New Year’s Eve in Naples, Italy

We had heard so much about New Year’s Eve in Naples, Italy that we had to experience it for ourselves! It is said that Naples has some of the best fireworks displays in the world. While there are organized fireworks presentations along the Lungomare (near Castel dell’Ovo), many people buy their own fireworks and head to their roofs or windows to show them off. From high on a roof or balcony you can see hundreds of fireworks from the islands, Naples, and Pozzuoli. In total, they last approximately 45 minutes, though many continue all night and into the daylight the next morning. It was very different from our time in Venice the year before.

Fireworks on New Year's Eve in Naples Italy

New Year’s Eve Traditions

Fireworks are popular with Neapolitans throughout the year. They set them off of their roofs for any occasion, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, a holiday, or – it’s Thursday! Of course, this comes at a price. While many cities in Italy have banned personal fireworks, Naples holds their traditions and each year hundreds of Neapolitans are injured. In 2012 two people were killed and 361 people were injured (in 2011 two were killed and 561 were injured). On the roof below we witnessed fireworks gone awry as they were shooting sideways and the family was ducking behind walls to avoid them. Yikes!

Another tradition on New Year’s Eve in Naples, Italy is getting rid of old things. When the clock strikes midnight they believe they should get rid of anything they don’t want to carry into the new year. At midnight people will open their windows and throw things out onto the streets that they don’t want anymore. No matter how big it is! People have been injured or even killed because small ovens and refrigerators were flying down from above and hitting them. The streets in the downtown area become so littered with everyone’s old stuff that cars cannot move for hours. While this tradition is slowly fading away you may want to go to an open plaza, a roof, or stay inside on New Year’s in Naples, just in case!

Delicious Food

For cenone (the Italian word for New Year’s Eve dinner), Ashley and I cooked an Italian feast! It consisted of capers, prosciutto, and cheese for appetizers, and continuing on with Pizette con melanzane (fried eggplant balls), Pesto all Genovese (pesto pasta), Spaghetti Tradizionale (spaghetti with oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt), Penne Siciliana (penne with eggplant, meat, and tomato sauce), and a variety of cannoli for dessert. And of course, a plethora of wine and champagne!

We’ve never been so close to a fireworks display and have never seen anything like we saw that night. It was a remarkable scene watching the fireworks from nearby windows and roofs all the way to the islands. We are thrilled that we made the decision to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Naples, Italy. While we didn’t throw anything out of the windows or light our own fireworks, we were still able to partake in one of Naples’ many traditions simply by being present and taking in the experience.

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Finding the Best Food in Naples

One of the best parts of traveling is getting to experience the local food. And Italy has some of the best! Each region has its own cuisine, from the pesto in Liguria, to wild boar in Tuscany, to the fish and pizza of Naples. Traveling throughout these regions is almost like traveling throughout different countries in terms of food. And it is very hard to find specific regional cuisines within the other regions. All of Italy has delicious food, but we found some of the best food in Naples!

Neapolitan food consists of a lot of seafood, fish, fresh vegetables, and light sauces, with a lot of pasta to go with it! And of course, you can’t beat true Neapolitan pizza.

What to Expect from an Italian Dinner

There is so much to discover about Neapolitan food — including the different courses of an Italian meal, which is pretty standard throughout the country. There are five courses to a typical Italian meal:

1. Antipasto (appetizer)

2. Primi (1st course, usually consisting of pasta)

3. Secondi (2nd course, usually consisting of meat or fish)

4. Contorno (vegetable that usually accompanies dinner)

5. Dolce (dessert)

We really try to keep up with all of the courses, but we typically share the secondi course or don’t order one at all. The antipasto could be a meal on its own!!

Dinner lasts for at least two hours (no wonder, with all of the courses!) If you go out before 8:30 for dinner, you will be the only ones in the restaurant for a while. During the summer, some restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 9pm! It’s tough to get used to that custom!

Traditional Pizza Margherita in Naples

A specialty in Naples is pizza. Modern pizza originated in Italy as the Neapolitan pie with tomato. In 1889, during a visit to Naples, Queen Margherita of Italy was served a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella), and green (basil). This kind of pizza has been named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita, which is the pizza to get while you’re in Naples.

Why is this pizza so special? One, the dough! The dough is soft and chewy and almost melts in your mouth. It is never hard or crusty. Two, they use Buffalo Mozzarella. This is a creamy and wet cheese that can only be found in the Campania region of Italy. It makes the pizza very moist and gooey! Combine those two together and you are left with a delicious pie that you can’t even pick up… you have to eat it with a knife and fork.

No trip to Naples is complete without going to the world famous Pizzeria da Michele, where Julia Roberts ate in the movie Eat, Pray, Love. Equally as good is Pizzeria Pellone, which is really convenient right near the train station. Either way, eating pizza in Naples is truly one of the best experiences you can have!

Wonderful Surprise while Dining In Naples

One of our first dining experiences in Naples is still one of our favorites. If you didn’t know this restaurant was here you would never be able to find it. It’s more of a hidden local restaurant filled solely with Neapolitans.

As we were driving to the restaurant, we got the impression that we were entering someone’s backyard. Soon we realized that the owners had closed the restaurant for the month. (Fun fact: Italians typically take off most, if not all, of the month of August for vacation.) No problemo! We just happened to stumble upon a different place a very short distance away.

Nobody spoke English, but we somehow got by with our limited Italian after just moving there. The owner, Eduardo, asked us if we wanted to start out with some prosciutto and mozzarella so we said yes. That was the last time we spoke with him until the end of the meal.

The plates of food that came out were never ending… there were mussels, fried anchovies, fried doughballs (zeppelinis), eggplant, baked clams, bruschetta, octopus, and squid. We couldn’t stop laughing as more Italian food kept coming out. After about an hour, we thought the meal was finished. But, Eduardo came back and asked if we wanted to see the menu for the first course! We had to pass, as we were pretty full!

With wine and water, we were wondering how much this was going to cost us. Surprisingly, it was 35 euros! What? The wine itself was just five euros. It was simply an awesome and great experience. Finding this place was a complete surprise, and the meal was unforgettable.

More Favorites!

Our favorite restaurant in the Naples area is Angeli & Demoni located in Pozzuoli. We frequented this restaurant often and returned to it on our recent trip to Pozzuoli. Chef Silvio is a master chef, creating dishes that are not only delicious, but aesthetically pleasing. His vision for his restaurant, which is set in a real Roman Domus, is innovative, romantic, and welcoming. Here we had fresh seafood with linguini, an octopus appetizer that my 8 year old loved, a light ravioli with mushrooms, and the most amazing light and airy bread that melted in our mouths. It is Naples food with an elegant twist. It is by far an amazing experience and we’re grateful that we were able to return to it!

More Than Just the Food…

While living here and friends were visiting, we took them into Naples’ center for a downtown food tour. Here, we tried many of the local specialities including tripe, fried anchovies, and traditional zeppelini. Led by a local, it allowed us to eat the foods we had come to love, while also trying new places and foods that we might not have found on our own. It was absolutely amazing – a complete masterpiece of food and flavor!

As we quickly learned, dining in Naples (and in Italy overall!) is not just about the taste of the food, but the experience as well!


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day in naples

A Day in Naples

The side of the museum

With all of the traveling we’ve been doing, it was nice to have a weekend at home with no plans. We always seem to be on the move as we make our travels around Europe. But on this particular weekend, we decided to spend a day in Naples center. There are so many things to do and see right in our backyard, that this was very much welcomed day.

Saturday proved to be a “cooler” day with temperatures only hitting 90 degrees. It is hot and humid in Naples over the summer, and we are trying our best to keep cool. Luckily we have two A/C units in our house… we really had to fight to get one in our bedroom!

Trying to keep cool in the shade

History and Artifacts at the Archeological Museum

We started the day with a trip to the Archeological Museum in downtown Naples. This museum is among the top museums of ancient art and has an extensive collection of artifacts. The building was built in the 1500s as a headquarters for the royal cavalry and was later converted into a university.

After that, it was turned into a museum housing artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as art from Egyptian and Prehistoric times. As if that isn’t enough, it also has Roman mosaics, marble and bronze sculptures, Greek pottery, gems, coins, and epigraphs.

We saw many remarkable sculptures on display, ranging from the size of a finger to the height of a two story house. Although they were astounding, we found that after a while they started to blend together and look very similar to one another. However, there were a few that stood out:

In addition, we saw many mosaics, art, and tools.

As we approached the end, we explored “The Secret Room,” which houses a collection of erotic finds excavated from Pompeii. From outside the room, we could hear giggling men from around the world echoing in the quiet museum.

Evidently, there are immature people in every culture!

Rounding out the Day with Pizza

After the museum, we went to our favorite downtown pizza place, Pizzeria Pellone.

While the pizzas in the areas surrounding Naples are fantastic, there’s nothing like a good downtown Naples pizza. The liquid from the sauce and cheese tend to create a very hot and soupy center that you can then pair with the delicious crust. It only takes 90 seconds in an 800 degree wood burning oven!

There are regulations in Naples for how to make a pizza in order to protect the original Neapolitan pizza within Italy and worldwide.

Afterwards, we grabbed some gelato, walked around Piazza Dante, went into the fantastic woodshop of our tutor’s boyfriend. Then, we made our way home.

There’s nothing like going into Napoli for an afternoon to take advantage of all it has to offer!

Visited July 2012

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Capodimonte Park in Naples

Capodimonte Park in Naples

We took advantage of a gorgeous Naples day and headed to Capodimonte Park. Capodimonte literally means “head of the mountain,” and it is without a doubt just that! It’s a big area that includes a park, a royal palace, a national museum, an astronomical observatory, and a porcelain factory.

On this particular day, we decided to stay outside and explore the park grounds. While we didn’t see inside the museum and palace, we had a wonderful day enjoying the weather and getting Maya out for some exercise.

What You’ll See in Capodimonte Park

Capodimonte Park sprawls across a high plateau, overlooking Naples and the bay. From other lookout points, you can see Mt. Vesuvius ominously looking over the city, as well as the coast of Sorrento far across the Bay of Naples.

Once we stepped into the park, we felt a sense of relief from the busy streets outside. The park’s natural environment seemed a little bit calmer and quieter, and people here seemed at ease. There are kids playing soccer, couples picnicking on blankets, joggers and bikers exercising without fear of getting hit by cars, and dogs playing fetch. We always wondered where we could find all of the greenery in Naples, and evidently it’s all in the park!

You won’t realize the magnitude of the park until you pass through the “Porta di Mezzo” (Middle Doorway), which is a high gate leading to the main park grounds. Here, there are different paths to take. Some lead to statues gazing down at the people and some lead to various trails and deeper forests. We walked around for a couple of hours, getting lost in different directions and losing ourselves to the calmness of the park.

You’ll Want to Come Back!

We see ourselves coming to Capodimonte Park often either to run, bike, or simply stroll. Unlike the busy streets just outside the gates, this is a serene place that feels like a perfect escape.

It is without a doubt one of the many gems of Naples.

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markets in Naples

What to Know about Markets in Naples

Shopping the markets of Naples is exciting and chaotic, and its an experience you can’t miss! There are about 60 permanent markets in the area, and each one is unique and special in its own way. There’s a lot to know about the markets in Naples; but, we found that once we immersed ourselves in this unique part of Neapolitan culture, we really enjoyed the experience.

You can shop at markets for fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood, cheese, and meat. Plus, you can explore markets for flowers, antiques, clothing, bags, shoes, household goods, books, and electronics. Finally, there are seasonal Christmas markets, offering nativity scene paraphernalia and all kinds of Christmas goodies. And a lot of them combine all of the above! You can find anything from worthless trinkets to priceless antiques and works of art.

Understanding the Markets

Many of the markets are named for their location. For example, the market in Pozzuoli is called — wait for it — the “Pozzuoli Fish and Produce Market.” Similarly, others are named for their products, like “Shoe Alley” or “Christmas Alley.” “Thieves Alley” got its nickname because it seems to sell many items, like electronics, that have fallen off of the back of a truck.

There are high-end markets and low-end markets, markets that are known for having the best fish, and markets known for having a high amount of gypsies asking for money.

Too fully understand them, we found it best to just go and see the markets for ourselves.

Shopping Shoe Alley in the summer

Our Favorite Markets in Naples

We’ve been to quite a few of these markets, fighting our way through the narrow roads and overflowing stalls, and elbowing our way to the front along with local Neapolitans. The markets can definitely be a hit or miss. We especially like going to a market for the fresh produce, fish, and seafood to make for dinner. But we’ll hit the other markets when we’re in the mood to browse or when a friend might be going.

We snapped some photos of some popular markets.

The markets are without a doubt an important part of life in Naples and keep this city thriving. They are a place to find great deals, fresh food, and test your bargaining skills (although we need some practice in this department).

The markets are the charm and culture of Naples and they create a captivating experience!

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glove factory of naples

The Glove Factory of Naples

I had heard of a well known leather glove factory in Afragola, and I needed to check it out! So, I took a tour of Sim Italian Gloves, aka “the glove factory of Naples.”

A Brief History of the Glove Factory

Luigi Simeone founded the factory in 1927 and is still led today by his family. This glove factory distributes its gloves all over the world, including to stores such as Armani, Nordstrom, and Talbots.

Anna, our tour guide, married into the Simeone family and works there when non-Italian speakers want to visit. The factory’s handmade production is amazing from start to finish. First, it purchases raw hides to tan and dye. Every single leather glove is then meticulously handcrafted. We were able to see how the lambskin leather is dyed, dried, pressed, buffed, measured, cut, and sewn, with a different family member performing each step of the process.

It was really quite amazing to see the dedication and handiwork that goes into every single glove.

Can’t Get Enough!

Typically, these gloves sell everywhere else for at least $75-100 a pair, but we were able to buy them straight from the factory for $20-50. We scoured through the many gloves, and each pair was more beautiful then the next! And just when you think they don’t have your size or there couldn’t be any more gloves, Anna would pull more out of the drawers.

They also make a limited pair of leather coats. Once those are sold they don’t make any more until the next season.

You can return to the factory and buy gloves without a tour, as long as you make an appointment. I went back this week with my friend Sera, who was visiting us, and Maria, my friend here in Naples. Between the three of us, we bought nine pairs of gloves and one leather coat. I’d say it was a pretty productive day!

Jon did not go with me the two times I went to the factory, but was very happy when I brought him home a nice pair of brown leather gloves.

I Highly Recommend…

What a treat it is to have the glove factory of Naples right where we live! You can check out their website and look at their beautiful work. I’m certain you’ll find something you’ll love!

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living near lago d'averno

Lakeside Living Near Lago d’Averno

After we moved here, it took almost three months to finally settle in a home. We landed on a place in Pozzuoli, about four miles outside of Naples. There, we are fortunate to be living near Lago d’Averno. We have amazing views of the lake, the Tyrrhenian Sea, Monte Di Procida, and Capri.

Lago d’Averno is a volcanic crater lake, and the Ancient Romans considered this lake to be the entrance to Hades. Its name is from a Greek word meaning “birdless,” referring to their belief that birds who flew over the lake dropped dead because of the poisonous fumes it emitted. Fortunately, there are no birds that drop dead over the lake, and there aren’t any poisonous fumes (we hope!).

Our Home near Lago d’Averno

A lemon tree decorated the yard, as well as two small palm trees and an area to grow grapes. We would pick lemons off of our tree, and the landlord would give us oranges from his orange tree. In addition, Maya loved the new yard. It was a great space for her to chew bones in the grass!

The weather is gorgeous In Naples in November! The temperatures are in the low 60s and mixed with clear sunny days. As a result, it made us want to sit on our sofa lounger, drink wine, and look out on the world around us each day.

Seeing the Sites

Living near Lago d’Averno gave us a wonderful area to run or take Maya for a walk. We went to the lake often. Our first time going there, we walked straight from our home. As we searched for an entrance to the path, we came upon an agriturismo, which is a vineyard/restaurant/farm. The owners showed us around and picked oranges off of their tree for us to eat. After giving us their business card, they pointed us in the right direction. Oranges in hand, we continued on.

Jon and Maya in the vineyard near the lake

While walking around the lake, we came across The Temple of Apollo. Built in the 2nd century, this thermal complex had a dome roof almost the size of the Pantheon’s in Rome. It’s funny, I can’t even count how many times I have passed by this temple as I went to the lake several times a week. Still, its presence was noted each time!

Many people use the flat one mile path to walk their dogs, run, or simply catch up with friends. The weekdays were the best time to go as it was pretty empty. Since there aren’t many sidewalks and the drivers are just a little crazy, it was so nice having this as an option to walk Maya or take a run!

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The Only Synagogue in Naples, Italy

With the holidays fast approaching, Jon and I were starting to wonder where and if we would go to services. After we Googled “synagogues in Naples, Italy” and did some research, we found that there was only ONE synagogue in Naples! Rome has more options, but driving two hours for services didn’t sound too appealing. I emailed the Rabbi, who quickly got back to me and invited us to dinner for the upcoming Friday night.

Unique Services in Every Way

The hard part was getting to the actual synagogue.

After the usual crazy drive into downtown Naples, we found a place to park. Then, we walked around the crowded cobblestone streets for at least 30 minutes, searching for the synagogue, but we couldn’t find it!

We showed people the address, and they kept pointing us in the same direction, but we just couldn’t find this place. One person told us it was in the parking garage! Just as we were about to turn around and abandon our plans, Moshe called from above and says, “Hello!” Three flights of stairs later, we found the front door.

We finally made it!

Jon and I walked into the small chapel and introduced ourselves to the other people there. Eight men and two women greeted us with open arms and were genuinely excited to meet us.

After some chit chat, we all sat down for the service. We knew beforehand that this was going to be more religious than we are used to, and that we wouldn’t get to sit next to each other during the service, which we didn’t.

It was very interesting listening to a service that was mainly in Hebrew, with the rest in Italian. They sang the tunes of the songs differently as well. We tried to keep up as much as we could, but of course had some trouble. The service only lasted an hour so we didn’t feel out of it for too long.

Sharing a Meal at the Synagogue in Naples

Afterwards, we all gathered in the kitchen for dinner. The dinner was delicious. It was a typical Italian meal minus the prosciutto, seafood, and other un-kosher stuff. After the appetizers and fish, Jon and I felt incredibly full. But wait! Enter the eggplant lasagna! You can assume an Italian Jew will push even more food on you than if they were just Italian or just Jewish. 🙂

What Jon and I really liked about the whole experience was that almost everyone there was from somewhere else. We all had a longing to be connected to Judaism, and we had sought out a place to do it. During the service, I sat next to a girl from Paris who had just moved to Naples two days prior. She was there to study abroad for the semester. Then, there was a married couple. The man was from Naples, and the woman was from New Zealand. Two other men were from Israel, and they were studying in Naples. And then of course there was us, the Americans.

Jews from all around the world, gathering in the only synagogue in Naples, Italy… it was a pretty cool scene!

Even though there were only eight of us at dinner, at any given time there were four languages being spoken (Hebrew, Italian, English, and French). And amazingly, we were all able to converse with each other smoothly!

Time Well Spent

They invited us to come back the next day for services, but we declined. But, we made plans to go there for Rosh Hashanah, so that will be enough for us!

All in all, we stayed for more than four hours and had a memorable time meeting new people!

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What You Need to Know about Driving in Naples

The rumors about crazy drivers in Naples are widely spread. At first, we weren’t too worried about it. We’re not too shy behind the wheel, and we lived in New York City for about five years. Even in a city like New York, we never had problems (or fears) when we needed to drive in the city. (In fact, we missed NYC driving when we moved!) Although we felt more prepared than others to drive in Naples, we quickly learned “crazy” customs about life on the road. Ultimately, we came up with seven customs, which anyone should know when they want to drive in Naples!

Our Personal Experience Driving in Naples

Jon’s been doing all of the driving so far since we had to rent a stick shift car, which I don’t know how to drive (yet). As we drove around for a couple of days, I found myself white-knuckling my passenger side handle several times! But, I still thought to myself that it wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be… until I realized it was obviously THAT crazy.

One Sunday, I truly thought someone was going to get killed.

We’d decided to take a drive into downtown Naples, but it didn’t turn out to be a relaxing, enjoyable Sunday drive. I covered my eyes and squeezed the handle. I yelled “WATCH OUT” more than a few times.

In a word, drivers were AGGRESSIVE. And, it became very clear that the rules of the road were merely suggestions.

Often, we were in total disbelief. We couldn’t stop asking ourselves, “What is going on here?”

7 Customs to Know when Driving in Naples

While drivers in Naples seem to ignore rules, we observed seven customs that native drivers seem to recognize.

1) The left lane is strictly for passing. This is a rule that we wish could be implemented more in the United States. (Regardless of their speed, Virginia drivers LOVE to hog the left lane and completely ignore people trying to pass.) In Naples, the drivers will flash you to get out of the way, and people abide.

2) Stop signs are for beginners. Most drivers ignore them.

3) Dividing lines on the road are recommendations. We were surprised how many drivers straddle lanes. Expect people to veer into your path.

4) Cars, buses, vespas, and bicycles can pass you if they think you’re going too slow. Even if there’s little space available, or if there’s an oncoming car, people will find a way to pass — and scare the daylights out of you.

5) People driving vespas and scooters weave in and out of cars at alarming rates. We’ve seen them weave around traffic while talking on their cell phones, smoking a cigarette, and hauling all of their garbage to wherever they dump it.

6) Pedestrians walk wherever and whenever they want. It is your job not to hit them.

7) Drivers make turns at anytime. It really doesn’t matter who is there. If you’re turning, just go.

Final Tip

I’m sure there are more customs to add to this list. The fact is, driving in Naples is like nothing you’ve ever seen!

That being said, the best thing to do is stay aware and learn through experience. Soon, I’m sure these customs will become second nature!

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