Golden Day Sixty: Fall in Love with Napoli in Spaccanapoli
When I think of Napoli, a fabulous moment rushes back: The first visit, an early spring evening. My sister and I had dropped our bags at our B&B, wandered to the Duomo. The via was quiet…then gradually amorous couples emerged walking arm in arm, elderly signoras strutted past us, a glarmous gal on a vespa with long gleaming black hair whizzed by, ragazzi in t-shirts, mammas with strollers, there were shouts and waves all around, arms flying through the air. Suddenly we were in a crowd of look-a-likes of our relatives and neighbors from our Jersey shore childhood! We walked along in awe. As I’m dark haired and petite, with looks inherited from my southern Italian grandparents, I rarely blend in with a crowd in my current home turf of Los Angeles…but here in Naples, I was HOME. I LOVE NAPOLI.
There are many Golden Days to be had here, basking in the delicious beauty of this place, the theatricality of encounters with the friendly, generous natives. One starting point is Spaccanapoli, the via that splits through the historic center, starting at Piazza del Gesu. It’s best to wander through this glorious place slowly. Some of my favorite stops along the way are…
The Cloisters of Santa Chiara, tucked behind the church. What a a gorgeous oasis, adorned with joyfully painted majolica columns, benches, a frescoed loggia…
Further along is the Cappella Sansevero with the amazing sculpture of the veiled Christ. (Via F De Sanctis. Mon-Sat 10-5:30, Sun 10-1:00).
Then there’s the Via San Gregorio Armeno, where the Neapolitan tradition of crafting nativity scenes goes on year round, with artisan shops displaying everything from Holy Family figures to exquisite angels, jolly peasant folk, commedia dell’arte characters,
and even current heros (pick up some Obamas and Michelles!). Check out Ferigno (Via San Gregorio Armeno 8), for the most beautiful creations.
A stunning stop is the Pio Monte della Misericordia (Via dei Tribunali 253, Mon-Sat 9-2:30), a church where Caravaggio’s 7 Acts of Mercy is displayed.
Detour for lunch at La Cantina di Via Sapienza (Via Sapienza 40-41, lunch only, closed Sunday). It’s a small place, so get there early–around 12:30 to get a seat to enjoy excellently prepared Neapolitan specialties–such as eggplant parmigiana or lasagna.
For a dolce or apertivo break, it’s lovely to splurge at Pasticceria Starcuchio (Piazza San Domenico Maggiore) for gelato, sfogliatelle (Naple’s signature sea-shell shaped pastry), caffe or prosecco in the evening.
And of course you must have the pizza Naples is deservedly so famous for! There are loads of top choices in the neighborhood: Di Matteo (Via dei Tribunali 94, closed Sun) and Il Pizzaiolo del Presidente (Via Tribunali 120) are where Bill Clinton was proudly served, Da Michele (Via Cesare Sersale 1, closed Sun), is where Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert rhapsodized over the Margherita, and a favorite of mine is Sorbillo (Via Tribunali 35).