Since starting to travel to Italy over a decade ago, I had always been cautioned about visiting Naples (or, properly in Italian, Napoli). I’ve heard its dirty, rough around the edges, not pretty and at its worst, plain dangerous. I trusted that most of these stereotypes were overblown, but prior to 2022, I had only passed through the Naples train station en route to the Amalfi Coast. Well, I finally got a chance for a brief visit in May 2022, and I throughly enjoyed it. I stayed in the tourist center during this visit, but I found Naples to be beautiful, safe enough (for most tourists, a pick pocket or the crazy drivers are probably your biggest worry), and home to some absolutely delicious food. To hit some great spots, Dan and I signed up for a food tour with Eating Europe and that was a great way to eat our way through the tourist center.
We met the rest of our food tour, which was just one other family visiting from Germany, in the GORGEOUS Galleria Umberto I. Galleria Umberto I is a fabulous old shopping mall, which reminded me a lot of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano (but with less luxury stores). I could not help but pick up a few souvenirs before our tour started… Regardless of tours or shopping, every visitor to Naples should pass though the Galleria Umberto I – its free to enter and not far from the train station and ferry port.
Once our whole group showed up, we walked a few minutes to our first tasting of pastries and coffee at a traditional Neapolitian bar close to Galleria Umberto I. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name or find it online, but it was very close to Galleria Umberto I, and what we tried can easily be found elsewhere. For those who haven’t spent a lot of time in Italy, a “bar” in Italy is not a traditional bar that we think of in the US, but a quick restaurant serving coffee, pastries, easy lunches and alcoholic beverages (more common later in the day).
At this particular bar, we enjoyed a traditional Naepolitian breakfast of espresso and sfogliatella. Sfogliatella is a local pastry that looks a lot like a seashell – flakey layered pastry in a crescent shape. The sfogliatella is topped with powdered sugar and ours was filled with a slightly sweet filing that I think was ricotta based. Sfogliatella are famous in Naples and you cannot leave without trying one.
We also tried a second pastry and I cannot recall its name (I know I was bad here)! This one looked a bit like the top of a muffin, had orange pieces inside and was very buttery. I definitely preferred this second pastry, but I’m not really a flakey pastry kind of girl. Our two pastries were served with a single espresso and a bit of water in a plastic cup. Very traditional.
After coffee and pastries at the bar, our walked by the famous Royal Palace of Naples, Piazza del Plebiscito and the San Carlos theatre before heading to our next food stop at a restaurant named Passione di Sofi. We also got a little history lesson en route.
Passione di Sofi is a casual restaurant not too far rom the Royal Palace that makes pizza (of course) but also “frittatina.” Frittatina is an old school Napoli lunch or breakfast meal that basically takes the previous night’s leftovers and deep fries it into a hand held snack. And yes, its extremely hearty! While there is no recipe that one must follow, our frittatina was made of pasta (yes, this is very common), peas, ham, and some sauce that was then deep fried in batter. We at the frittatina by hand and while very, very rich, it was delicious. I never thought I would like fried pasta, but it was good! I would definitely order again for a quick snack. For those in Naples and not doing a food tour, this is an easy, local snack to grab that is not common further north in Italy. The frittatina is also inexpensive – perfecto!
We left Passione di Sofi after the frittatina, we went on a walking tour through Naples’ Spanish Quarter, which is what I think of when I think “traditional Naples.” I’m talking tiny streets, hanging laundry, mopeds driving crazily, lots of murals, tributes to deceased (or jailed a la mafia) family members and even old bird cages attached to buildings that were used by the mafia. It was a very interesting stroll. Here are some of my favorite photos from our walk – I would love to return and explore more:
Our next, and final, stop on the tour was for Naples most famous food – la pizza! Pizza was invented in Naples and you really can not find better Neapolitan pizza elsewhere. For our pizza, our guide selected a tiny restaurant called L’Angolo di Sofia Loren for our pizza lunch. As we waited for pizza, we drank Aglianico wine from Southern Italy, which just happens to be one of Dan and my absolute favorite wines. This one was good and inexpensive if you see it on a menu.
We also started with an appetizer of buffalo mozzarella and local tomatoes topped with local oregano. This starter was great (much better than my photo looks!) and the ingredients super fresh. I was also happy to try this, because both tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella are from the area.
Eventually our pizza came out, with everyone receiving a half of pizza! As is traditional, we were served a Neapolitan Margherita pizza, which is thin, pillowy crust, topped with red tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. This style of pizza allegedly represents the three colors of the Italian flag – green, white and red. This pizza was really great and everything I had hoped for. The crust was really well done and the sauce was fantastic; I just wish I had an entire one, LOL.
We ended our lunch and tour with a small tasting of limoncello, which is always good in this part of the world. In total, our tour was enjoyable, our guide was fantastic, and this tour would be pretty easy to recreate on your own if you are spending a few hours in Naples. I would note that I expected a bit more food or food stops on this tour, and more is listed on the website. We visited in May of 2021, so perhaps things were off due to Covid…. I would probably shop around for more tours next time.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Taste of Old Napoli Food Tour (with Eating Europe): The cost was 89 euro/person and included everything mentioned in the post.
Passione di Sofi: Via Toledo, 206, 80132 Napoli NA, Italy.
L’Angolo di Sofia Loren: Vico Lungo Teatro Nuovo, 41, 80134 Napoli NA, Italy.
ON A BUDGET
If you are on a budget, skip the tour and pick up some snacks on your own. Naples is not too expensive and budget travelers will fare well.