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Cities in the Spotlight: Naples, Italy

Updated: Mar 11

Today we are heading back to Europe. This time we are exploring Naples, Italy.


Naples City Information

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest city of Italy, after Rome and Milan. Founded by Greeks in the first millennium BC, Naples is one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited urban areas. In the eighth century BC, a colony known as Parthenope was established on the Pizzofalcone hill. In the sixth century BC, it was refounded as Neápolis. The city was an important part of Magna Graecia, played a major role in merging Greek and Roman society, and was a significant cultural centre under the Romans. Naples served as the capital of the Duchy of Naples (661–1139), subsequently as the capital of the Kingdom of Naples (1282–1816), and finally as the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies — until the unification of Italy in 1861. Naples is also considered a capital of the Baroque, beginning with the artist Caravaggio's career in the 17th century and the artistic revolution he inspired. It was also an important centre of humanism and Enlightenment. The city has long been a global point of reference for classical music and opera through the Neapolitan School. Between 1925 and 1936, Naples was expanded and upgraded by Benito Mussolini's government. During the later years of World War II, it sustained severe damage from Allied bombing as they invaded the peninsula. The city underwent extensive reconstruction work after the war.

Naples' historic city centre is the largest in Europe and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A wide range of culturally and historically significant sites are nearby, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Naples is also known for its natural beauties, such as Posillipo, Phlegraean Fields, Nisida and Vesuvius. Neapolitan cuisine is noted for its association with pizza, which originated in the city, as well as numerous other local dishes. Restaurants in the Naples' area have earned the most stars from the Michelin Guide of any Italian province. Naples' Centro Direzionale was built in 1994 as the first grouping of skyscrapers in Italy, remaining the only such grouping in Italy until 2009.


Naples Historical Significance

Naples has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. In the second millennium BC, a first Mycenaean settlement arose not far from the geographical position of the future city of Parthenope. Sailors from the Greek island of Rhodes established probably a small commercial port called Parthenope on the island of Megaride in the ninth century BC. By the eighth century BC, the settlement was expanded by Cumaeans, as evidenced by the archaeological findings, to include Monte Echia. In the sixth century BC the city was refounded as Neápolis , eventually becoming one of the foremost cities of Magna Graecia. The city grew rapidly due to the influence of the powerful Greek city-state of Syracuse, and became an ally of the Roman Republic against Carthage. During the Samnite Wars, the city, now a bustling centre of trade, was captured by the Samnites; however, the Romans soon captured the city from them and made it a Roman colony. During the Punic Wars, the strong walls surrounding Neápolis repelled the invading forces of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. The Romans greatly respected Naples as a paragon of Hellenistic culture. During the Roman era, the people of Naples maintained their Greek language and customs. At the same time, the city was expanded with elegant Roman villas, aqueducts, and public baths. Landmarks such as the Temple of Dioscures were built, and many emperors chose to holiday in the city, including Claudius and Tiberius. Virgil, the author of Rome's national epic, the Aeneid, received part of his education in the city, and later resided in its environs.

It was during this period that Christianity first arrived in Naples; the apostles Peter and Paul are said to have preached in the city. Januarius, who would become Naples' patron saint, was martyred there in the fourth century AD. The last emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Romulus Augustulus, was exiled to Naples by the Germanic king Odoacer in the fifth century AD. Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Naples was captured by the Ostrogoths, a Germanic people, and incorporated into the Ostrogothic Kingdom. However, Belisarius of the Byzantine Empire recaptured Naples in 536, after entering the city via an aqueduct. In 543, during the Gothic Wars, Totila briefly took the city for the Ostrogoths, but the Byzantines seized control of the area following the Battle of Mons Lactarius on the slopes of Vesuvius. Naples was expected to keep in contact with the Exarchate of Ravenna, which was the centre of Byzantine power on the Italian Peninsula. After the exarchate fell, a Duchy of Naples was created. Although Naples' Greco-Roman culture endured, it eventually switched allegiance from Constantinople to Rome under Duke Stephen II, putting it under papal suzerainty by 763.

The years between 818 and 832 saw tumultuous relations with the Byzantine Emperor, with numerous local pretenders feuding for possession of the ducal throne. Theoctistus was appointed without imperial approval; his appointment was later revoked and Theodore II took his place. However, the disgruntled general populace chased him from the city and elected Stephen III instead, a man who minted coins with his initials rather than those of the Byzantine Emperor. Naples gained complete independence by the early ninth century. Naples allied with the Muslim Saracens in 836 and asked for their support to repel the siege of Lombard troops coming from the neighbouring Duchy of Benevento. However, during the 850s, Muslim general Muhammad I Abu 'l-Abbas sacked Miseno, but only for Khums purposes (Islamic booty), without conquering the territories of Campania. The duchy was under the direct control of the Lombards for a brief period after the capture by Pandulf IV of the Principality of Capua, a long-term rival of Naples; however, this regime lasted only three years before the Greco-Roman-influenced dukes were reinstated. By the 11th century, Naples had begun to employ Norman mercenaries to battle their rivals; Duke Sergius IV hired Rainulf Drengot to wage war on Capua for him. By 1137, the Normans had attained great influence in Italy, controlling previously independent principalities and duchies such as Capua, Benevento, Salerno, Amalfi, Sorrento and Gaeta; it was in this year that Naples, the last independent duchy in the southern part of the peninsula, came under Norman control. The last ruling duke of the duchy, Sergius VII, was forced to surrender to Roger II, who had been proclaimed King of Sicily by Antipope Anacletus II seven years earlier. Naples thus joined the Kingdom of Sicily, with Palermo as the capital.

After a period of Norman rule, in 1189 the Kingdom of Sicily was in a succession dispute between Tancred, King of Sicily of an illegitimate birth and the Hohenstaufens, a Germanic royal house,[34] as its Prince Henry had married Princess Constance the last legitimate heir to the Sicilian throne. In 1191 Henry invaded Sicily after being crowned as Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, and many cities surrendered. Still, Naples resisted him from May to August under the leadership of Richard, Count of Acerra, Nicholas of Ajello, Aligerno Cottone and Margaritus of Brindisi before the Germans suffered from disease and were forced to retreat. Conrad II, Duke of Bohemia and Philip I, Archbishop of Cologne died of disease during the siege. During his counterattack, Tancred captured Constance, now empress. He had the empress imprisoned at Castel dell'Ovo at Naples before her release on May 1192 under the pressure of Pope Celestine III. In 1194 Henry started his second campaign upon the death of Tancred, but this time Aligerno surrendered without resistance, and finally, Henry conquered Sicily, putting it under the rule of Hohenstaufens. The University of Naples, the first university in Europe dedicated to training secular administrators, was founded by Frederick II, making Naples the intellectual centre of the kingdom. Conflict between the Hohenstaufens and the Papacy led in 1266 to Pope Innocent IV crowning the Angevin duke Charles I King of Sicily: Charles officially moved the capital from Palermo to Naples, where he resided at the Castel Nuovo. Having a great interest in architecture, Charles I imported French architects and workmen and was personally involved in several building projects in the city. Many examples of Gothic architecture sprang up around Naples, including the Naples Cathedral, which remains the city's main church.

In 1282, after the Sicilian Vespers, the Kingdom of Sicily was divided into two. The Angevin Kingdom of Naples included the southern part of the Italian peninsula, while the island of Sicily became the Aragonese Kingdom of Sicily. Wars between the competing dynasties continued until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, which saw Frederick III recognized as king of Sicily, while Charles II was recognized as king of Naples by Pope Boniface VIII. Despite the split, Naples grew in importance, attracting Pisan and Genoese merchants, Tuscan bankers, and some of the most prominent Renaissance artists of the time, such as Boccaccio, Petrarch and Giotto. During the 14th century, the Hungarian Angevin king Louis the Great captured the city several times. In 1442, Alfonso I conquered Naples after his victory against the last Angevin king, René, and Naples was unified with Sicily again for a brief period. Sicily and Naples were separated since 1282, but remained dependencies of Aragon under Ferdinand I. The new dynasty enhanced Naples' commercial standing by establishing relations with the Iberian Peninsula. Naples also became a centre of the Renaissance, with artists such as Laurana, da Messina, Sannazzaro and Poliziano arriving in the city. In 1501, Naples came under direct rule from France under Louis XII, with the Neapolitan king Frederick being taken as a prisoner to France; however, this state of affairs did not last long, as Spain won Naples from the French at the Battle of Garigliano in 1503. Following the Spanish victory, Naples became part of the Spanish Empire, and remained so throughout the Spanish Habsburg period. The Spanish sent viceroys to Naples to directly deal with local issues: the most important of these viceroys was Pedro Álvarez de Toledo, who was responsible for considerable social, economic and urban reforms in the city; he also tried to introduce the Inquisition. In 1544, around 7,000 people were taken as slaves by Barbary pirates and brought to the Barbary Coast of North Africa.

By the 17th century, Naples had become Europe's second-largest city – second only to Paris – and the largest European Mediterranean city, with around 250,000 inhabitants. The city was a major cultural centre during the Baroque era, being home to artists such as Caravaggio, Salvator Rosa and Bernini, philosophers such as Bernardino Telesio, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella and Giambattista Vico, and writers such as Giambattista Marino. A revolution led by the local fisherman Masaniello saw the creation of a brief independent Neapolitan Republic in 1647. However, this lasted only a few months before Spanish rule was reasserted. In 1656, an outbreak of bubonic plague killed about half of Naples' 300,000 inhabitants. In 1714, Spanish rule over Naples came to an end as a result of the War of the Spanish Succession; the Austrian Charles VI ruled the city from Vienna through viceroys of his own. However, the War of the Polish Succession saw the Spanish regain Sicily and Naples as part of a personal union, with the 1738 Treaty of Vienna recognizing the two polities as independent under a cadet branch of the Spanish Bourbons. In 1755, the Duke of Noja commissioned an accurate topographic map of Naples, later known as the Map of the Duke of Noja, employing rigorous surveying accuracy and becoming an essential urban planning tool for Naples.

During the time of Ferdinand IV, the effects of the French Revolution were felt in Naples: Horatio Nelson, an ally of the Bourbons, arrived in the city in 1798 to warn against the French republicans. Ferdinand was forced to retreat and fled to Palermo, where he was protected by a British fleet. However, Naples' lower class lazzaroni were strongly pious and royalist, favouring the Bourbons; in the mêlée that followed, they fought the Neapolitan pro-Republican aristocracy, causing a civil war. Eventually, the Republicans conquered Castel Sant'Elmo and proclaimed a Parthenopaean Republic, secured by the French Army. A counter-revolutionary religious army of lazzaroni known as the sanfedisti under Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo was raised; they met with great success, and the French were forced to surrender the Neapolitan castles, with their fleet sailing back to Toulon. Ferdinand IV was restored as king; however, after only seven years, Napoleon conquered the kingdom and installed Bonapartist kings, including his brother Joseph Bonaparte (King of Spain). With the help of the Austrian Empire and its allies, the Bonapartists were defeated in the Neapolitan War. Ferdinand IV once again regained the throne and the kingdom.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 saw the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily combine to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with Naples as the capital city. In 1839, Naples became the first city on the Italian peninsula to have a railway, with the construction of the Naples–Portici railway. After the Expedition of the Thousand led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, which culminated in the controversial siege of Gaeta, Naples became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 as part of the Italian unification, ending the era of Bourbon rule. The economy of the area formerly known as the Two Sicilies declined, leading to an unprecedented wave of emigration, with an estimated 4 million people emigrating from the Naples area between 1876 and 1913. In the forty years following unification, the population of Naples grew by only 26%, vs. 63% for Turin and 103% for Milan; however, by 1884, Naples was still the largest city in Italy with 496,499 inhabitants, or roughly 64,000 per square kilometre (more than twice the population density of Paris). Public health conditions in certain areas of the city were poor, with twelve epidemics of cholera and typhoid fever claiming some 48,000 people between 1834 and 1884. A death rate 31.84 per thousand, high even for the time, insisted in the absence of epidemics between 1878 and 1883. Then in 1884, Naples fell victim to a major cholera epidemic, caused largely by the city's poor sewerage infrastructure. In response to these problems, in 1852, the government prompted a radical transformation of the city called risanamento to improve the sewerage infrastructure and replace the most clustered areas, considered the main cause of insalubrity, with large and airy avenues. The project proved difficult to accomplish politically and economically due to corruption, as shown in the Saredo Inquiry, land speculation and extremely long bureaucracy. This led to the project to massive delays with contrasting results. The most notable transformations made were the construction of Via Caracciolo in place of the beach along the promenade, the creation of Galleria Umberto I and Galleria Principe and the construction of Corso Umberto.

Naples was the most bombed Italian city during World War II. Though Neapolitans did not rebel under Italian Fascism, Naples was the first Italian city to rise up against German military occupation; the city was completely freed by 1 October 1943, when British and American forces entered the city. Departing Germans burned the library of the university, as well as the Italian Royal Society. They also destroyed the city archives. Time bombs planted throughout the city continued to explode into November. The symbol of the rebirth of Naples was the rebuilding of the church of Santa Chiara, which had been destroyed in a United States Army Air Corps bombing raid. Special funding from the Italian government's Fund for the South was provided from 1950 to 1984, helping the Neapolitan economy to improve somewhat, with city landmarks such as the Piazza del Plebiscito being renovated. However, high unemployment continues to affect Naples. Italian media attributed the past city's waste disposal issues to the activity of the Camorra organized crime network. Due to this event, environmental contamination and increased health risks are also prevalent. In 2007, Silvio Berlusconi's government held senior meetings in Naples to demonstrate their intention to solve these problems. However, the late-2000s recession had a severe impact on the city, intensifying its waste management and unemployment problems. By August 2011, the number of unemployed in the Naples area had risen to 250,000, sparking public protests against the economic situation. In June 2012, allegations of blackmail, extortion, and illicit contract tendering emerged concerning the city's waste management issues.


Travel to Naples

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Naples is raw, high-octane energy, a place of soul-stirring art and panoramas, spontaneous conversations and unexpected, inimitable elegance – welcome to Italy's most unlikely masterpiece.


Must See Sites

Museo Archeologico Nazionale; Naples' National Archaeological Museum serves up one of the world’s finest collections of Graeco-Roman artefacts. Originally a cavalry barracks and later seat of the city’s university, the museum was established by the Bourbon king Charles VII in the late 18th century to house the antiquities he inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, as well as treasures looted from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Star exhibits include the celebrated Toro Farnese (Farnese Bull) sculpture and awe-inspiring mosaics from Pompeii's Casa del Fauno.

Pompeii; Modern-day Pompeii (Pompei in Italian) may feel like a nondescript satellite of Naples, but it's here that you'll find Europe's most compelling archaeological site: the ruins of Pompeii. Sprawling and haunting, the site is a stark reminder of the destructive forces that lie deep inside Vesuvius. A must see if you are in Naples, take the day trip.

Cappella Sanservero; It's in this Masonic-inspired baroque chapel that you'll find Giuseppe Sanmartino's incredible sculpture, Cristo velato (Veiled Christ), its marble veil so realistic that it's tempting to try to lift it and view Christ underneath. It's one of several artistic wonders that include Francesco Queirolo's sculpture Disinganno (Disillusion), Antonio Corradini's Pudicizia (Modesty) and riotously colourful frescoes by Francesco Maria Russo that have remained untouched since their creation in 1749. Originally built around the end of the 16th century to house the tombs of the di Sangro family, the chapel was given its current baroque fit-out by Prince Raimondo di Sangro, who, between 1749 and 1766, commissioned the finest artists to adorn the interior. In Queirolo's Disinganno, the man trying to untangle himself from a net represents Raimondo's father, Antonio, Duke of Torremaggiore. After the premature death of his wife, Antonio abandoned the young Raimondo, choosing instead a life of travel and hedonistic pleasures. Repentant in his later years, he returned to Naples and joined the priesthood, his attempt to free himself from sin represented in Queirolo's masterpiece.

Certosa e Museo di San Martino; The high point (quite literally) of the Neapolitan baroque, this charterhouse-turned-museum was built as a Carthusian monastery between 1325 and 1368. Centred on one of the most beautiful cloisters in Italy, it has been decorated, adorned and altered over the centuries by some of Italy’s finest talent, most importantly architect Giovanni Antonio Dosio in the 16th century and baroque sculptor Cosimo Fanzago a century later. Nowadays, it’s a superb repository of Neapolitan and Italian artistry. The monastery’s church and the sacristy, treasury and chapter house that flank it contain a feast of frescoes and paintings by some of Naples’ greatest 17th-century artists, among them Battista Caracciolo, Jusepe de Ribera, Guido Reni and Massimo Stanzione. In the nave, Cosimo Fanzago’s inlaid marble work is simply extraordinary.

Catacombe di San Gennaro; Naples' oldest and most sacred catacombs became a Christian pilgrimage site when San Gennaro's body was interred here in the 5th century. The carefully restored site allows visitors to experience an evocative other world of tombs, corridors and broad vestibules, its treasures including 2nd-century Christian frescoes, 5th-century mosaics and the oldest known portrait of San Gennaro, dating from the second half of the 5th century. The catacombs are home to three types of tomb, each corresponding to a specific social class. The wealthy opted for the open-room cubiculum, originally guarded by gates and adorned with colourful wall frescoes. One cubiculum to the left of the entrance features an especially beautiful funerary fresco of a mother, father and child: it's made up of three layers of fresco, one commissioned for each death. The smaller, rectangular wall niches, known as loculum, were the domain of the middle classes, while the forme (floor tombs) were reserved for the poor.

Duomo; Whether you go for Giovanni Lanfranco's fresco in the Cappella di San Gennaro (Chapel of St Janarius), the 4th-century mosaics in the baptistry, or the thrice-annual miracle of San Gennaro, do not miss Naples' cathedral. Kick-started by Charles I of Anjou in 1272 and consecrated in 1315, it was largely destroyed in a 1456 earthquake. It has had copious nips and tucks over the subsequent centuries. Among these is the gleaming neo-Gothic facade, only completed in 1905. Step inside and you'll immediately notice the central nave's gilded coffered ceiling, studded with late-mannerist art. The high sections of the nave and the transept are the work of baroque overachiever Luca Giordano.

Museo di Capodimonte; Originally designed as a hunting lodge for Charles VII of Bourbon, the monumental Palazzo di Capodimonte was begun in 1738 and took more than a century to complete. It's now home to the Museo di Capodimonte, southern Italy's largest and richest art gallery. Its vast collection – much of which Charles inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese – was moved here in 1759 and ranges from exquisite 12th-century altarpieces to works by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Titian and Warhol. The gallery is spread over three floors and 160 rooms; for most people, a full morning or afternoon is enough for an abridged best-of tour. The 1st floor includes works by greats such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian, with highlights including Masaccio’s Crocifissione (Crucifixion), Botticelli's Madonna col Bambino e due angeli (Madonna with Child and Angels), Bellini’s Trasfigurazione (Transfiguration) and Parmigianino’s Antea, all of which are subject to room changes within the museum.

Teatro San Carlo; An evening at Italy's largest opera house is magical. Although the original 1737 theatre burnt down in 1816, Antonio Niccolini's 19th-century reconstruction is pure Old World opulence. If you can't make it to a performance, consider taking one of the 45-minute guided tours of the venue. Tours usually take in the foyers, elegant main hall and royal box (the best seat in the house) and tour tickets can be purchased at the theatre up to 15 minutes before each tour begins.


Must Try Food & Drink

Pizza Napoletana; Italy’s most emblematic culinary creation, the genuine pizza Napoletana is made with just a few simple ingredients and prepared in only two variations – marinara, the basic Neapolitan pizza topped with a tomato-based sauce flavored with garlic and oregano, and margherita, which is topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves, a delicious combination whose colors are said to represent the Italian flag. The crust is very thin at the base, and the dough puffs up on the sides, which results in airy crust that should have typical charred 'leopard spots' if baked properly. The origins of this iconic Neapolitan dish can be traced to the early 1700s, when what we know today as pizza marinara was first described by Italian chef, writer, and philosopher Vincenzo Corrado in his treatise on the eating habits of the people of Naples. Almost 200 years later, in 1889, the premier Neapolitan master pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito added mozzarella to the mix and invented the margherita, which is now generally cited as the first modern pizza. Originally dubbed la pizza tricolore, Esposito’s creation is said to have been made in honor of and named after Margherita of Savoy, the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy, who was visiting Naples at the time. In 2010, as one of Italy’s most popular foods worldwide, pizza Napoletana was officially recognized by the European Union and granted the designation of Traditional Specialty Guaranteed. And remember, a good pizza Napoletana doesn't need any additions other than the designated toppings.

Struffoli; Struffoli is a Neapolitan dessert consisting of small, deep-fried balls of dough that are soaked in honey. Traditionally, struffoli is prepared at Christmastime, so they are sometimes served piled on a plate in the shape of a wreath or a Christmas tree, often covered in colorful candy sprinkles or candied fruit. The name of the dish is believed to be derived from the Greek word strongulos, meaning round in shape. Some believe that struffoli bring good luck, and that the tiny rounds symbolize abundance and prosperity. These sweet treats were prepared in convents for centuries before they began being distributed by nuns to noble families at Christmastime as a sign of gratitude for their donations and charity. Seeing struffoli in Italy is a sure sign that Christmas is just around the corner.

Migliaccio; Moist, creamy, and characterized by subtle hints of lemon, migliaccio is a typical Italian carnival cake that is mostly prepared in Naples and the surrounding areas. The texture of migliaccio is quite similar to that of a cheesecake, and it is traditionally prepared with semolina and ricotta instead of flour. Although limoncello is the most authentic addition in terms of flavorings, it can be replaced by lemon juice. Once it has been properly baked, the cake can be served either warm or chilled.

Acqua Pazza; One of Italian classics, acqua pazza (lit. crazy water) is a traditional Neapolitan way of poaching fish whose origins date back to the Middle Ages. Originally, because of the high duty on salt which was back then an unavailable commodity, the local fishermen used to prepare acqua pazza by poaching the day's catch in seawater. This simple broth was flavored merely with some olive oil and tomatoes if they were at hand. Over time, the recipe has evolved, and acqua pazza became a much sought after dish all along the Italian coast, especially popular with tourists on the island of Capri during the 1960s. Today, aside from various white fish such as bass, cod, perch, and halibut, the ingredients used to make this light, yet filling soup typically include pomodorini or cherry tomatoes, fennel, olives, peppers, celery, carrots, and sometimes even capers. Flavored with olive oil, white wine, garlic, and parsley, the delicious broth is spooned over the fish. Acqua pazza was once a poor man's staple but nowadays goes a long way when dipped with bread and paired with some light Italian white wines.

Pizza Fritta; Pizza fritta, also known as fried pizza, is a popular Italian street food originating from Naples. To prepare pizza fritta, the dough (similar to traditional pizza dough, but allowed to rise longer, resulting in a lighter and fluffier texture) is rolled out into small rounds or rectangles and filled with classic pizza ingredients such as tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ham, mushrooms or vegetables. The edges of the dough are then folded over to enclose the fillings, and the pizza is carefully deep-fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy. Once fried, pizza fritta is usually consumed piping hot from a piece of greasy paper, and is sometimes topped with additional ingredients like fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil. It is typically enjoyed as a handheld street food.

Zeppole; Zeppole is a fried dough specialty that is found throughout southern Italy, consisting of deep-fried dough that is typically topped with sugar and can be filled with custard, jelly, pastry cream, or a combination of honey and butter. Some version of it might have originated in Ancient Rome, but its modern form was conceived sometime in the 18th century in Campania and made popular in the 19th century by the Neapolitan baker Pasquale Pintauro. The sweet treats are traditionally prepared for the festival of St. Joseph on March 19, and in the past zeppole were only served on that day every year, providing an opportunity in which the wealthy and the poor both shared the same meal. The name of the dish stems from the Arabic word zalābiyya, meaning fried soft dough. Today, there are numerous recipes and variations for zeppole, including fillings such as ricotta cheese, chocolate, candied fruits, and even anchovies.

Pastiera; The delicate buttery crust in this classic Neapolitan tart holds a rich filling of cooked wheat berries, ricotta, and pastry cream, enriched with candied orange peel and flavored with orange blossom water. Pastiera is traditionally enjoyed for Easter, though its origins are said to be traced back to pagan times. According to one legend, to celebrate the return of spring, the priestesses of Pompeii would prepare similar wheat pastries as an offering for Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops and fertility. However, the pastiera we know today originated in the convents of Naples. It was regarded as a symbol of resurrection, rebirth, and new life, traditionally prepared between Holy Thursday and Easter Eve - a practice that continues up to this day.

Spaghetti alle vongole; Quick and easy to prepare, yet packing some serious flavor, spaghetti alle vongole is a traditional Neapolitan dish consisting of only two key ingredients: vongole clams and pasta. However, there is a heated debate considering secondary ingredients, primarily the tomatoes. Purists adore the original dish, made without tomatoes, known as bianco version, while the others prefer a version with crushed tomatoes, or a version with a tomato sauce, known as spaghetti alle vongole con la salsa di pomodoro. Similar issues arise regarding the addition or omission of peperoncino and pepper in the dish. Regardless of these issues, everyone agrees that the pasta should be cooked al dente. Although the dish is best in the summer, when all of the ingredients are as fresh as they might be, it is also one of the most important meals of the traditional Neapolitan Christmas Eve dinner, known as Cena della vigilia di Natale.

Sfogliatella; Sfogliatella is one of the most famous Italian pastries, with many regions offering their spin on the recipe. Although traditionally associated with Naples, it is believed that the original sfogliatella was invented around 1700 on the Italian Amalfi Coast, as a creation of nuns from the Santa Rosa monastery. This version was filled with luscious custard cream and black cherries preserved in syrup, and although the nuns were forbidden to have contact with the external world, the recipe was somehow obtained by a Neapolitan chef who started preparing his variety of these delicious sweets which soon became a Naples favorite. Nowadays, they are offered in two main varieties: riccia and frolla. Sfogliatella riccia is regarded as the traditional and the most common variety. It is an elaborate dessert made with multiple layers of paper-thin dough arranged in a clam-shaped pocket, filled with a delicious cream made with semolina, water, ricotta, sugar, eggs, cubed candied fruit, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Sfogliatella frolla has the same filling, but it is round-shaped and made with shortcrust pastry. Another version of this dessert is coda d’aragosta, literally meaning lobster tail, filled with pastry cream. It is a very popular dessert in the United States, with their version typically being much larger than the original. Traditionally, sfogliatella should always be served freshly prepared, while still crispy, preferably warm and dusted with powdered sugar.

Sugo alla Genovese; Sugo alla Genovese is a traditional Italian sauce that, despite its name, originates from Naples, but it was likely brought over to the city from Genoa by Genovese immigrants during the Renaissance period. The sauce is prepared by sautéeing veal or beef in olive oil with large amounts of onions, carrots, and celery for a long time, usually from 2 to 10 hours. White wine or stock are often added to the sauce to enrich its flavors. Once done, sugo alla Genovese is served either as it is or the meat is served separately from the sauce. It's traditionally paired with pasta types such as ziti or rigatoni, and the dish is then garnished with tomatoes and topped with grated pecorino.


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