Post # 40 Travels Abroad # 2 Naples

August 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

For those who don’t know it, Naples is in Italy, near the island of Capri, about an eight-hour train trip south of Rome.  If you view Italy as a leg (which most people do), Naples is just below the knee.    The hotel was directly in front of the causeway leading to the Castle Dell’Ovo.  From my hotel room, I could see Mt. Vesuvius.  It was an amazing trip.  Our hotel was centrally located so being the walker that I am, I ranged all over the city, getting to know the different neighborhoods and stores.

We had one lady on the trip with us who spoke passable spanish so could communicate in Italy fairly well.  To a point, anyway.  We went to a butcher the first weekend and I wanted a half pound of ham and a half pound of cheese.  I ended up with two and half pounds of each, and the ham wasn’t cooked.  Fortunately, the hotel staff were very understanding and turned it into a bunch of sandwiches for me and my team and themselves.

I ate like a pig on this trip because, well, it was Italy!  Italian food, you know?  The first day I was there, I went walking around and found a street fair.  I was by myself because the rest of the team were still sleeping off the excesses of the previous night that I had not been invited to (just got off the airplane, etc.)  So I wandered around the street fair watching the coming and going when suddenly I smelled the most mouth-watering aroma!  Someone was making fresh popcorn!  I followed my nose and bought a bag.  I jammed a handful in my mouth and had to stop myself from spitting it out.  It was covered with sugar!  Ugh!  I moved away from the vendor and tossed the bag in the trash.  How disappointing!

One evening, after I’d been there a few weeks, I went to a palazzo several block behind the hotel.  I found a small gelato shop, ordered chocolate, and sat eating my ice cream while watching people moving about on their own business.  Have you ever had gelato?  OMG!!  There are a number scientific reasons why gelato is different from ice cream, but the only one that matter is that gelato tastes so much BETTER!!!  I don’t eat a lot of ice cream.  I like it, but it sometimes affects me badly.  But this was so good!  If you ever have the opportunity to have some real Italian gelato, jump at it.

It was Naples that invented pizza according to people who live in Naples.  I will say that the best pizza I’ve ever had was in Naples.  I’ve had pizza all over the world (remember curry pizza?), and even all over Italy.  I still remember the pizza in Naples fondly.  I used to buy a cheese pizza on the way home from work, and sit in the hotel room eating lukewarm pizza marvelling at the taste.  The crust was the perfect thickness to provide a perfect bite, and had a flavor all its own.  The sauce was a sauce only the Italians can create.  Fresh mozzarella probably made that day from cows milked that morning.  And toppings that would make you cry they tasted so good.  One thing that always made me chuckle was the mushrooms.  I like a lot of mushrooms on my pizza and no place that I’ve been to has ever put enough of them on.  At least, not enough for me.  In Italy, they take one large mushroom and slice it paper-thin then spread it out over the entire face of the pizza.  There’s mushroom in every bite.

Naples was where I was introduced to fried calamari.  I went to a restaurant in front of the castle across the street with my team.  They all told me to try the fried calamari.  The Rule raised its ugly head and I ordered fried calamari.  I watched the chef go to the side of the causeway and lift a trap.  He pulled out a live squid, butchered it and tossed the entrails, ect. over the side and went back to his fire.  He gently sliced the calamari into bite-sized pieces, rolled them in flour, fried them up, and brought the plate out to me.  Start to finish, probably no more than eight minutes.  Only once before have I ever had fish that fresh.  It was so good, but so salty!  The waitress, an older woman with the indefinable air of a mama, told me to squeeze lemon over it.  It not only gave it that bright citrus flavor, but it cut the salt and made the whole plate wonderful.  Later in the trip, I tried calamari in different ways, but always went back to the fried.

The office building we worked at had a cafeteria staffed by two women who took a maternal attitude toward the dislocated Americans.  Every day you went to the cafeteria to see what they were planning to make and if you wanted it, you told them so they could get a head count and not make too much.  If you didn’t want it, you could order off a set menu of sandwiches and salads.  At lunchtime, you paid and collected your dinner and sat and ate while the two ladies watched, smiling maternally.  They bought everything fresh that day.  Every Friday was fish day, and usually meant tuna.  Don’t even think about putting cheese on fish!  (Ice in drinks would kill you too.)  We had the most amazing meals, and oddly enough, my favorite (which I’m still trying to recreate) was white beans and pasta.  Tremendous stuff.

One of the team decided to lose weight while on the trip.  He chose to eat nothing but salad.  Every salad I saw him eat also had a quarter to a half cup of olive oil, a handful of cheese, and croutons on it.  And he added Italian bread and butter to the whole meal.  At the end of the trip, he moaned that he didn’t seem to have lost any weight at all.

I’ll tell more about Naples on another post.  I visited a lot of local sights I’d like to tell you about.  In the meantime, try gelato!

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6 Comments

  1. Lovely site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am bookmarking your feeds also

    • Glad you’re enjoying it! I update every Mon-Wed-Fri. If you have any questions or would like to see something in particular, just let me know! Thanks!

  2. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch as I found it for him smile Therefore let me rephrase that: Thank you for lunch!

    • Glad I could help!

  3. When I was in Iraq I became really good friends with the guys from the Italian delegation from the UN over there, there threw Pizza parties at there embassy and I got invited. I they had a wood burning oven, yes, in Iraq and they were AMAZING I tried for the first time a Nutella pizza, to die for… Oh the good ole days of the green zone…

    • Yeah, good ole days. I remember worrying about you daily. Wood fired pizza, tho. Wonderful stuff! There’s a pizza place in Leesburg next to Tuscarora Mill Restuarant that has the best wood fired pizza in NoVa! You should try it sometime!


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