Culture, cuisine, cliffs and coastlines:
12 days in Campania
Naples, part 2
June 20: The last full day of vacation
We lingered over breakfast this morning with the French guests. Breakfast
on this particular morning included an interesting tomato bruschetta –
actually a nice change from all the sweet stuff.
We had several of the many notable churches of old Naples on our
morning agenda. Even so, we were barely making a dent. Dominic told us
there were more than 350 churches just in the historical center.
San Apostoli is a small church, almost in an alleyway, that features a
number of vivid and historic frescoes, particularly in the cupola. It is built on
the site of an old Roman temple. Our entrance was greeted with a stern
lecture, in Italian, from a nun and, since we didn’t seem to understand, the
man with whom she was talking also chimed in, in Italian. Finally we
recognized the word ‘matrimony’ and realized that the church was
preparing for a wedding that would be taking place shortly. Once we
understood this, and that we shouldn’t walk on the blue felt runner that had
been placed there, the nun waved us in and encouraged us to look around
and also to visit the nearby San Giovanni a Carbonara. She took a
particular liking to Allie, fawning over her a bit and pinching her cheek
before we left. Just to make sure we knew the way, the man exited the
church with us and gave us detailed instructions for reaching San Giovanni
We decided at this point to settle our bill, since we would be leaving very
early the next morning. Since we were staying in a home, not a hotel, we
felt it might be an imposition to ask someone to be available before 6am.
The ATM around the corner from our hotel, on this morning, had an armed
police officer (who looked like Jean Reno) at the guard. He struck up a
conversation with Chris, seeming rather anxious to try out his English. The
ATM was out of cash (it was still fairly early on Monday morning), so he
directed us halfway across town to another near the Piazza Plebiscito. I
don’t think so…. We went around the corner to the other ATM, which also
was guarded. It took two withdrawals, but we had enough for our bill.
Chris decided to go looking for the courtyard of the Donnaregina Vecchia
complex, which we could see from the windows of our breakfast room. He
ended up walking about four blocks to do so; odd, considering that it
couldn’t have been more than 20 yards from the building entrance. The
church, itself, is closed to visitors.
Pio Monte della Misericordia is on the via Tribunali, about a block south of
the Via Duomo. It is fronted by an impressive series of arches, but once
inside it is a small, relatively simple church with a very famous altarpiece:
Caravaggio’s The Seven Acts of Mercy.
We finally made it to Scaturchio to try the fabled pasteria. We didn’t even
know what this was, only that Dominic called it a religious experience. We
didn’t see it in the case so we asked for it, and what we got was the size of
a pie for 11€. We weren’t sure how exactly we were going to eat it, so we
just carried it around in its box for awhile.
We visited the nearby Gesu Nuovo, which is very austere and fortress-like
on the outside but baroque on the inside. It also has a very unusual,
almost square layout, with the pews facing to the side chapels rather than
the main altar.
Across the street is Santa Chiara. This originally baroque church was
heavily damaged during the war and has been reconstructed in gothic
style; a sharp contrast to most of the churches we had visited to this point.
At this point, our curiosity was getting the better of us. What exactly was this
heavenly pastry we were carrying around? We located a shady spot on a
wall outside Santa Chiara, fashioned a knife out of part of the box, and
began to dig in. Traditionally an Easter treat, this pastry flavored with
orange petal water now is available all year around. Allie didn’t much care
for it, but we thought it was pretty good. One thing for sure, we would not be
too hungry for lunch.
There is much more to Santa Chiara than the church. The interior cloisters
feature unique tile work on the pillars and benches, as well as a series of
frescoes inside the colonnaded portico – an attractive and quiet respite
from the chaos outside. There is also a small and very well done museum
on site that includes artifacts from the original church and a number of
‘before and after’ photos. Finally, the church is built on the site of a former
Roman bath, and the fairly extensive excavations are accessible from the
The walk toward the Palazzo Reale took us out of ‘old’ Naples and into
‘royal’ Naples for the first time. We tried to find a tavola calda so that Allie
(who didn’t partake much of the pastiera) could get some lunch. We never
really found one; only some small bars that sold what was largely pizza
bread. We bought her a slice, but she didn’t much care for it.
The royal apartments are ornately decorated but looking a little worn on the
inside – frayed wall coverings and furniture. Some of the highlights for us
were the grand marble entranceway, the court theater, and the many
queen's suites. Like many sites in Naples, this palace was damaged
extensively in the war, and parts of it were used by the allied troops. Many
of the rooms included photos showing how they looked during and after
the war, including one photo of a royal dressing room that was used as a
We considered a short tour of the Teatro San Carlo (20 minutes, 6€), but
Allie wasn’t too interested at the moment. We proceeded across Piazza
Plebiscito and into the Chiaia neighborhood – along the via Chiaia, home
to many shoe stores. As it was past 2pm, we had a little difficulty finding a
place for drinks and snacks, since Allie was zero-for-two with snacks today
and still hungry. Grand Caffé Cimmino on Via Gaetano Filangieri provided
the answer; although her initial calzone was a disappointment, she finally
found something she liked in Marisa’s proscuitto and formaggi panino.
From there, it was a nice walk through the park and along the waterfront to
Castel dell’Ovo (the egg castle). Castel dell’Ovo is the oldest castle in
Naples. Built on a spit of land sticking into the harbor, it is on the site of a
Roman villa. Most of the present castle dates to the 1500s, although the
oldest parts are 9th century. It is open without admission, and the views
from the top are worthy of the relatively reasonable climb. Castel dell’Ovo is
located in the Saint Lucia area, which is home to many of Naples’ upscale
hotels and a plethora of restaurants. It looked like a nice, but very different
area to stay. Frankly, we liked the uniqueness of our location in the old part
of the city.
San Francesco di Paolo is located in the Piazza del Plebiscito and is
modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. We only got a peek at this one.
There was a wedding about to start, and the guests were already arriving.
We did notice many weddings while in Naples, and not just on the
weekend as is typical in the US. And we noticed the abundance of bridal
shops along the Via Duomo.
For our last dinner in Italy, we selected Bellini. It came highly
recommended on Fodors, as well as in several of our books and from
Dominic. And most importantly, it wasn’t far from our B&B. Allie’s feet were
sore and tired, and she wasn’t keen for much more walking. The wait staff
is a bit interesting. Our waiter looked like Moe from the Simpsons. Another
was having fun with a hose, cleaning the sidewalk so they could set up
Bellini is noted for its seafood, and Dominic had recommended the Pasta
al Cartaccio – linguine and plenty of shellfish cooked in an aromatic sauce
inside a paper tent. Outstanding! That, some fried fruiti di mare, an
excellent spaghetti carbonara and some house white came to 53€. A nice
way to end our trip.
June 21: Going home.
We woke early – 5am – to catch our 6:15 taxi to the airport. There are some
benefits to this. We actually had hot water in the shower, for one. We
tiptoed out, trying not to wake the other guests, and made our way to the
corner to wait for our taxi. We’d heard stories about taxi drivers in Naples,
and not necessarily good ones. We were first concerned about whether the
driver would even show (and what we would do if not, since we’d given up
our keys and determined that the cell phone was almost useless for
making calls). Then, we wondered what it might cost us to get there;
Dominic had suggested it might be around 20€.
No worries. The cab driver was seven minutes early (fortunately, so were
we) and the total came to 15€. At 6am, there is very little traffic, and the trip
took 15 minutes at the most.
From that point on, the trip home was relatively smooth. Chris’s shoe set
off the detector at the Naples airport, instigating a search that included
dropping the iPod on the ground (thank goodness for that protective case).
We killed some time at the airport’s Autogrill, which makes a mean
espresso and cappuccino.
The day was very clear and we had an outstanding view from the plane all
the way along – from the close up view of central Naples just after take-off
(having learned her lesson, Marisa had a window seat and camera at the
ready this time), to the view of Rome as we headed north, to the almost
cloudless views of the Dolomites and Alps as we flew toward Munich.
We had an hour in Munich, which is plenty of time, but learned it is not
advisable to delay getting to the gate. There is a secondary security check
at the gate for departing US flights. This involves not only going through the
metal detector, but also subjecting one’s self to the full wand/pat-down
Our flight home was very uneventful; not even any turbulence until we
approached Chicago. The trip did give us a chance to catch up on our
movie watching – something we rarely do at home.
It was good to be home. But it was sad to leave Italy. It all went by very
quickly. And there’s only one way to get over that: start planning next year’s
PS – that will probably be to France.
Next > Logistics, part 1 (transportation and other aspects)
See all of our trip photos
Naples, view through one of the arches
of Pio Monte della Misericordia
Cloister of Santa Chiara
Piazza Plebiscito with lone pedestrian
Sunrise over Naples
Naples from the airplane
View of the Austrian Alps from the