First evidence of the big change in our ship’s schedule now that we’d entered Europe: a lack of sea days because of the close geographic proximity of our ports of call.
Yesterday Sicily. Now, the Italian mainland: Naples (Napoli!)
The visit to Naples was very, very brief (I wrote before, it’s like taking the world’s best travel guide and flipping the pages like one of those animated cartoon drawings). The major reason I cut my time short in Naples, though, was to work ahead in editing the guest newsletter. I wanted to clear my schedule for our next port of call: Rome! The city I’ve been more excited than any other to see.
So, at lunch, I ventured ashore in Naples with my co-worker Leslie, department boss Stephen, and colleague Paula-Jean. What a treat it was to have the three experts with me. They had been to Naples numerous times, and took me directly to the highlight of the city: pizza!
You see, pizza is Naples’ pride and joy. They were the first to develop it, after all. Pizza and Naples are pretty well synonymous.
The trick in getting a truly authentic (and, by virtue, more delicious) experience is to find the local gem: the restaurant that locals know and love. Usually these places aren’t widely publicized to locals; aren’t located in high-traffic areas that tourists would stumble upon; and you’re unlikely to have a tourist rep or english-speaking guide recommend it to you. You simply have to know… or, in a tourist’s case, find someone who knows.
And, fortunately, Leslie, Stephen, and Paula-Jean knew. They had been to a particular pizza restaurant several years before, and had been hyping it up to me for days before our arrival in Naples. Sure enough, it was a little nondescript operation down a side alley. No big sign. Nothing to really indicate it was “THE” place for pizza. And, hence, the charm and the added excitement of knowing you were privy to a culinary experience that few others would know about (whether this feeling of being “in the know” made the pizza taste better, I’m not sure.
Neapolitan pizza is, of course, quite different from what you would find at Domino’s. Think less toppings and more emphasis on the best sauce and dough you could imagine. The ingredients and way it’s made are so good, in fact, that Neapolitan pizza is apparently governed by a law about its ingredients (at least according to wikipedia). The pizzas are individually made, round, and thinner than pizza you would get in North America. Toppings are sparse (especially the Margherita pizza, which was developed for Queen Marghertia). And, quite simply, is is the best pizza – and for me, one of the best meals – I have ever had. Bar none.
Further confirmation that this was *the* authentic restaurant to visit: our ship’s Italian maitre d’ (who is from Naples) was there dining with his entire family! Yeah, authentic for sure.
[Note: upon a little research, I believe that the restaurant we visited was called “Brandi.” It comes up on some searches for “great Naples pizza” and the description of where it’s located makes sense. So… a little pre-research and you might luck in on finding an authentic gem of your own while traveling].
After washing down the pizza with some ice-cold Limoncello [note: it MUST be ice cold to go down smoothly], we walked around the city for about an hour. Dessert of gelato at the beautifully-arched galleria – where we were accosted several times by young kids trying to get money. Yes, in Italy you watch your wallet and camera.
On the way back to the ship, we walked around Castel Nuovo with its fortified walls and turrets. The first European castle I saw certainly impressed – this thing was incredibly secure.
A short visit, and back to work to get ahead on the newsletter. Sailing away from Naples, I went up on deck to view the towering peak of Mount Vesuvius in the distance behind the city. Vesuvius is the notorious volcano that buried the city of Pompeii in the year 79 AD. Many of the guest shared fascinating stories of their visit to the ruins that still stand preserved after the terrifying eruption.
We also sailed past the island of Capri at sunset. Then, out into the Mediterranean – en route to Rome. Boy was I excited for our next port!