Archives for the month of: May, 2012

Naples. Words that spring to mind? Filthy. Busy. Colourful. Frenetic.

We travelled into Naples by train. Good thing too. The streets are crazy busy. Unless you want to lose your sanity in the first 5 minutes, you need to negotiate the city on foot.

Everywhere you look are vendors trying to sell things … sunglasses, handbags, cigarettes, a stolen iPhone, jewelry. Scooters whizz past you. There is a buzz of voices, the smell of car fumes and the sense of urgency to get somewhere at high speed.

When you enter the historic centre, you enter a rabbit warren. Dirty cobblestoned alleys, small shops, pasticcerias, pizzerias, laundry hanging out of windows and no sun. It’s quite an experience.

After Pompeii yesterday, it was interesting to go the Archeological Museum and see the items which had been uncovered during excavations. Surgical instruments, glassware, ceramics, kitchen utensils, lamps, coins, writing instruments, pots, pastry pans & moulds, urns and even petrified fruit and food still in their plates and pots. They also have an extensive collection of incredibly well preserved frescoes which were recovered from the site and are on display.

Of course, if you come to Naples, you have to eat pizza. The best pizza is in Napoli, they say. So we went in search of Di Matteo on Via dei Tribunali. It’s not to be missed! A short wait outside for a table … because I was loathe to eat my pizza on a dirty sidewalk … and we were ordering the Margherita di Bufalo. Fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil. Beautiful! The price of 4 Euro is ridiculously cheap! And no, I did not share my pizza. I smashed the entire pizza all by myself, with juice running down my chin and happily licking my fingers clean.

An interesting snippet from the Lonely Planet: Naples was for a long time the prostitution capital of the continent, and it’s reputation drew people from far and wide, giving new meaning (in the days when syphilis was rife) to the phrase “See Naples and die”.

My list for Naples has been checked … wander the historical centre, see the archeological museum, eat the pizza … and then get out alive.

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Another delightful meal enjoyed at Il Cortile … yes I ate too much, had far too much red wine and that cherry liqueur finished it all off beautifully. I will be sleeping soundly tonight.

Antipasto: Caprese … I can’t tell you how amazing the mozzarella is and the tomatoes are bursting with flavour. The best I have ever tasted, hands down. Just add basilico and it’s a dish fit for kings.

Primi: Parpardella with a meat & orange reduction. Not a typical Italian dish, but delicious.

Secondo: Beef carpaccio with lemon juice & olive oil, steamed green beans & rocket.

Dolce: Baba … a traditional dessert with Polish influence dating centuries back. This dessert is drowned in liqueur. In a good way.

Then we were treated to a shot of liqueur made with “fruit from the mountain”. I definitely tasted cherries. It knocks your breath away. I think it’s a “mampoer” of sorts. Delightful.

Another incredibly simple, incredibly delicious meal.

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Walking through the remarkably well preserved ruins I was struck with a sense of lives lived and lost. People walked these streets, went about their business selling goods, artists painted, politicians did their underhanded deals, authors, poets and musicians composed their works, children ran and played. Life happened.

Brief history:
The Vesuvian area suffered a violent earthquake in 62 AD. Reconstruction started in Pompeii immediately and 17 years later, on 24 August of 79 AD, renovations still incomplete, Vesuvius erupted, burying Pompeii under ash and rock. It was rediscovered in the 16th century, but exploration didn’t begin until 1748 under the King of Naples, Charles III of Bourbon and has continued systematically into the 19th century up until the most recent works of excavation and restoration.

Tomorrow I will be seeing the items excavated at the Archeological Museum in Naples. The site visit today will give good perspective.

That’s a big tick off my bucket list. Pompeii … check.

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Today was for exploring the Amalfi Coast, starting at Ravello.

I really have no words for how narrow those roads are. There were times that I just pinched my eyes closed and hoped the bus, other car or truck wouldn’t squash me up against the cliff face. Luckily no such thing happened, but I did come away with a stiff neck, headache and one aching achilles tendon.

The views are spectacular. I won’t lie. Pity we didn’t have time to stop at each village and explore it. Parking is an issue and ideally one should catch a bus and hop on and off at the various villages.

Fortunately I do have a few photos to tell the tale …

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Fortunately the weather has cleared. This means tomorrow we can hit the pavement running. There is so much to see and do in Naples, and all preferably in sunny weather.

With the rain gone, it gave me a chance to take a few photos of Il Cortile B&B’s garden. Their pets hang around and are very playful. It made me miss Jock & Ruby.

Dinner was a treat. We were served a beautiful off dry red with berry tones. My taste buds did a little back flip and then begged for more. I’m scheming of ways to get a few bottles home.

The antipasti was carpaccio of bresaola with shaved zucchini, parmesan & lashings of olive oil and lemon juice.

The primi was scialatielli pasta with pomodoro & ruccola. Beautiful simple flavours.

For secondo we were served typical Neapolitan sausages with an apple sauce made from Anurca apples grown only in the Campania region.

And dolce was a wickedly delicious chocolate mouse with hazelnut sprinkles.

This was followed by an espresso, thanks to which I am still awake and writing this blog post.

If you could see me now … well, I’m lying on my back, rubbing my belly with satisfaction 🙂

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High tailed it out of the “heel of the boot” of Italy this morning. Lecce and surrounds is very different to the northern regions of Italy. I found the landscape harsher with short, scrubby bushes and stony.

Driving up to Naples, I was delighted to head back into the lush, green hilly landscape. I actually felt my body relax. Strange, but true.

So here we are in Cicciano, staying at Il Cortile. A little treasure hidden behind huge wooden doors, in a small narrow road. We drove past it twice. Yes, we even had thoughts to move onto another place. It really is lovely though … and thank heavens for those wooden doors that closes the world out behind you.

It was very rainy when we arrived, so no chance for nice photos. I will take a few later to post tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we have a typical Neapolitan meal lined up for this evening. My stomach promises to be positively full to bursting … these Italians don’t know when to stop!

Catch up later. I’ll be the one rubbing my belly with satisfaction.

It was a lazy Sunday morning. It was lovely.

Took a drive into Lecce to find breakfast, which ended up being at Caffè Alvino. The croissant filled with custard and cherries … positively wicked … should have had two.

Strolled around for a while. It is clearly what everyone does on Sundays in Lecce. La Passeggiata. The streets were filled with locals walking around, kids riding on bicycles, bars and cafés abuzz with Italian voices.

And after strolling, one must rest. So we did. Can you say “Sunday afternoon nap”? Well, I did.

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Gallipoli. Where the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas meet.

Gallipoli’s Old Town is built on an island, joined to the mainland by a bridge. You can walk the perimeter of the island in under 10 minutes. Small. The maize of alleys are pretty, with shops offering tourists shells, woven baskets and various curios.

The sea views are pretty and on a hot day like today, very inviting. There is one sandy beach, Spiagga della Purita, but I would definitely not swim there. I could not believe how dirty the beach was. So much litter. This didn’t seem to deter some, who were happily lying on the beach amid the rubbish. I won’t ever complain about the condition of Cape Town’s beaches.

A nice little spot to see if you have nothing else to do, but for me it didn’t rank up there with anything, sorry to say.

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