Our bags had just been unpacked, the impressions from our most recent trip to Nice not fully digested (no pun intended) and yet it was time to leave again. Italy this time, Campania to be more specific. A destination we didn’t have on our radar until late summer – but more on this later. We had never been to this region of Italy before, so we quickly decided to throw in an extra day in Naples as a short stop-over. Just enough time to get a glimpse of the city, take a deep breath of the historic district, enjoy some typical Neapolitan food and find out first hand, whether or not the city is as intimidating as media sometimes portraits or an enchanting experience.
Because everybody keeps asking this about Naples: no, we didn’t perceive it more or less dangerous than any other larger city that we’ve been to. Of course, you should apply a pinch of common sense and you’ll be fine. However, if you have been to other famous Italian cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, the rough and a little chaotic city in the shadows of Mt. Vesuvius might not charm you on first sight. But even with the occasional rain-shower that we experienced on our first afternoon, strolling through the narrow, cobblestoned streets and alleys – never short of a surprise-by-speeding-by-scooter-action – we found Naples to be both photogenic and intriguing. At times a bit frenetic and tricky to navigate, our walking pace was very much dictated by the obsessive compulsive desire to checking out each and every pasticceria or pizzeria, left and right.
But first things first, our short-term accommodation of choice turned out to be an extremely appealing, family-run hotel, conveniently located in a quiet corner of the historic district. Just minutes after checking in we were on a mission to Via dei Tribulani, where most of our collected recommendations for typical Neapolitan pizza were beaded like on a string. Di Matteo, I Decumani, Sorbillo and what not, we had a hard time choosing where to go.
In the end, it was a small shopping-related shortcut, that led us straight to the corner of Di Matteo. Well nurtured men in white tees were busy baking and frying pizza and before we knew it, we were forwarded to a small and very authentic room (with no frills, think plastic and such), where we ordered our pizze (Margharita and Bufala), in pure disbelief over the prices on the wall (our two pizze were less than 10 EUR). The moment they arrived, we immediately canceled our pizzaria-hopping plans – for personal pizza studies only, of course - these babies were anything but small.
With a bit of sunshine the next morning the city looked even more inviting and we tried different places for babà and sfogliatella, but couldn’t decide on a favorite. Then faith – again – led us to Di Matteo, where we devoured my personal favorite of our short stint in Naples, their fried pizza filled with ricotta. Never have greasy fingers been earned that well! A hilarious, older cab driver who introduced himself as Gennaro quickly became our friend (another story) and brought us to the station where we met with Matt & Adam, Keiko and Chika & Andrew – one of our most memorable weekends in food was about to begin. We just didn’t have a clue. To be continued.