Thought for the Week

“Those who travel heedlessly from place to place, observing only their distance from each other, and attending only to their accommodation at the inn each night, set out fools and will certainly return so.”

– Lord Chesterfield (1694 - 1773), English statesman

Pizza in Naples

Introducing a young Harry Potter – or at least a Harry Potter look-alike – to Neapolitan pizza on one of our Hand Crafted Tours in 2006

One of the tidbits of advice that I give travelers heading to Italy is to avoid pizza north of Rome. Pizza is universal to a certain extent, but serious pizza is Neapolitan and Roman (want to start an argument – tell a Roman that pizza is Neapolitan, or vice versa). The distinctions between the two schools is not relevant here. If you order pizza anywhere else it should at least be cooked in a wood burning oven in a proper pizzeria (preferably by a native Neapolitan).

Probably the most famous pizza place in Naples right now is Antica Pizzeria da Michele, thanks in large part to it being featured in a very famous book and movie (which shall remain nameless). They only have two choices: Marinara (sauce, oil, oregano) or Margherita (sauce, oil, cheese, basil), but there is perfection in their simplicity. There's no question that the pizza at da Michele is one of the best, if not the best I've ever had. Even before becoming a star of print and screen, locals would stand in line for an hour or more to get a table, and a constant stream of boxes were being strapped to Vespas for delivery to local office workers. If you plan to eat at da Michele, arrive early (by 11:00), or during the lull around 16:00.

If you get to da Michele and find the look of the line unbearable, just around the corner is Pizzeria Trianon da Ciro. With multiple levels there is far more seating, and you can usually get in quickly. They have a more expansive menu, too. Not quite as good, but it will do in a pinch.

Both of these are a short walk from the main train station, and even closer to the end station of the Circumvesuviana, the train line that connects Naples to a string of villages along the bay, including Pompeii, and Sorrento. If you are visiting the National Archaeology Museum, the best option is Pizzeria da Sorbillo Gino. Sobillo's pizza goes head to head with da Michele as the best in Naples, and you're likely to find a line here, too. Be careful, though. There are several pizza places in the area masquerading as 'Sorbillo'. The one you want is at Via dei Tribunali 32.

Also nearby, Antica Pizzeria Porta d'Alba frequently is mentioned as one of the oldest, if not the oldest pizza places in Naples. While their pizzas are decent, I've never been very impressed with the quality, with the atmosphere, or with the service. I'd stick to one of the three listed above.

Dutch display their intolerance

But who can blame them, when tourists behave badly. Het Parool newspaper reported that communities like Volendam and Zaanse Schans, collectively known as Old Holland for their historic windmills and well-preserved Dutch Golden Age architecture, have issued a list of rules for tourists.

Just a few of the rules they expect visitors to adhere to:

  • Don't photograph locals without permission.
  • Don't litter.
  • Don't wander through private gardens.
  • Don't knock on the walls of wooden houses to see if they are real. People live there.

Who knew that the Dutch could be so unwelcoming?

Travel Thought for the Week

“The traveler who has gone to Italy to study the tactile values of Giotto, or the corruption of the Papacy, may return remembering nothing but the blue sky and the men and women who live under it.”– E.M. Forster (1879-1970), A Room with a View

TBT: Brolio Castle

Group at Brolio Castle

A Hand Crafted tour group enjoying the views from Brolio Castle, in Tuscany's Chianti region.

Located deep in the heart of Chianti wine country, midway between Florence and Siena, Brolio Castle has been in the Ricasoli family for more than 800 years. During the Middle Ages wars between the independent republics of Florence and Siena led to construction of many defensive structures like this, the owners swearing allegiance to one side or the other. The Ricasoli family sided with Florence, and their castle was one of the most powerful in Chianti. "When Brolio growls, all Siena trembles" was a local saying.

In the late 1800's Baron Bettino Ricasoli had the old family estate rebuilt in a neo-Gothic style. During his time at the castle he began experimenting with the local wines, developing what today is the recipe for high quality Chianti wines. The Ricasoli Winery is still one of the premier wine producers in the Chianti region.

The interior of the castle is off limits to tourists, as its still used by the family. Visitors can explore the castle grounds, though, and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and forest..

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