Happy Thursday! I’m still jetlagged from our travels, but I did manage to photograph a California Artisan Cheese Guild event last night at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. I think it was a success—there were so many attendees interested in cheese! I hope to work on those photos over the next couple of days to be shared through the Cheese Guild’s channels.
Continuing the sun-drenched journey, we’re on to Pompeii and Napoli today! I have to admit, I felt conflicted going there, since I know the city ruins are deteriorating quickly under the weight of welcoming so many tourists. When we arrived there, though, I must say I was very taken with it. Walking across 2,000 year old wagon wheel ruts worn into Pompeii’s stony streets, and seeing counters of ancient “fast food” establishments, with holes that once housed urns of food—it was impressive. Only about 2/3 of the city is uncovered, so there is still a lot left to be unearthed. We visited the large and small amphitheaters, the large forum, and saw ancient fountains reworked to dispense water for thirsty tourists. The guides make a big to-do about the city’s brothels; everyone wants to visit the Lupanar brothel in Pompeii, where you can see erotic paintings on the walls and the establishment’s stone beds.
To see the vast collection of artwork, artifacts, and even kitchen utensils gathered from Pompeii, one must visit the Archaeological museum in Napoli. M. Cheesemonger rented a car, and we made a day of it. An enormous wealth of frescoes and mosaics depicting everything from gods to birds can be found there. I particularly loved seeing the portraits on display, including the famous “Sappho” (shown below) and the portrait of the Baker Terentius Neo and his Wife. That and the cooking pans. Back then, people cooked just like us! It shouldn’t be surprising, seeing how epicurean the Pompeiians’ artwork was. The museum’s collection houses many, many marble statues, almost too many to take in in one day. In short, we highly recommend visiting!
Several people had told us that Napoli was not a nice city to visit, that there was nothing to see, but it would up being one of our favorite destinations ever. The streets are often extremely narrow and chaotic, with businesses, pedestrians, scooters, cars, and trucks sharing the same path, but it felt like a human city. I loved seeing rows and rows of laundry hanging out of every window, as well as buckets dangling on ropes in the street installed by upper level inhabitants to accept street level deliveries. M. Cheesemonger and I spent many moments in tiny streets thinking, “We can’t fit on this road,” only to have scooters zoom around on either side of us.
Our favorite dining experience during the trip was a chance discovery in Napoli. We were driving to the Archaeological museum, and pulled over to a side street to park. It turns out, we hadn’t driven far enough, and we were in a random neighborhood. It was dangerously close to lunchtime, and the only restaurant on the street was a nondescript restaurant specialized in tripe dishes. M. Cheesemonger isn’t a tripe fan, but I love it, so we went in! It was a family restaurant, full of working class locals. No one spoke English. I ordered le trippe al sugo. M. Cheesemonger opted for the meat, cheese, and olive dish. Heavenly. My dish consisted of tripes cooked in a savory yet light tomato sauce. The tripes were like meat pillows—tender and fluffy. That was all I needed, along with a few slices of bread. The owner saw how much I was enjoying my dish, so she brought out a little taste of one of their other tripe dishes—with potatoes, no tomatoes. It was light and creamy, also delicious. Around the dining room, a sign announced that you could buy le trippe al sugo for 7 euro per kilo. These lucky Neapolitans! While we were there, two elderly gentlemen stopped by the shop, one with a dog, the other carrying a child. The restaurant owner stepped out to speak with them, bringing some tripe for the very happy dog. Later, when a woman walked past carrying a dog, sensing my love of dogs, the owner explained that the dog couldn’t walk. He told us why, but my Italian/Neapolitan is definitely not there (Hmm, now that I think of it, given my nonexistent Neapolitan, maybe he was telling us why the woman had a dog and no children. Who knows?). The feeling was so inviting and neighborly, I completely fell in love with it. If you want to see for yourself, I even discovered a little video about it (in Italian)!
Dinner that day was also notable, although not so heartwarming. Being the birthplace of pizza, we had to have some in this beautiful city! We had margherita pizza at Brandi, the restaurant where this classic was created. Our pizza crust was thin and soft, and the toppings restrained in their application. They were cooked in a wood burning oven, which resulted in a perfectly textured crust and slightly smoky flavor. It was just what we needed at the end of a busy day.
Below are some photographs I took in the streets of Napoli, the Internet alternative to experiencing this vibrant, friendly city!
And here is the information for the locations we visited:
La Fonte Della Trippa O’Russ: via Sant’Eframo Vecchio 68, Napoli, Italy. Tel: +39 081 5991701.
Brandi: Salita Sant’Anna di Palazzo, 1-2, 80132 Napoli, Italy. Tel: +39 081 416928
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