Upon arrival at the home of my Italian host, Giovanni, I was served a lunch of thick, perfectly soft pasta with a homemade vegetable mélange as a sauce – this was the obvious way for him to greet me, regardless of my level of hunger.
After that, Giovanni sat me down in front of his desk. With a cigarette dangling from his lips, pen in hand, he began outlining the must-see sites in Naples. From Mount Vesuvius to Pompeii, the Italian cathedrals to Capri Island, Napoli houses thousands of years of history and an abundance of entertainment options, he told me. Finally, after two hours of passionately detailed descriptions, he set me free to explore the city on my own.
I headed to what Giovanni had told me was the best pizza of Naples. As the birthplace of pizza, it’s easily arguable that Naples is home to the best pizza in the world. As I ate the best pizza in Naples, I must have eaten the best pizza in the world. Let me tell you, it was phenomenal.
The melt-in-your-mouth, delectably soft and fluffy crust was topped with perfectly tart and spiced tomato sauce, with chunks of melted mozzarella that had to have been fresh from the Italian buffalo. I was in heaven.
Forty minutes outside Naples is Pompeii, the ancient Roman city that was destroyed and buried in ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, 79 AD. Strolling along the ancient cobbled streets and peering at crumbling arches, three-walled buildings, randomly strewn columns, and even some preserved and mummified victims of the disaster, I imagined what Pompeians must have experienced the day of the disaster. I reveled in the history.
Moseying along the century old streets of central Naples, I visited the oldest aquarium in the world, went into the National Archeological Museum which houses artifacts found at Pompeii, saw houses built on top of the ruins of 2,000-year-old Roman colosseum, and ate mounds and mounds of heavenly pizza and cannoli, Italian tube-like pastries made of pastry dough and filled with sweet, creamy filling.
My final day in Naples was topped off with a ride through the city on the back of Giovanni’s motorcycle. Weaving our way around tiny Italian cars and dodging to miss the various potholes dotting the decade old streets, an obvious sign of Italian economic hardship, Giovanni pointed out historic landmarks; a 900 year old church here, museum that houses works by the famous Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio there.
We stopped for an espresso at the oldest café in Naples, theGran Caffe Gambrinus, which was founded in 1860 and is revered for having the best coffee in the city. Downing our espressos in basically one gulp, the customary Italian method of drinking coffee, we jumped back on the motorcycle and headed for pizza at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the pizzeria where Julia Roberts ate in the film Eat, Love, Pray. After a 45 minute wait in a large, hungry crowd outside the entrance, we crammed into the tiny restaurant, and inhaled yet another scrumptious pizza margherita.
A visit to Naples is not just a visit to a city – it’s an experience, one that will awaken your senses and bring you to life to realize the beauty of the world.