delicious. I began with a fish gratin that was billed as small fish baked with a breadcrumb crust. I was expecting something similar to sardines with the small fish description, so I was quite surprised when my dish came out. It was tasty but looked more like shredded fish. It did had a nice lemony finish and just enough lovely fish flavor that I didn’t really question the discrepancy. I just assumed it was a translation issue. At least until I started really looking at my dish. I noticed that all the “black pepper” seemed to land two flecks per fish. And only on one end of each fish shred…. Yeah, that was when I realized that wasn’t pepper. It was the eyes of each teeny tiny fish. These little things couldn’t have been more than an inch or two long a piece and were super skinny. So I ate a whole pan of what must have been a small colony of fish. 😉 To follow, I had some of the best pasta of our trip. I got an order of gnocchi tossed table-side with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. It was outstanding, fresh and delectable. With an appetizer, entree, water, and a good bit of wine (I lost count of how many bottles our table had that night), the bill was about 35E per person- a pretty decent deal, all things considered.
-Fratelli La Bufala- This places is a chain, but it was recommended pretty highly by the hotel concierge. A few of us ended up drifting over here the night of the Euro 2012 semifinals. Italy was up against Germany to see who would be playing Spain in the final. Let’s just say, we had an awesome time watching the game with a bunch of locals and the restaurant staff. Every time Italia scored a goal, the entire place just erupted into cheers. We certainly got into it and had a great time. Fratelli is a small pizza place with a nice selection of pies. Our waiter ended up picking out several antipasti dishes and bringing them to our table so that we could try a few different things. They’re mozzarella bufala was phenomenal. The husband ended up having a pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, and eggplant while I had one with pumpkin, mozzarella bufala, and provolone bufala. Both were pretty darn tasty. With several bottles of wine and water for the table, our tab came to about 25E per person. Oh, and our waiter did also hook us up with a complementary dessert of some sort of creamy cheese mouse-like thing with cherry sauce. Not bad for a night out enjoying some of Europe’s greatest loves- wine, food, and futbol!
– Pizzeria Brandi- Pizzeria Brandi is world-famous for being THE pizzeria that invented the pizza Margherita. If you’re interested in the history, you can read all about the pizza that pleased a queen here. The husband and I headed here one night on our own. We were there fairly early (by Italian standards anway, it was 7:30), so we didn’t have to wait for a table at all. We ended up dining outside in the little alleyway that runs between the two rooms of the restaurant. It’s a largely touristy establishment given its prestige of inventor of the pizza Margherita, so I wouldn’t say that it was the best pizza we had in Italy. But it was alright and it was indeed enjoyable just to say that you’ve eaten Pizza Margherita at the restaurant that invented it. For the record, we both had the pizza Margherita and a bottle of wine.
–Antica Capri Trattoria and Pizzeria– By far, my most favorite restaurant experience of the entire trip was this night. I had seen this place recommended in one of guidebooks so that night as we headed out with our group, I mentioned to the husband that if no one else had a suggestion, perhaps we should try this place. After a few wrong turns down the back alleys of the Spanish Quarter, we finally stumbled upon Antica Capri. At first, it seemed so small that I started second guessing the decision and mentioned to the husband that we might want to continue on elsewhere. But as we were standing outside discussing it, the owner of the restaurant come out and invited us in himself. We were the only English-speaking customers and also apparently the only non-regulars. But the owner worked very hard to make us feel welcome and give us an amazing experience. He started by providing us a selection of antipasti for the table to share. I ended up with my own order of prosciutto and mozzarella bufala which was some of the best on the trip. I honestly don’t remember what the husband had that night, but I had a pizza Margherita that was incredibly good. The owner, who served us the entire night, was very animated and a lot of fun. When we declined dessert, he brought out a plate with a couple of slices of a chocolate cake cut up in to squares so we could each have just a taste. And then he treated us to two rounds of his homemade limoncello. He even showed us the jug that was currently fermenting on the shelf over another table. His wife, who was doing some of the cooking in the back, also came out to the front room a couple of times to deliver food and to pluck red, ripe tomatoes off of their vines (hanging near the door) for the restaurant’s bruschetta. There’s probably some American restaurant health code that that totally violates, but I can tell you WE are the ones losing out with that! As we were enjoying our limoncello, the owner also pulled down another jug to show us. This one he even opened up for a few people to smell. He (not speaking any English) was attempting to tell us what kind of alcohol it was and we were, of course, completely lost. “Noce!,” he kept repeating to our group of laughing, confused Americans. He even went outside into the street in an attempt to hunt down someone with enough bilingual knowledge to translate the word for us! Eventually one of the husband’s colleagues pulled out his phone and worked with the owner to spell the word correctly in Italian and translate it. Turns out, it was a walnut digestif. The price for the meal was very good considering all that we got and the service we received. I would go back to visit in a heartbeat and must enthusiastically recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling in Naples. “Noce!”
Here are a few more random pics from our time in Naples:
a view of Mt. Vesuvius from the hotel’s solarium
overlooking some of the rooftops of Naples
Naples’ opera house
overlooking Castel Nuovo and the Bay of Naples
from the piazza outside Santa Chiara
Galleria Umberto, the shopping mall
You can still see where the lava flowed. (Vesuvius)