Another look at Naples

After an easy train ride from Rome, we arrived at that most energetic of Italian cities, Naples. While the Neapolitan attitude toward personal space may seem quite off-putting, you have to admire a city that has a reproduction of the Laocoön in a metro station.

Our day was dedicated to a return visit to the National Archaeological Museum, a fabulous collection of all the best that the Kings of Naples could commandeer, including the original finds from Pompeii.

The marbles include dear Hercules, the Farnese Bull, getting ready to rip apart a nasty stepmother, and other gods or notables in heroic poses.

One of the main highlights of the museum for us are the finds from the Villa of the Papyri, the best house in Herculaneum, now reproduced in LA as the Getty Villa. Ironically, some of its treasures are now on display there. (We’re going in July, just to see what we missed at the British Museum and here.) But some of the most magnificent things are still here, including the original machines which first unrolled the burned fragments of papyri found in the house. Our favorite is the running boy, whose long-time companion seems to have left for LA.

And then there are the frescoes and mosaics of Pompeii. Again, in case any curator is listening, could we just have one of the abundance of gorgeous frescoes you have here? Pompeian red would suit us just fine.

But then there are the amazing mosaics, including Alexander the Great defeating the Persian king Darius. From the House of the Faun (faun included here too), this fragment has been theoretically completed and reproduced in a nearby painting. But I would even take the most banal “Beware of the Dog” mosaic, just to have something as beautiful as these for my very own. Selfish, I know. But not any more selfish than the Kings of Naples who collected all of these treasures for their personal enjoyment and allowed others to see the collection only with personal permission.  This museum is the original setting for this once-private collection

Don’s Food Corner

If it’s Naples it has got to be pizza.  We didn’t search out the specific pizzerias that are considered the best in the world. We did that on our last trip to Italy and the crowds and lines were a little stressful. Instead we just tumbled out the front door of the museum and landed in a seemingly modest place with a lovely outdoor area in a pedestrian-only street.

Clearly when you’re making pizza in a city that hosts the “greatest pizzeria in the world” it ups the game. In short, the pizzas we had were spectacular. Jo ordered a pizza diavolo, which is tomato sauce/mozzarella cheese with thinly sliced spicy sausage. We would consider this a pizza with pepperoni. However, a pepperoni pizza in Italy will get you a pizza piled high with hot peppers.

I had the classic Margherita pizza because, after all, it was invented in Naples.

Unlike the cracker-thin crusts of the Roman pizza, the Neapolitan pizza is somewhat thicker.  But that doesn’t mean it’s soggy in the middle like too many pizzas you get in New York.  And at $5 for a good sized pizza here in Naples,  it sure beats the $28 that Original Ray’s of New York has the nerve to charge with its gummy, soggy crust.

Like the Roman pizza, however, the superb pizzas we had today showed blackened bottoms as evidence of the high heat the pizza ovens.  It was also interesting to see that the tomato sauce had tomato seeds in it, although the seeds seemed to have dissolved into the sauce.  It had a naturally sweet taste.  Since this is the land where the real San Marzano tomatoes are grown (in the volcanic soil of Mt. Vesuvius) we’re getting the real terroir of these special tomatoes.

We will do our best to test other pizzas around Naples…just to make sure that today’s delight wasn’t a fluke.

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