Saturday, April 29, 2017

Naples - Italy's most unlikely masterpiece

Naples is Italy in the extreme - it's the birthplace of pizza & Sophia Loren and its the home of the Camorra (Naples' "family" of organized crime). It is brash and vibrant, it has graffiti and it has breathtaking frescoes, sculptures and panoramas, it has grime and it has vainglorious palaces, castles and churches.
But when it comes to food - there is no contradictory extremes - everything it offers is beyond words. It serves up the country's best pizza, pasta and coffee, and many of its most celebrated seafood dishes, street snacks and sweet treats.
Its proximity to Pompeii and Amalfi coast makes it even more attractive. This third largest city of Italy is one of its oldest, most artistic and most delicious. And undoubtedly I am in love with it!
When I planned this trip, I knew that Naples is a long distance from Venice and I also knew that it is going to be a complete opposite of Venice. And I am glad that I combined the two cities in one trip - the differences actually made for a very fun holiday.
From Venice, we took a 5  hours train (Frecciarossa) to Naples. It was an early morning departure that got us into Naples at 12:45 pm. The hotel was couple of stops by metro and we checked in around 1:30 pm. We were hungry so we asked hotel staff for pizza place recommendation and they suggested Sorbillo.
Somewhere on way to that place, we found ourselves in a square with many pizza serving places and we decided to just try one at random. And we weren't disappointed. We ordered a Margherita pizza with some inexpensive wine - both turned out to be great.
The pizza in Naples is prepared with simple and fresh ingredients: a basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil - no fancy toppings. One of its defining characteristics is that there is often more sauce than cheese, leaving the middle of the pie wet or soggy and not conducive to being served by the slice. The sides of the pie are as thick as normal pizza but at the center its very thin. It's like a bowl for holding the soupy tomato and cheese. While most people eat one pizza by themselves, we ordered one pizza between two of us - and it was quite filling. The stomach was full but the taste buds wanted more :) 
Sweets on display
After this amazing lunch, we walked down the Spaccanapoli - a straight and narrow main street that traverses the old, historic center of the city. The name means "Naples splitter" - it is very long and from above it seems to divide that part of the city. This was like walking down the lanes of Bara Bazaar in Kolkata.  
Seven Works of Mercy by Caravaggio
The street also provides access to a number of important sights of the city and while walking along the street we reached Pio Monte della Misericordia - a church that is famous for its artworks including Caravaggio's The Seven Works of Mercy. The paintings are really good and are accompanied by a good audio guide. We really enjoyed the 90 minutes that we spent here. 
Naples Cathedral - Exterior
Less than 200 m was Naples cathedral and we decided to drop in even though after St Peter's Basilica, I am not easily impressed by churches any more :) However Naples Cathedral surprised me - it is a beautiful cathedral built in French Gothic style.
Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro
Naples Cathedral is also home to the Crypt and the Chapel of Naples Patron Saint, San Gennaro and it is where the famous blood liquefaction ceremony takes place three times a year. The miracle is not approved by the Church, but neither has it condemned it. 
Altar of the Naples Cathedral
Having woken up at 5 am to catch the 7:30 train, we were fairly tired by now, so we decided to walk back to the hotel but we didn't want to end the day just yet...we just sat down at a bar near the hotel and enjoyed a nice ale in the cool evening breeze.  


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