Archive for the Campania Category

Campania – historical flavours in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , on March 1, 2019 by gannet39

Benevento has many fascinating ancient food traditions, and this first is a great place to experience some of them …

My Google map is here.

Trattoria Nunzia (Intermediate A), 152 Via Annunziata

Benevento’s most venerated restaurant, specialising in local dishes and ingredients.

I first came in 2005 and had a fantastic meal (see below) so I was very happy to return twelve years later. Nothing much has changed, it’s still very good (although I am perhaps more critical), but the old lady’s son Antonio, a good English speaker, is now working alongside her.

I began with the Bruschettina con Fagioli; a variety of white beans, which Antonio told me had no name, on good toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and given a light sprinkling of oregano (B+).

To drink I tried a glass of a local Aglianico blended with Sciascinoso and Cabernet Sauvignon by I Pentri which was fine but nothing special (B). Nice label though.

Next the restaurant’s famous signature dish; Scarpariello (A); a square spaghetti tossed in tomatoes, Parma ham, pepperoncino and chopped basil, the exact proportions of which are a closely kept secret.

I also received an unordered bowl of Tagliatelle e Melanzana ‘just to taste it’. Sadly I found the artichokes to be quite bland and the pasta a bit overcooked but it was still okay (B).

After this Salsiccia rossa di Castelpoto (A); a wonderfully dense, spicy sausage which Antonio told me utilised the better cuts of the pig as well as the usual offal content. He also said that it was the only Slow Food Association protected-food in the area.

As usual my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I also ordered the Polpette al Sugo, a very dense meatball containing whole cloves of garlic (A) served in a perfectly flavouted tomato sauce (A).

With these a big plate of Contorno Misto Grande which included grilled courgettes, courgettes in vinegar, a local broccoli, chicoria, fried aubergine (all B+), and some grilled aubergine (A).

This nearly finished me off but I still found room for a large scoop of Mela Stregata, an ice cream made using Strega the local liqueur (see below), a local apple and a small piece of Baba sponge cake. Of course a shot of Strega on the side was the best thing to accompany it.

All this cost €64.50 which included water, cover, four glasses of wine and two shots. Pretty good value given the quality I’d say.

After a walk (more of a waddle really) and a snooze, I made it back a few hours later for dinner. I was still pretty full but I managed their Moscardini Affogati, a type of small squid stewed in a tomato sauce which was delicious (A).

To drink a glass or two of a very good Fiano from Sannio; one of my favourite wines (B+).

I also had a plate of fresh and crispy salad leaves (A) with this and followed with a small plate of Formaggi, all quite young. The Cachiocavallo and Provolone were very good but the Cabrito, goats’ cheese, was the star (A).

With this a glass of Piedirosso, also from I Pentri, but which failed to impress (B).

I had a final dessert of Semi-freddo al Torrone drizzled with a chocolate sauce containing Strega which was excellent (A).

With a double limoncello this took the bill to another €40. I was happy to pay this and more.

From 2005:

This is a fantastic place. Nunzia is the wonderful old lady who runs it; she’s very friendly and helpful. There’s no menu, she just comes and sits with you to discuss what you’d like to eat.

To start the marinated sardines are delicious. For a pasta course, try the Scarpariello (square spaghetti with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil) or the Cavatelli with cherry tomatoes and parsley. For a secondo the veal is good or the baby squid with cherry tomatoes and parsley. A great red is Aglianico del Taburno, and a good white, Fiano d’Avellino. For dessert choose between Macedonia with wild strawberries and a Passito wine or vanilla ice cream made with Strega, the famous local herbal liquer.

Back in 2005, three courses with wine cost me about €20 here, an absolute steal. Long may Nunzia reign.

On my last day in 2017, the teachers I was working with took me to this place:

Gino e Pina (Intermediate B+), 23 Viale dell’Università,

This place is a restaurant, pizzeria and wine bar, founded in 1940 and frequented wholly by locals as it’s a fair way from the touristy areas at the top of the hill.

We shared the biggest Mozzarella I’ve ever seen (B+). Three of us only managed about half of it!

We also had a plate of antipasti each which were okay but nothing amazing (B-). The most visually spectacular were these stuffed peppers which I’m told are a local delicacy.

At the owners insistence I had a slice of his wife’s homemade Pasteira, a local tart traditionally made at Easter, which was very nice (B+).

And for a spot of food shopping…

Benevento is very famous for its Torrone (nougat) which is typically made from honey, sugar and egg white. Traditional Torrone di Benevento is sometimes called by its historic name Cupedia, which is a crumblier version made with hazelnuts. Softer versions are made with almonds. The history of Torrone pre-dates the Roman era and goes back to the times of the Samnites. Although well-liked by the Romans, the historian Tito Livio mentions it, torrone only became popular in Europe during the 17th century, when the Beneventan candy makers created today’s varieties, which have been dipped in dark chocolate or given a lemon, orange, or coffee flavoured icing.

I visited two confectioners. At the seemingly very traditional Russo Umberto at 17 Via Gaetano Rummo, I got some modern chocolate-covered torrone and a bottle of Strega.

At the bigger Euroliquori (formerly Alberico Ambrosino Confectioners) at 111 Corso Garibaldi I got some plain bars of traditional torrone and a bottle of Strega Crema.

As mentioned above, another famous local product is Strega liqueur whose 17th century recipe uses a secret mixture of seventy herbs and spices. It looks a bit like Galliano, due to the inclusion of saffron, and has a bittersweet taste with hints of fennel and mint. It’s probably best used in coffees and confections rather than being drunk straight. You can also get a crema version which is more drinkable. The word strega means “witch”, a reference to the ancient legend that Benevento is the city of witches.

So, lots of nice things to eat and drink in Benevento! Wish I’d had more time but no doubt I’ll be back at some point. Off to Naples next…


Campania – things to see in Benevento

Posted in Benevento, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by gannet39

I got to see a little more of Benevento in a couple of days in 2017 than I did during my even shorter stay in 2005 but please don’t consider this a guide, it’s just a quick round up of some of the things I saw in a very short space of time. My Google map is here.

The Arco di Traiano on Via Traiano is probably Benevento’s most famous monument as it is the best-preserved ancient Roman arch still in existence.

It was built in honour of the Emperor Trajan. It sits over the Via Appia, at the point where it enters the city, which during the Lombard era was known as Port’Aurea.

The bas-relief panels depict various imperial activities.

Over the road is Complesso Monumentale di Sant’Ilario a Port’Aurea; an unimpressive but very ancient church dating from around the beginning of the 7th century. The building is presumably of Lombard origin but was built on previous ruins.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is also of Lombard origin, dating from the 9th century.

It was rebuilt in the 1960s after it was destroyed by Allied aircraft in WW2. The façade takes inspiration from the Pisan Gothic style.

You can see a small exhibition of in the crypt and there are various other artefacts dotted about the place. The bas-relief of a pig wearing a stole has become a symbol of the city.

There’s a nice fountain next to the cathedral.

From here it’s a short walk to the Roman area. I think these supporting arches date from the Lombard period.

The Teatro Romano was built in the second century.

Although abandoned by the Lombards it has remained intact and is occasionally used for performances today.

My videos are here and here. Entrance was €2 in 2017.

Nearby is the Arco del Sacramento, a Roman arch dating to the beginning of the second century.

For a slightly longer walk, go through the Port’Arsa…

…and down to the Fiume Sabato where you can see the roman bridge, the Ponte Leproso.

Back on Corso Garibaldi at #139 is the Obelisco Neoegizio; an Egyptian obelisk, one of two erected, between 88 and 89 AD that stood on either side of the entrance to the temple of Isis, as described by the hieroglyphic inscriptions on the four sides.

Further up Corso Garibaldi is Chiesa di Santa Sofia, a hexagon-shaped church of Lombard origin dating to around 760. In 2011 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The castle of Benevento, known as the Rocca dei Rettori or Rocca di Manfredi, is also on Corso Garibaldi at the highest point of the town.

The Samnites and Romans had already used the site but in the Middle Ages, it became the seat of the Papal governors, the Rettori. Perhaps some of the purloined building blocks in the wall date from earlier times.

It has two parts; the Torrione (Big Tower), built by the Lombards starting from 871, and the Palazzo dei Governatori, built by the Popes from 1320.

The Palazzo Paolo V at 145 Corso Garibaldi, was the municipal seat during the papal control of Benevento. The facade is classical Mannerist. Construction began in the late sixteenth century, under the pontificate of Paul V from whom it takes its name.

I only looked inside briefly, but it was long enough to get another pic of the symbol of the city.

On the continuation of Corso Garibaldi at Viale Atlantici is the local park Villa Comunale, laid out in the late 19th century.

Nearby is this attractive building from a similar period.

On both my visits in 2005 and 2017 I stayed at the Hotel Villa Traiano. The staff are very helpful and the breakfast is great. It’s also well-placed for the Arco di Traiano which is just over the road and Corso Garibaldi is just a five-minute walk.

It’s a nice old former private residence that has been converted into a hotel and so the rooms are all different shapes and sizes. On my last visit in 2017 the room I had was large and spacious, although being in the basement meant the WiFi wasn’t great. In 2005 my room was much smaller with only a narrow gap around the wall. A good tip for all hotels in Italy is to look at the fire department diagrams on the walls to get an idea of they have should you want to change your room for a bigger one.

So, this beautiful hilltop town has heaps of history. I only had a short stay so I didn’t learn as much as I’d like to about the things I saw, but it’s always good to leave something for next time.

Please see my next post for Food in Benevento.

Salerno – places to stay

Posted in Campania, Italy, Salerno with tags , , , on March 24, 2016 by gannet39

There are many good places to stay in Salerno as befits such a popular tourist destination. Please don’t consider this a definitive guide, it’s just my personal experience of a few places that I’ve either stayed at or heard about.

As I mentioned earlier, the hotel my employer uses is the Hotel Bruman at 30 Piazza Vittorio Veneto, It’s partly owned by a former area manager of mine who I know quite well. The staff are friendly and helpful, the breakfast is pretty decent and the rooms and wifi are fine, however there’s no lift so you might need a hand with your luggage up a couple of flights.

We used to stay at the Grand Hotel Salerno at 1 Via Lungomare Tafuri, which is a very modern four star hotel with its own helipad! I loved it because it has a gym (open from 8am) and a 22 metre pool in the basement (ppen 10am-1pm, 4-8pm). There’s also a sun deck on the top floor.

However the views from the rooms are quite variable. The spacious odd-numbered rooms at the front and side have fantastic vistas of the sea and the town, but you might want to pass on the even-numbered rabbit hutches at the back, unless you are a train spotter. I also found the reception staff to be quite snooty and the maids are a law unto themselves.

I’m told that back in the good old days we were billeted at the even more opulent five star Lloyd’s Baia Hotel at 2 Via Enrico de Marinis, but it’s a bit of a walk to town due to its cliff-top position, so many of my colleagues complained about it. It’s much better to be centrally located I think.

At the other end of the scale, the Hostel Ave Gratia Plena on Via dei Canali (on the right halfway up as you walk up), looks like a nice place to stay, at least if the lovely water feature in the picture is anything to go by. It’s a former convent that has been converted to a hostel.


Salerno – places to eat and drink in the new town

Posted in Campania, Italy, New town, Salerno with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by gannet39

This post covers bars and restaurants along the waterfront as well as places off the main pedestrian street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Please see my separate post for restaurants in the old town.

Gran Caffe Canasta
(Intermediate B+) 58 Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This is a good spot on the waterfront to start your evening, You can sit outside and watch the sun set over the sea with a well-made aperitivo. Don’t fill up too much on the copious stuzzichini (nibbles) they give you though or you’ll have no room for your dinner, and that would be a shame.

Ciccio e L’Osteria Trio (Intermediate A-), 18 Piazza Flavio Gioia (go to 10 via Roma, which is parallel to the Lungomare, and turn right), Tel. 089 237242, closed Monday.

In 2009 I had an excellent lunch here with two friends, Nicky and Alison. The restaurant is located in a pretty square where you can sit outside and people watch. I would reserve to avoid waiting and aim to arrive for about 1.30 before it gets too busy. The menu is spoken as presumably it changes every day.

We started with a carpaccio of swordfish and tuna, poached octopus, mashed potato with more octopus and smoked eel on a bed of rocket. This was followed by Calomarata ai Frutta di Mare; thick rubber bands of pasta with fasolari and razor clams, squid and mussels. We had these dishes with a good Fiano di Avellino ‘Pietramara’ Vendemmia 2007 (A).

For the main I had a fillet steak with rocket and shavings of parmesan (B+) but Nicky’s steak with a cream and truffle sauce was even better (A). We had a great Anglianico di Vulture (Cantina di Venosa ’06) with the meat (A) with the meat. The only let down was the rather forgetful waiters who didn’t remember our bread, water or knives and couldn’t provide an ice bucket. They were still very pleasant though, especially the camp narcissistic owner who was cracking jokes throughout. Even with three limoncellos on top, he rounded the bill down to an even €100 for three, an absolute steal.

Trianon da Ciro (Intermediate B+), 22 Piazza Gioia Flavio (next door to Ciccio above), closed Monday

This is the Salerno branch of a very famous Neapolitan pizzeria. The original place in Naples is one of my top three favourites in the whole city (see my pizza post).


In 2015 I had the Margarita di Bufala (the only choice in my opinion) and two draught beers for €15. They are very busy and the service is poor, but I doubt you’ll get a better pizza in Salerno.

Cantina Del Feudo (Intermediate B+), 45 Via Velia, a side street off Corso Vittorio Emanuele

This Puglian restaurant has a very good rep and comes recommended by my former area manager who is a local and Lonely Planet who give it their ‘top choice’ accolade.

I went with my friend Dee to celebrate the last night of several weeks of work and consequently I was too busy enjoying myself to take proper notes or even to remember some of what we had!

We started with some mixed seafood antipasti which I’m sure was very nice.


I was craving rice so I had La Tiella, made with rice, potatoes, mussels, courgettes and tomatoes. It’s basically a fancier version of Patate, Riso e Cozze, a Barese classic (see my Bari posts). A tiella is the cast iron frying pan used for cooking the dish. I think it should burn the rice slightly as the crust is delicious, but this one was a bit too refined (B).


Dee had Fusilli a Ferretto, pasta with courgette flowers, ricotta and guanciale (cured pigs cheeks) which I’m sure was excellent.


There’s a nice terrace outside but I can imagine it gets full on busy days so a reservation is probably a good idea, The service was very pleasant and we got 10% off by dropping our manager’s name! (I think the bill came to €60 for both of us with a bottle of wine).

I remember the food was very good but not totally amazing, hence B+ overall. I’m sure other dishes would score an A though and I’d be more than happy to come here again.

Portovecchio (High Intermediate B), 39 Via M Manfredi,

This place is the favourite of a teacher I worked with who lives in a nearby town. It’s a sizable modern place at the western end of the waterfront in the district known as Rione Porto. It’s two blocks south west from the Villa Communale, a small park which is quite pleasant.

The area was going through a transformation when I was there in 2015 with a major construction site going up around Piazza della Liberta next door, which didn’t exactly add to the ambience of sitting on the restaurant terrace. The large group of loud Americans next to me didn’t help either.

I played it safe and went with the standards. The mozzarella I had to start was okay but I know it can taste so much better when it’s a bit fresher (B). Ditto the fresh tomato bruschetta (B).
The following Spaghetti Vongole was a bit oily but tasted good (B-).

To drink, a decent Fiano di Avellino from Terredora (B+) which was correctly priced at €20.


They charged for the limoncello as I recall but they rounded down the €47 bill to €45. The place is fine but it’s a bit out of the way and there are other more interesting options.

And a couple of places to avoid:

Zi Renata (Intermediate C/D), 170 via Roma (near the town hall)

Four of us ended up at this place when one evening when we were in a rush to eat before a piano recital that started at 9. We wanted to go to the tried and tested Ristorante Rada at #172 but it didn’t open till 8 so we made do with the neighbour rather than going further along the strip where there are at least ten other places all in a row. Big mistake.

The ridiculously cheap menu (pasta €4-7, meat €4-7, fish €5-10) and the graffiti on the inside walls should have been a warning but we forged on regardless with the time in mind. After some ‘bruschetta’ (toasted old bread with drizzled oil and oregano), the mixed starters of mussels, octopus and shredded crab stick on a bed of rocket had obviously been frozen but were just about edible (C) and the aubergines, peppers, boiled potatoes and rape that came on another plate were only just better by virtue of being vegetables (C+).

I couldn’t finish my Risotto ai Frutti di Mare (D) as the mussels were truly revolting and the rice undercooked and lacking the lovely creaminess of good arborio. Another friend had Pasta e Fagioli which was reportedly ok but another person’s Gnocchi alla Sorrentina had a horribly bitter aftertaste, once you got past the parmesan.

The best thing was the Fiano Beneventano (B+) but the following Aglianico from the same cantina (Vinicola del Sannio) was poor (C). Although the service was pleasant enough the only really good thing was the soundtrack with Aretha singing Walk On By. If only she’d told us earlier…

Kikko Sushi (Intermediate C-), 8/9 Via Tenente Colonnello Carmine Calò, at the eastern end of the waterfront

Japanese food is my automatic go to when I need a change of flavour after being in Italy for a while. This Japanese restaurant (actually Chinese owned) has a sign outside saying Kaiten Sushi. Kaiten means it’s one of those places which have a circular conveyer belt that you choose small dishes of food from as it speeds by. In Japan these are the cheapest places to eat sushi and when I lived in Tokyo I tended to avoid them as you don’t know how long the food has been sitting on the belt.

I came here hoping it would be better than my expectations but sadly they were confirmed. The Edamame (fresh soya beans) should have been a vibrant green but instead were dark and brownish and had obviously been frozen a while ago so I sent them back (D). The salmon and tuna nigiris I chose from the menu were tasteless to the point of being indistinguishable (C). I decided to go hungry and left after that. Avoid this place if you love real Japanese food.

Salerno – places to eat and drink in the Centro Storico

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Salerno with tags , , on March 22, 2016 by gannet39

Salerno has heaps of restaurants and it can be difficult to chose a good one so I hope my experiences will help you find the good stuff. I’ve divided the dining posts into two geographical zones; the old town or Centro Storico on the one hand and the waterfront and the new town to the east on the other (please see next post). The better places to eat generally seem to be in the old town. I’ve listed the establishments in order of preference. Here’s a Google map with everywhere I mention plotted on.

Caffè Mercanti (Intermediate B+), 114 Via Mercanti

This is a really cool, atmospheric little bistro that serves precooked food to drink with your tipple.

In 2015 my friend Dee and I each had a slice of Parmagiana and Torta di Scarola (escarole pie) for €5 each (B) and shared a good bottle of local Coda di Volpe (B) for €18.

Antica Pizzeria del Vicolo della Neve (Elementary B+), 24 Viccolo della Neve,, closed Wednesday, no reservations on Friday or Saturday.

This old place is a little hard to find however if you go to 148 Via dei Mercanti, the alley opposite is Viccolo della Neve (Alley of Snow). The restaurant is a short way down on the left.

Okay first off, haute cuisine this ain’t but what this place lacks in finesse it makes up for in atmosphere, in spades. Listed in Gambero Rosso as a low cost restaurant, it’s very popular with locals, especially families, because of its rustic value-for-money food.

I’ve been twice; early on a Tuesday night in June when it was about a third full, and at 8pm on a Saturday night in November when I had to wait twenty minutes for a table. There were still twenty people waiting outside when I left at 9.30 so on busy nights you might want to go at 7 when it opens to try to avoid the queues.

When it’s busy the action is frenetic; scruffy waiters in ill-fitting red waistcoats and plasters on their faces negotiate the fifteen cramped tables, doling out big mounds of food from the kitchen and the huge pans sitting in a glass cupboard. You have to shout your order at them as they go past.

My chap was a bit brusque at first but lightened up when I started taking notes! (I even got a smile and a pat on the back). The food arrives in metal bowls on trays (because they’re very hot) and there’s little time between courses. At the weekend this certainly isn’t the place for a relaxed slow meal; they want you in and out as quickly as possible.

In 2009 there are only two pasta dishes on the menu; Lasagna (with mozzarella, ricotta, salami, eggs and small meatballs) or the equally classic Pasta e Fagioli (various sizes of pasta tubes baked in a sauce of beans and tomato), both of which are subject to availability. Think they have a choice of three pasta dishes now.

I tried the Pasta e Fagioli on my 2015 visit. The pasta was overcooked, flabby and slightly singed (the heat it up in the pizza oven) yet somehow lovable (C+).


Just in case you feel cheated on the carbs, you also get half a French loaf, toasted and drizzled with olive oil (C).


In contrast to the pasta, there’s no shortage of vegetable side dishes; about sixteen in all I think. I had the Peperoni Ripieni; a whole capsicum of truly gigantic proportions, stuffed with bread, capers and anchovies and slightly blackened again. It was fine (C+) but could have fed a family of four on its own. The picture shows just part of it.


There are about a dozen meat and fish mains, including some scary items like cotiche (pig skin), and back in 2009 but no longer, busecca (veal spleen). On both occasions I’ve had the Polpette; their very large and very dense meatballs (C+), with roast potatoes. Again, I couldn’t finish it all despite being ravenous.


The house Aglianico red is usually relatively drinkable (C or C+) and very cheap.


My four dishes and a half bottle of red in 2015 cost me the grand sum of €31 and the amount of food I got could easily have fed three or four people, so bring reinforcements if you can. As I say, it’s rough and ready but definitely worth going just for the ambience.

One place that I really wanted to try was Osteria Canali (1 fork from Gambero Rosso, three courses for €30, closed Sunday evening and Monday) which is at 34 Via dei Canali,, but they seemed to be recovering from a private party all the time I was there.

Please see my other posts for restaurants and bars in the new town, and places to stay.

Salerno – out and about

Posted in Campania, Italy, Salerno with tags , , , , on March 21, 2016 by gannet39

I’ve been to Salerno twice, in November 2009 and June 2015, staying just a few nights each time.

The town can be divided into three zones; the medieval area, the 19th century area and the post-war area. All the places I mention in my posts (predominantly in the first two areas) can be found on this Google map. See my next three posts for restaurants and one on hotels.

Most people alight in Salerno at Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the square in front of the train station where buses also terminate. Conveniently, the Hotel Bruman where I stayed is located here.

There’s a beautiful Art Deco war memorial in the middle of the square.


The main pedestrian street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, leads out of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. It’s about fifteen minutes’ straight walk along it to the medieval area.

I love walking around the maze of streets and alleys.




They’re especially atmospheric in the evenings.



In the Middle Ages Salerno was a Lombard principality. The most picturesque street in in the old Lombard area is Via Botteghelle.


Nearby is another must-see; the Cattedrale di Salerno.

The entrance courtyard has a portico with arches that allude to an Arabic influence.


The 12th century bell tower is built in an Arabic-Norman style.


Several Roman sarcophagi are on show under the portico.



Ancient lions guard both the inner and outer entrances.





Inside my favourite sights are the two beautifully patterned pulpits. Sadly my photos didn’t come out but here are some from the web to give you an idea.

The ceiling above the altar is pretty stunning too. I’d like to come back and get some better pictures.

Salerno also has a castle on the hill above it; the Castello di Arechi. Built by the Lombards over a Phonecian fort it has Norman and Aragonese modifications. Unfortunately, the castle is not accessible by foot, but the #19 bus goes up there. I’ve never had the time to visit it sadly.

The tourist info at 2 Corso Vittorio Emanuele will be able to help you with suggestions. It’s on the corner on the right as you turn right out of Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Apparently there are many good walks in the area.

A boat trip to Positano or Amalfi would make a good day out in the summer. You can also easily visit the Greek temples at Paestum (best by bus) or Pompei (best by train).


Having a good time in Avellino

Posted in Avellino, Campania, Italy with tags , , , , on March 20, 2016 by gannet39

I’ve been to Avellino twice, in 2005 and 2015, and stayed for just a couple of nights on both occasions. The town doesn’t have the greatest of reps amongst my colleagues as there’s not much to see or do, possibly due to the various earthquakes it has suffered over the millennia (the last was in 1980).


I always look forward to coming here though as the region, known as Irpinia, is very famous for its viticulture, in part due to the temperature changes made possible by its mountainous location. Two of Campania’s best wines, both personal favourites of mine, are made in Avellino province; the white Fiano di Avellino and the red Aglianico which is produced in the nearby Irpinian town of Taurasi.

The first time I came I stayed in the Hotel De La Ville (B) at 20 Via Giovanni Palatucci, which was comfortable but quite a way from the centre of town, at the far end of the seemingly never-ending Corso de Vittorio Emanuele II; the main promenade through town.

The second time I stayed at the Viva Hotel at 123 Via Circumvallazione which was faded and basic but essentially okay for a short stay (B-), and very near the bus station and centre of town.

I went to two restaurants and a bar during my short second visit. Along with the hotels, they are all on this Google map along with a couple of other places I didn’t get to. I’d like to try Barone next time.

Antica Trattoria Martella (Advanced A), 10 Via Chiesa Conservatorio,, closed Sunday evening and Monday

According to my research, this old school place is the best restaurant in town. I came for a blowout Sunday lunch and really enjoyed it.

I began with Ravioli di Magro con Pomodorini; ricotta filled pasta pockets with cherry tomatoes (A).


Then Costolette D’Agnello ai Ferri, or grilled lamb chops (B+).


These came with Patate Fritte; chips that look like crisps, unless you’re American, in which case they’re fries that look like chips (B+).


I was still ravenous so I had the Manzo ai Ferri; grilled beef with some great olive oil, green peppercorns and oregano (A).


The Taurasi Donnachiara was a little thin on the aftertaste but still very good (A-).


I indulged myself with a slab of their excellent Millefoglie, made with chocolate and cherries (A), alongside a glass of Passito (B).


Finally I had a shot of Nocello (nut liqueur; Avellino is also famous for hazelnuts) which was the best I’ve ever had (A+). The waiter described it as ‘multo particular’ and it was very strong! I liked it so much I persuaded them to give me a bottle to take home, which bumped up my final excessive bill to €85. Whoops.

Degusta (High Intermediate B+), 35 Via Ammiraglio Ronca,

I heard about this place through the blog of Luciano Pignataro, a local wine writer and restaurant reviewer. It’s quite modern and brash, and quite popular.

I nearly didn’t stay because I didn’t like the table I was offered, or the first two bustling servers I met. However, a more welcoming waiter, Paolo, and Giovanni the off-duty head chef persuaded me to stay and I was glad I did.

The dishes Pignataro raved about were out of season but they did put together a special menu for me. They are big on specialist ingredients here which meant the menu took some translating.

The starter ‘Cipolla Ramata di Montoro’ was described as ‘cipolla ramata di Montoro, cotta al sale, ripenia con fonduta di formaggio, crostini di pane’ or a particular onion from Montoro, baked in salt, stuffed with melted cheese and served with croutons. It was a novel serving method but the flavours weren’t particularly special (B).


The next course was ‘Scialatiello’ which the menu described as being made with ‘fave Avellinesi, cipollotto nocerino, pecorino Carmasciano, fiche secchi cilentani’ or spaghetti with local broad beans, a certain spring onion (with its own DOP), sheep’s cheese and dried white figs from Cilento. The specialist ingredients (all from Campania) worked well together but not amazingly so (B).


Surprisingly I was given ‘Raviolo’; a second pasta course of ‘Raviolo di ricotta di fuscella, pomodorini del piennolo Casa Barone, caciorioctta Bruna Alpina’ or ravioli filled with ricotta cheese (made in a special wicker basket), cherry tomatoes from a certain farm near Vesuvius and scattered with cheese made from the milk of the Bruna Alpina breed of cattle.


For the main I was given the ‘Hamburger di Razza Podolica Azienda Agricola Cerrone’ which was served with ‘misticanza capricciosa, maionese senza uovo, ketchup di San Marzano e patate’. I translate this as being a burger made with beef from the Podolica cattle breed (from a particular farm) served with a mixed salad, eggless mayonnaise, San Marzano tomato ketchup and chips. It was great (A) and I was particularly impressed by the ketchup (A) although the mayo was too subtle (C).


The Aglianico Molettieri had a great nose (B+) but didn’t follow through on the palate (B). It was fine for €15 though.


I finished with pear and ricotta crumble, also excellent (A). Two limoncellos brought the bill to a reasonable €44.


The adventurous menu made a nice change after samey Naples. I’d definitely come here again.

Godot Art Bistro (Low Intermediate B+), 13/15 Via Giacomo Mazas,

This cosy little place is a really cool literary bar that I stumbled across while I was walking around. I didn’t try the food (freselle buns with cheeses and salads) but I had an average Negroni (B) for €4 whilst grooving to Coltrane and other jazz vibes. They put on live acoustic gigs on a regular basis.

So that’s all I have on Avellino from a very short visit. Despite first impressions not being particularly favourable, you can eat and drink very well here so I hope you can make the most of it.

Ischia – idyllic Sant’ Angelo

Posted in Campania, Ischia, Italy, Sant’ Angelo with tags , on February 10, 2016 by gannet39

Much as I love Naples, I like to get away if I have a weekend free. After an intense week of working in the chaotic city, the best bet for unwinding is to head to one of the islands in the Golfo di Napoli. There is a choice between super-expensive Capri, lovely but tiny Procida (click on the names to see previous posts), or the biggest and, in my opinion, the best of all, Ischia.

I went for the first time in June 2015 and spent one night in Sant’ Angelo, a famous beauty spot in the south of the island. I stayed at the Hotel Terme Romantica, a nice spa resort just outside the town.  I got a reduced rate as it wasn’t peak season yet, €77 for the night, instead of €91.


Please see the bottom of this post for a detailed description of the travel arrangements from Naples to the hotel.

Once I had been installed in my room, I went for a swim (there are thirteen pools to choose from in the complex) then hit the sun lounger, hard. What could be more relaxing than to kick back with a cold beer in front of this fantastic view?


Next a slap up meal was in order and I staggered off to the hotel restaurant, all of ten metres away. The waiters I met there were the ebullient Salvatore and the seemingly dour, but actually very nice, Enzo. We became quite good friends in the twenty five hours I spent at the hotel.

The food is fairly expensive but the quality is very good. In fact a German couple on the next table (called the ‘Capri table’ as it’s the only table with a view of Capri on a clear day, ask for it) told me they’d been coming for ten years and that, in all that time, this was the best seafood restaurant they’d been to on the island.


While I’d take that with a pinch of salt, I couldn’t fault their excellent Linguine alla Vongole (A).


Another time I started with some bruschetta and some fantastic tomatoes (A).


The following linguine with mussels and clams hit the spot again (B+).

20150621_142946The lemon sorbet is really good too. Lemons are everywhere here as well.


With regards to wine I stuck with what I knew; a good quality Falanghina. The waiters told me that next time I should try Biancolella di Ischia if I wanted a nice white. The red Piedirosso is also good.


One evening I took a walk down to Sant’ Angelo along the coast road.


Ischia is a volcanic island and the unusual conical hill opposite Sant’ Angelo is a lava dome; a circular mound created by the slow emission of viscous lava. I’d love to stay in the house at the top!


A sand bar has formed a double beach that connects the town to the dome.


The tiny town is lovely, and has attracted a well-heeled set. There are lots of expensive boutiques and pricey shops (€2 for a postcard!).


I walked around the whole place in about twenty minutes then sat down outside one of the bars in the square and listened to a live performance of acoustic guitar.


My Negroni was made with a kind of vermouth that I hadn’t come across before.


After that I had an ice cream and toddled back for an early night. The next day, after another swim and lounger session, I had another seafood lunch and then headed back to Naples for work the next day, ending a very short, but very sweet visit.


Next time I visit Ischia I’d really like to say longer and go trekking around the island’s fourteen volcanic craters (four large, ten small). There’s lots of nature to see and there’s also the Aragonese castle, and the wonderful ‘La Mortella’ botanical gardens that featured in Monty Don’s ‘Italian Gardens’ series on BBC2.

Or maybe I should just move there…

Travel details:

I prefer to catch the fast hydrofoil which takes about 60 mins and cost €21 in 2015. There are slower and cheaper ferries that cost 50% less but take 50% longer, and they leave from Mergellina which is at the far end of Chiaia. Ferry info and links here.

The pier that the fast ferries for all the islands leave from is called Molo Beverello (in front of Castello Nuevo) which is a 30 minute walk from Piazza Garibaldi (I’m guessing €20 in a taxi).

I like to catch the first hydrofoil at 07.35 so if you’re walking you need to be up at 6 and packed and out of your hotel by 06.45. It’s unlikely at that time in the morning but there might be a queue at the ticket office so it’s a good idea to give yourself some leeway. The next fast ferry is around 10.30 (2015 info).

For Sant’ Angelo, get off the ferry at Forio (the second stop on Ischia for my particular ferry) and then catch either the #1 or the CS bus to Sant’ Angelo. The bus stop is on the left hand side of the road, after the car park (coming from the ferry jetty). You can buy a bus ticket for €1.20 from the tobacconist kiosk just before the car park.


The bus will turn left and weave inland and after 20/25 minutes will terminate just before the descent into Sant’ Angelo (no cars except taxis are allowed into the town). From here you can call the hotel and ask for their shuttle bus to pick you up, or walk 100m back up the hill to the main gate and buzz the intercom to get in. After a steep but fairly short 200m climb you‘ll come to the restaurant and then the reception just beyond.


Naples – Centro Storico – Street Art

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples with tags , on February 9, 2016 by gannet39

Naples is a hot spot for street art and graffiti. Most of the best stuff is found on Via Tribunali, Spaccanapoli and their side streets, particularly around the university district.

Artists come from everywhere to display their art, like Banksy for instance.


CRL is on a similar tip.


But this is my favourite one by CRL.


CLET is a French artist who lives in Florence. I’ve seen his work in Genoa and Madrid as well.










Diego Miedo


Some political stencils.




And some not.



Some graff.







Some posters.





Unknown artists



















Naples – Centro Storico – Porta Gennaro

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Porta Gennaro with tags , , on February 8, 2016 by gannet39

Porta Gennaro is the on the northern boundary of San Lorenzo, the quarter of Naples that corresponds to the Centro Storico. Via Foria separates San Lorenzo from Sanita which I wrote about in my previous post. The Archaeological Museum is nearby…

…and there’s an excellent pizzeria here:

Pizzeria Lombardi (A), 12/14 Via Foria,

There are quite a few reasons I like Lombardi but in a nutshell the pizza is great, the service is good and you can sit outside if you wish.

I’m not sure how they make their pizza base but it’s different to elsewhere, lighter and softer somehow. My local teacher friend thought that it might be because they use sparkling water when they’re mixing the dough. It’s like no other pizza I’ve tasted.

I had their buffalo mozzarella Margherita which was great (A) although not particularly cheap at €9.


… and a bottle of Peroni Rosso which was a new beer to me. It hit the spot perfectly (A).


Everything feels more refined here for some reason. The friendly guy who served me spoke the best English I’ve ever encountered in a pizzeria (not that this matters).

I like their quirky décor too. Definitely in my top five pizzerias.


Capasso (Intermediate B+), 2 Via Porta San Gennaro (in the shadow of the gate).

I was brought to this restaurant and pizzeria for lunch on a few occasions. Unfortunately I only eat salads for lunch and avoid any carbs because I can’t afford to be sleepy at work. The salads were very good though!

According to local food critic Lucinano Pignataro they are renowned for their pizza. I’ll have to come back and try one.

Naples – Rione Sanita

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Rione Sanita with tags , , on February 7, 2016 by gannet39

I worked in Rione Sanita (otherwise known as Stella) for a week in 2015. It’s a very historical area and Maria one of the teachers was kind enough to give me a tour which is how I know about all the stuff below.

Unfortunately nowadays it’s also a poverty stricken Camorra stronghold with a high crime rate so I was advised to be on my guard in the evenings when dusk was falling. Any eating was done around Porta Gennaro on Via Foria, a busy main road nearby (see next post).

Rione Sanita literally means ‘health district’ and the name arose because the area was perceived to be a healthier place to live than other neighbourhoods, perhaps because of the fresher winds from the sea at this slightly higher altitude. Many rich people built their ‘palazzi’ here as a result.

One famous house is the Palazzo dello Spagnolo at 19 Via dei Vergini, built by the architect Ferdinando Sanfelice.


The façade doesn’t look particularly interesting but if you walk into the internal courtyard you can see a lovely example of a ‘hawk’s wing staircase’ with its double flight of stairs.


The ceilings have beautifully ornate stucco work.


Some floors of the palace are to become a museum dedicated to the famous Neapolitan actor, writer and comedian Totò who was born in Sanita in 1898. The image of ‘the Prince of laughter’ can be found all over the city, sometimes in the most unexpected places…

As the Italian equivalent to Charlie Chaplin he made over one hundred films, often playing poor, slightly immoral but ultimately good-hearted characters. The spaghetti scene in the 1954 film ‘Miseria e Nobiltà’ (Poverty and Nobility) is one of his most famous.

Via dei Vergini is home to a thriving street market that is worth a wander. At 60 Via dei Vergini you’ll see an archway that leads to Via Supportico Lopez.


In the archway itself there’s a small shrine with a painted cross that is very old according to Maria. She told me that the reason there are so many shrines in Naples is because they were an early form of street lighting. The candles allowed people to see where they were going and greatly reduced the rate of street crime (see my post on shrines).


A few metres up Via Supportico Lopez on the left is La Primizia da Tonino, a fantastic green grocers. Another teacher told me it’s reputed to be ‘the best in Naples’. It certainly is the most vibrant one I’ve seen although by the look of him I think Tonino scoffs a lot of his own produce.


I love the displays of cherry tomatoes. The variety pictured are the famous Pomodorini del Piennolo del Vesuvio which are hung in clusters to extend their freshness.


This is the best tomato for dishes such as pasta with clams and acquapazza. Just wish I had access to a kitchen!

Naples – Materdei

Posted in Campania, Italy, Materdei, Naples with tags on February 6, 2016 by gannet39

Starita a Materdei (Elementary A), 27-28 Via Materdei, Tel. 081 557 3682/ 5441 485,

I heart this famous pizzeria, even though it’s a bit of a trek. It’s a fair way up the steep hill that runs up the side of the Archaeological Museum (Google map here). On the plus side there are no tourists because of the hill so they’ll be happy to see you, which makes a nice change from the grumpy staff at most pizzerias in the old town.

They sell Lowenbrau (B) by the litre here, and feeling thirsty after the climb, I started off with a huge flagon that went a long way to filling me up.

They have a very impressive range of fritti, including a delicious Frittatine di Pasta (A+) which is a deeply satisfying, deep fried mixture of spaghetti, pork and smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese.


Other classics on the menu are angioletti (deep-fried pizza dough), crocche di patate (potato, mozzarella, bread crumbs), arancini (rice, ham, peas, mozzarella, pecorino) and fiori di zucca (courgette flowers).

Others I think might be creations of the restaurant, such as montarnarine (dough puffs topped with tomato sauce, pecorino), soffritelle (stuffed with a ‘sofrito’ of onion, celery, carrot) fraticelli (lightly fried dough stuffed with aged provolone), battilochi (with pesto) and rotolino (with courgette flowers and nuts).

I’m not one to change my pizza eating habits so as usual I had a Margherita Bufala which, as guaranteed by the sign outside, was a classic Vera Pizza Neapolitana (A).


The Sarno area of Campania has a famous apple, the Mele Annurca, which has its own DOC  (see my Sarno post). A liqueur called Rossolio is made from the apple which I adore. When I saw it on the list of digestivi I ordered it immediately but was disappointed to receive a factory made version that did little for me (C).

Despite this small disappointment at the end, this is a great place for food and they were very friendly towards me. I shall be back.

Naples – Montecalvario – stuff to see around La Pignasecca

Posted in Campania, Italy, La Pignasecca, Montecalvario, Naples with tags , on February 5, 2016 by gannet39

Montecalvario is the neighbourhood to the west of Via Toledo. It takes in much of the Spanish Quarter and the area to the north, all the way up to the National Archaeological museum.

Within Montecalvario, Via Pignasecca is the street just to the north of the Spanish Quarter. It’s home to the oldest street market in Naples but I never get to go as I’m usually working when it’s open (8am to 1pm). Here are some pictures from the web to give you an idea.

The market is best accessed along Via Pignasecca which leads from Piazza della Carita on Via Toledo. On the west side of the square, in the entrance to the building on the corner with Via Pignasecca, there’s a nice example of a hawk wing staircase.


I hope to fill up this post with more photos on my next trip, so I’ve put places to eat in Pignasecca in a separate post.

Naples – Montecalvario – places to eat around Pignasecca

Posted in Campania, Italy, La Pignasecca, Montecalvario, Naples with tags , , , on February 4, 2016 by gannet39

Like the Spanish Quarter, Pignasecca is a good area to experience Cucina Tipica Napoletana. I especially like this place…

La Taverna Buongustaio (Elementary B+), 8 Via Basilo Puoti, first left off Via Pasquale Scura which is at 394 Via Toledo.Tel. 081 551 2626. Open every day for lunch and dinner except Sunday evening.


The ‘Gourmet Tavern’ is a favourite of mine, and of Anthony Bourdain it would seem. (Here’s an out take (in Italian) of his No Reservations show). It’s s a tiny hole in the wall place which somehow manages to squeeze in 26 covers. The decor is plain with cartoon drawings on the walls. Plastic tablecloths complete the ambience.


It’s usually fully booked so try to reserve for when it opens at 8pm. It’ll be full with locals by 9 and have a queue by 10. The menu is spoken (quickly) so it’s best to have some ability in Italian. The Italian word for slowly is ‘lentamente’.

I can recommend the antipasti misto which includes mini versions of bruschetta, deep fried mozzarella, an arancina (rice ball), a croquette, and something ‘di pasta’ which I didn’t quite catch, but it’s all delicious (A).


I can recommend the Spaghetti con Polipetti; pasta with baby octopus in a sauce of cherry tomatoes and parsley (A).

Spaghetti con Polipetti

The Rigatoni with bacon, tomato and chilli is good too (B+).


The deep fried Pesce Bandera (a white fish which looks like a long silver band) was nice but the portion is a bit small (B).

Pesce Bandera

You might want a second secondo, perhaps the Salsiccia Napoletana (A) with a side helping of bitter Friarelli (B).

Salsiccia Napoletana

The house white becomes more agreeable after the first few sips as does the red (both C+).

There are no desserts but they have, amongst others, Melannurca; a digestivo made from the famous Campanian apple (see my Sarno post).

My gluttonous bill can come to a mere €30 for four dishes and three drinks, but you could easily spend much less here, say €20, and still be satisfied. The service is now much friendlier than it was.

La Vecchia Cantina (Elementary B+), 14 Via San Nicola alla Carita, which is at 378 Via Toledo.

A pleasant little place with red gingham table cloths, old but spruced up and serving trad Neapolitan dishes. Many things on the menu were indecipherable but so cheap you might as well just order them to see what they are. The service is friendly but non-English speaking, so you should have some ability in Italian if you want to negotiate what’s on offer.

To start I had Zeppoline di Mare for €2.50 (B); deep fried doughballs with “algae” which I presume is seaweed.

Zeppoline di Mare

I sent the house red back as I couldn’t drink it (D), and had it replaced with a bottle of Falanghina white which got better with time after a poor start (B-). Although it was chilled, they couldn’t supply a wine cooler, although they did keep it in the fridge and poured it out for me when I wanted it.


For my pasta course I had “Spollichini” for €5, which turned out to be a version of Pasta e Fagioli (cannellini beans) but with short spaghettis rather than the usual mixed pasta. Simple but delicious (B for buoni!), especially when sprinkled with peperoncino and oil.


Next I had the house signature dish Filetto Vecchia Cantina, a good quality but small and slightly overdone beef steak (B-), which was the most expensive thing on the menu at €13. Also I’m not fond of the Italian tendency to put shavings of Parmesan on a steak which detracts from the taste of both as far as I’m concerned. I had it with a contorno of Spinaci Burro e Parmagiano (spinach with butter and parmesan) which was great (A) if a bit calorific.


To finish, a warmed piece of Charlotte di Mele (a slice of apple sponge cake) and a mingy glass of slightly chilled limoncello (not frozen which is my preference), which was only €2.50. So I had another.

Charlotte di Mele

Conclusion: theoretically you could eat five dishes of good food here with a half litre of ropey wine for under €30. However my bill came to a greedy €46 which was still very good value. Locals were still arriving to eat at 10.30pm.

Antica Pasticceria Pasquale Scaturchio (Intermediate B+), 22-24 Via Portamedina alla Pignasecca,

This is an old cafe (since 1903) near the Montesanto Metro station. It’s a friendly place that does good coffee and cakes.

Decent cuppa

I had two small Babas (Babarini) one with ‘panna’, which is cream in English, and the other with ‘crema’, made from sweetened ricotta. It’s easy to get confused!


Not somewhere to go out of your way for but a good place for a pit stop if you’re in the area.

Antiche Delizie (Intermediate A), 14 Via Pasquale Scura

A deli selling cheese, charcuterie, anti-pasti and wines. They are said to sell the best Mozzarella in town and on Fridays they sell Caprignetti, a herb-stuffed goat’s cheese.

Naples – Spanish Quarter – Where to eat Cucina Tipica Napoletana

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Quartieri Spagnoli with tags , , on February 3, 2016 by gannet39

To experience typical Neapolitan home cooking the best area to go to is the Spanish Quarter. There are quite a few small trattorias and cantinas here serving Cucina Tipica Napoletana at bargain prices. I’ve listed three below in order of preference.

Trattoria da Nennella (Elementary A), 105 Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo (between the cross streets Vico Figuerelle a Montecalvario and Vico Teatro Nuovo, which you will find at 323 Via Toledo), Tel. 081 414338. GEM ALERT!

I stumbled upon this place many years ago when I was wandering aimlessly around, well off the tourist track. There were several locals waiting outside which I took as a good sign so I put my name down and joined the queue. When my turn came, the waiters renamed me Raffa and plonked me at a table with some builders for company who kindly helped me choose what to eat.

All I had was a slab of Lasagna with tiny meatballs inside it, and a plate of Friarielli, a local green which looks similar to spinach but is actually from the broccoli family, and is particular to Campania. This quick meal was one of the most delicious things I’d ever eaten and ridiculously cheap, around €4 (in 2005).

The place also stuck in my head because of the funny waiters who occupied themselves during quiet moments by throwing empty plastic water bottles at each other over the heads of their customers.

I tried to find it again every time I went back to the city but to no avail, until I finally tracked it down again in 2011.

The sawdust on the floor has disappeared and they now have an outside terrace, which means they can seat more customers, but you still have to arrive early to avoid queuing.


The food was the same as I remembered; good basic fare with no pretensions, and very, very cheap, although sadly the lasagna of my dreams was not on the menu that day.

Instead I had Pasta e Patate con Provola; mixed shape pasta with potatoes and melting lumps of Provola cheese, very simple and carb heavy and made even more delicious with a heaped tablespoon of parmesan sprinkled over it (B+).

Pasta e Patate con Provola

Next Polipo in Cassuola, a whole baby octopus stewed with cherry tomatoes until very tender. It looked a bit daunting at first, but tasted very nice (B).

Polipo in Cassuola

My contorno once again was Friarielli in Padella (from the frying pan) (B).


They don’t do desserts but I got a plastic cup of cherries to finish.

All this came with bread, water, and a big unlabelled bottle of white wine, all for the astounding price of €12. I challenge you to find better value, tasty food anywhere else in the city.

The waiters haven’t changed either, it’s the same two brothers who seem to run the place. At one point there was a sudden blast of sound as a salsa tape was put on and an unsuspecting customer was pulled out of her chair and whirled around the tables by one of the brothers.

A turn around the tables

Conclusion: great food and entertainment, what more could you ask?

Hostal Toledo (Elementary B), 78 Vico Giardinetto,

I came here for Sunday lunch in 2015. It’s fairly atmospheric and quite popular with locals and tourists alike. Service is friendly and efficient.

I started with the Antipasti Toledo (grilled peppers, two types of mushrooms, potatoes, grilled aubergine and deep-fried mozzarella and aubergine frittura) which was okay (B).


Then Ziti al Ragu; tubes of pasta with a simple tomato sauce (B). Ziti are a type of penne but are longer and have square cut edges. The name can also refer to a dish that uses penne.


To drink, a white wine from Ischia from Parrazzo, the oldest winery on the island This was the only let down (C), mainly because it was unchilled. For this reason I think it’s best to stick to red in these kinds of places. The limoncello was a bit pricey at €4.


Total cost with water and service €37. Conclusion: a nice place serving good food. My choices could have been a bit better,

Cantina della Tofa (Elementary B), 71 Vico della Tofa, Tel.081 406 840.

Yet another purveyor of Cucina Tipica Napoletana. The decor is modern and bright and the service is very friendly . The proprietor is an ex rugby player and the Asian waiter a runaway from the Sri Lankan army. They also have free Wi-Fi, an unusual bonus. It’s fairly cheap with most prices are in single figures. You could in theory eat three courses for €19.

You might want to get a table away from the door though, or suffer the car fumes (i gas di scarico) from the street outside, although they shut the door and switched the aircon on when I asked to be moved. None of the antipasti really inspired me so I went for Bruschette Classiche, diced tomatoes on hard, possibly stale bread, which was a bit heavy but fine (B-).


Next, Pasta con Soffrito which was Ziti with diced liver (fegato), lungs (pulmone) and intestines in a tomato sauce. It isn’t so bad if you don’t think about it too much (B).


Polpette a Ragu meatballs in tomato sauce, never good to look at but always very tasty (B).


For my contorno, yet another dish of Friarelli which is really nice when sprinkled with peperoncino. The house white is ok (C+) and the red is drinkable (C-).


To finish two types of Baba, the famous rum-soaked Neapolitan cake (Polish and Slavic in origin but brought to Naples by the Bourbon kings), with squirty cream and cherries on the side. It was ok (C) but I’ve had better, perhaps with better quality rum.


To go with this, a few slugs of complementary limoncello from a large bottle that was left on the table. Total cost, a paltry €35.


Conclusion: a nice spot which I will return to because of its friendliness, but other local places are probably better, as the lack of customers might signify. And the fumes from the street can really spoil the experience.

See also my Pignasecca post for a couple more trattorias nearby that are of a similar ilk.

Naples – Spanish Quarter – Shrines

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Quartieri Spagnoli with tags , , , , , , , on February 2, 2016 by gannet39

A cultural feature of Genoa and cities in the south of Italy, and many other places in the Mediterranean, are the small shrines or ‘edicole sacre‘ that are literally everywhere. In Naples they are often found on street corners and on the sides of buildings, most especially in the Spanish Quarter.


The practice of building small altars in public spaces in Naples probably began with the Greeks and was taken up and spread further by Christianity.


A teacher that I worked with once told me that during the reign of Charles III of Bourbon (mid 18th century), his adviser Father Rocco, with a view to reducing street crime, encouraged the spread of the shrines and the lighting of candles inside them.

This created the first system of street lighting which allowed the local population to walk around at night more safely than before.


Electric lighting has replaced the candles now of course.

Other names for edicole sacre are capitelli, nicchie votive, madonnelle, madonnine, santelle, tabernacoli and votivi.

Naples – Spanish Quarter – stuff to see

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Quartieri Spagnoli with tags , on February 1, 2016 by gannet39

TThe Quartieri Spagnoli or Spanish Quarter is the area of tufo paved streets running uphill to the west of Via Toledo.

Spanish Quarter street

It was built in the sixteenth century to house the Spanish garrison of soldiers whose job it was to keep the local population down. Almost immediately it became an area associated with prostitution and criminality.

Helmets who needs em

In more recent times it has suffered from high unemployment, poverty and criminality and Camorra control.

Nuns on the run

As you might imagine, the Neapolitan language is stronger in this working class neighbourhood than anywhere else. Those classic postcard shots of washing hanging across the streets were all taken here.

Spanish steps

It’s definitely an edgier area than others but in my opinion the biggest danger in the daytime is being flattened by a Valentino Rossi wannabe on a speeding scooter.

That aside, it’s one of my favourite neighbourhoods for just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.

Wine and oil shop

I love all the old shop fronts from yesteryear.


Please see my separate post on shrines in the Spanish Quarter.

There are several trattorias where you can get real Neapolitan home cooking for next to nothing (reviews here).

Naples – Vomero

Posted in Campania, Italy, Naples, Vomero with tags , , , on January 31, 2016 by gannet39

Vomero is one of the poshest residential areas in Naples. It’s up on top of the hill, away from the madding crowds. The hillside is very steep, literally a high wall that keeps the plebs out. Traditionally people use a funicular train to move up and down to the old city below (you can take the metro now too).

I don’t come up here very often but in 2015, I was working in Vomero for a couple of days so I tried out a few of the local institutions. The first two are near or on Via Cimarosa, by the funicular station of the same name.

Friggitoria Vomero (Elementary A), 44 Via Cimarosa (opposite the funicular)

This is one of the best friggitoria’s in Naples. Their fritture include Frittatine di Maccheroni (fried pasta with egg), Suppli di Riso and Arancino (both kinds of rice balls), Crocche (potato croquettes) and Graffa (sweet doughnut made of flour and potato) amongst others.


I had a suppli and…


…a frittatine di maccheroni with a cold beer which was oh so good (A).


Pizzeria Gorizia (High Intermediate B+), 29 Gian Lorenzo Bernini,

This is an old school (since 1915) posh restaurant and pizzeria with waiters in formal white tunics.

The Margherita di Bufala I had was made with fresh pomodorini. It was good, but I prefer a tomato sauce base for more consistent flavour (B).


To drink a bottle of Forst (B), a German beer I’d not had before.


Total cost €16.50. An experience worth having but I’ll try something else off the menu if I come again.

Jorudan Sushi (High Intermediate A), 288 Via Torquato Tasso,

It’s a bit of a hike up the hill but it’s worth it for the best Japanese food I know of in Naples. This is probably because the chef, a friendly English speaking chap, is actually Japanese. That’s not to say chefs of other nationalities can’t make good sushi but I have yet to come across one who can match the best Japanese chefs. As he put it, ‘they have different hands’.

I had the Chirashizushi Salmone which was orgasmic (A+).


I followed up with two salmon and avocado Temaki, also wonderful (A). With a jug of hot sake and a beer the bill came to €33 which I think is very reasonable.


I lived in Japan for a few years and became addicted to sushi. There’s very little that makes me happier than reliving favourite food memories like this. I just wish the restaurant was easier to get to.

Grand Hotel Parker’s, 135 Corso Vittorio Emanuele,

This five star hotel has a lot of history, and an amazing view of Chiaia and the Gulf of Naples, which is the reason I came. I can’t afford to stay here but I can just about afford to eat in the George Restaurant or have a drink in the Bidder’s Bar which are both on the top floor in the roof garden.

Unfortunately I was seated right next to a loud American family who were making a real racket. I moved to the bar only to be sat next to two Italian men arguing. I gave up at this point and went elsewhere to eat. On the plus side it saved me a bit of money and I still got to see the view even if it was just for a few minutes. It would be a good place to go with a date and watch the sun go down.

Naples – Centro Storico – Churches

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples with tags , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2016 by gannet39

I’m not a believer but even an atheist can still appreciate the beauty of the stunning religious art housed in Naples’ numerous churches and chapels.

According to this thread, there are around 440 churches in the 17 square kilometers of the old town. I’ve heard that this is a higher density than Rome which has 900 churches in total, so I’m not sure if this is true. Either way, it’s a lot! Here are a few of my favourites.

Duomo di San Gennaro, 149 Via Duomo,

Naples cathedral was founded in the 5th century but the current building was built between 1294 and 1323 in a French Gothic style.


It has been renovated and reconstructed several times due to earthquakes. The western facade is Neo-Gothic whereas the decoration inside is mainly Baroque.


To your left as you enter is the Basilica di Santa Restituta, also known as the Capella di Santa Restituta. It’s the oldest church in Naples (built in the 6th century) and located on the site of the original cathedral which itself was constructed over a Greek temple dedicated to Apollo. It was incorporated into the later Gothic cathedral as a chapel. Some early Christian art can be seen here.


The main altar of the chapel reminds me of a theatre stage, which isn’t far from the truth.


Some think the columns in the chapel come from the original Greek temple.


You can view excavations under the chapel but I didn’t have time unfortunately.

Back in the main cathedral, off to the right of the nave is the Capella di San Gennaro, built between 1608 and 1637. It houses part of the Tesoro di San Gennaro, a collection of artworks donated or paid for by Popes, Kings, Emperors, rich and poor alike over seven centuries. It’s been calculated that the collection is more valuable than those of either the British or Russian royal families.


The collection includes seventy life-size silver busts which would have been paraded during religious celebrations. They remind me of metallic androids so they must have made quite an impression on the city’s populace as they glinted in the sun out on the street.


This one is modelling a bishop’s mitre encrusted with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.


This was just a lightning visit, there’s lots more to see.

Capella Sansevero, 19/21 Via Francesco De Sanctis,

Tucked away on a back street between Via Tribunali and Spaccanapoli, this chapel is for me the jewel in the crown of Naples’ many stunning churches. Sadly no photographs are allowed inside so please click on the links to see pictures from the web.

Capella Sansevero was the private chapel of the noble Sansevero family. It was renovated and redesigned by Raimondo di Sangro, seventh Prince of Sansevero (1710 – 1771) who was by turns a soldier, writer, inventor, scientist, alchemist, Freemason and speaker of several languages. It’s also said that he was a Rosicrucian, a secret religious order with a preference for empiricism in opposition to the dogma of the Catholic Church. He was excommunicated by the church but this was later revoked.

Although he was undoubtedly a genius, there are many gory stories associated with him. It was rumoured that he had people killed so that he could conduct experiments on their bodies. Indeed two incredibly detailed anatomical models can be seen in the cellar of the church. Popular belief had it that the models were of his servant and a pregnant woman, into whose veins he injected an artificial substance that caused the blood to solidify in the veins. However recent research has shown that the models are in fact artificial.

Several beautiful marble carvings cover the walls of the main chapel. On the floor in the centre of the chapel is the stunning ‘Veiled Christ‘ by Giuseppe Sanmartino. It depicts the dead Christ lying on a couch covered by a transparent veil under which the signs of his suffering can be seen on his face and body. The realism of the statue is incredible and it’s rightly considered to be one of the world’s greatest masterpieces. Some pictures here.

Di Sangro spent the last years of his life working on his chapel and before his passing he destroyed many of his notes. After his death, most of his remaining writings and laboratory equipment were burnt by his relatives who were in fear of their own excommunication by the Church as a result of his activities. All this of course only added to the mystery surrounding this intriguing character.

Entrance cost €7 in 2015.

San Domenico Maggiore, 8 Piazza San Domenico Maggiore

San Domenico is one of the most beautiful churches in Naples, built between 1283 and 1324.



Originally Gothic, it was given a Baroque makeover in 1670, then restored back to Gothic again in the 19th century.




The church and the square of the same name were the centre of the court of the Aragonese kings who ruled Naples. Their coffins are on the balcony that runs around the church.




Examples of inlaid marble, known as Pietra Dura can be seen everywhere. Polished colored stones are cut and fitted together to create images. The same technique was also used for the mausoleum in the Taj Mahal.


And of course there are lions.

Again a flying visit so this is just a brief survey.


Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore, 76 Piazza San Gaetano,

Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore

This baroque church was built over a 1st century Greek temple near the crossroads that mark the heart of the Greek and Roman city. Two corinthian columns from the temple have been tacked on to the church facade as you can see in the photo above.

Inside San Paolo Maggiore

The main altar (1775-1776) was designed by Ferdinando Fuga who also designed the Ospedale L’Albergo Reale dei Poveri which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Altar at San Paolo Maggiore

To the left of the altar is the Chapel of Firrao di Sant’Agata built in the 17th century. Gazing upwards you can just imagine you’re ascending to heaven.

Chapel basilica in San Paolo Maggiore

Chiesa di San Giovanni a Carbonara, 5 Via Carbonara,

Due to it’s location just outside the city walls this was where rubbish was burnt in the Middle Ages, hence the name Carbonara.

It was founded in 1343 but the current Gothic facade was designed in the early 18th century by Ferdinando Sanfelice who was also responsible for San Lorenzo Maggiore (and also noted for his ‘hawk wing’ staircases, see my Sanita post).


I haven’t been inside the church (not sure if it’s possible) but I quite like the ornate doorway with small statues that look like they’re crying pollution.


In the lunette (literally ‘little moon’, the space above a door set in a rounded arch) is a fresco by the Lombard artist Leonardo da Besozzo.


To be continued…

Naples – Centro Storico – Piazza Monteoliveto

Posted in Campania, Centro Storico, Italy, Naples, Piazza Monteoliveto with tags , , on January 29, 2016 by gannet39

Piazza Monteoliveto is a medium-sized square sandwiched between Via Toledo and Via Sant’ Anna dei Lombardi. As it’s slightly off the beaten track it’s often ignored by tourists and is mainly populated by skiving students from the nearby university.

There’s quite a nice fountain in the square, the Fontana di Monteoliveto, which has some freaky features.


It’s also a good place for a quick snack…

Pizzeria Giuliano (Elementary B+). 33 Calata Trinità Maggiore,

According to Time Out, this small pizzeria (standing room only) sells the best pizzette (mini pizza) in town. I don’t disagree (B). Think I paid about €2 with a beer.


There are a couple of nice looking restaurants in the square which I’d like to try next time I’m in town, so I’ll have some more to add to this post.

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