When I look back on my many visits to Italy, I can't help but think about my very first trip. Growing up as an Italian-American New Yorker, I had a mystical idea of the country in my head. From the stories my Grandparents told of their memories as young children immigrating to New York or how my Grandpa Mario joined the army to fight in WWII in hopes he would get stationed in Italy, a magical and very special place was painted in my head. Fast forward 20 years, I found myself at 24 finally getting to experience the homeland that my Grandparents spoke of.
Luckily, I was able to travel with an insider who could show me the country as I only hoped and imagined it would be for so many years. Six months into our relationship, my now husband, decided to take me to meet his family in Napoli. We planned a trip around the visit, hitting Florence and Rome first, but Napoli is really where I felt like I was experiencing the Italy (or the picture of Italy) that I always had in my mind. Since my husband had spent half of his childhood living there he had a lot to show me. Friends who were with us wanted to spend time in Capri and the Amalfi Coast thinking Napoli was "dangerous", but all John wanted to do was take me to Napoli to eat a Svogliatella at Scatuchio in Pizza San Domenico Maggiore and get a Pizza Margarita at Pizzeria Brandi. We did both of those things on that day and many years later, many trips later I look back on that day as the day I fell in love with Napoli.
Yes the city is gritty, semi-dangerous and has crazy traffic, but I love it that way. It is also raw, authentic and proud. Traditions run deep and are preserved magically in Napoli. That is why I love it so much.
5 Reasons Everyone Should Visit Napoli, according to La Newyorkese
1. Pizza - Pizza is a religion in Napoli. It is the birthplace of pizza and I promise it will be the best you have ever had. People all over the world have tried to replicate, recreate and import all of the components from the water to antique pizza ovens. Many of the attempts that I have had in NYC are very good, but nothing comes close to the pizza in Napoli, even the ones that have a DOC or have been deemed Vera Pizza Napoletana. There is, of course, a debate about who makes the best pizza, we love Pizzeria Brandi who claims they were the first to make Pizza Margarita in 1889. Pizzeria da Michele is another highly touted pizzeria, made famous by appearing in the movie "Eat, Pray, Love" and on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" Naples episode.
2. Pastry-The pastry is to die for. You haven't tasted a Sfogliatella the way it was meant to be unless you have had it in Napoli, warm out of the oven. Personally, they were never my favorite here in NY (I always chose cannoli growing up). In fact the fist trip I didn't even order one and caused a ruckus when I tasted my husband's, who wound up giving me his. To this day, he says that is how he knew he really loved me! He also learned to order extra! Our favorite place is a small stand in the Galleria Umberto called La Sfogliatella Mary.
3. Spaccanapoli and Duomo- Walking through Spaccanapoli will take you into a scene from years past. Laundry hanging outside balconies, people selling all kinds of specially items from amazing food, Capodimonte ceramics or the beautiful nativity scenes called Precepe that are handcrafted in Napoli. The Duomo di San Gennaro is a medieval cathedral on Via del Duomo, one of the most notable churches in the city. It is the location that houses the famous blood vials of the patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro. Every year on September 19th, there is a ceremony to see if the blood will liquify. The vial is held up in front of a packed church, if the blood liquifies (it usually does) this is suppose to mean the city will have good luck. Rumor has it that the last time the blood did not liquify, there was an earthquake.
4. Piazza del Plebiscito and Caffe Gambrinus: Piazza del Plebiscito is an open piazza close to the water front. It is a great place to take the city in. Our tradition is to visit Caffe Gambrinus for a gelato and sit on the steps in Piazza del Plebiscito. You can also sit at Caffe Gambrinus, have a caffe` or cappuccino and people watch. It is a beautiful, old world caffe founded in 1860.
5. The Views-between the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius or the view of the entire city from the fashionable hilltop neighborhood of Vomero, the views are breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see out to Capri (which you can get to in about 45 minute on a ferry that departs from Naples almost every hour, if I had a #6 on the list it would be that you can get to Capri, Sorrento or rest of the Amalfi Coast from Naples)