Posts Tagged With: restaurants

Naples Part 2: Top 10 Things to Do

Buongiorno!

There are so many other things in Naples that I would love to have seen had I had more time. I definitely want to go back. There’s a whole world below the streets of Naples that I would have liked to explore – catacombs and caves. I only touched the surface as it were! If you’ve been to Naples and got any thoughts on what to see next, please do drop me a line in the comments below. Meanwhile, my top 10 favourite things to do are:

1. Sunset walk from Castel dell’Ovo (Castle of the Egg! More on that below) to Mergellina  (a coastal suburb) along the sea-front. Naples has a very Mediterranean coastline with beige, orangey and pinky buildings that, from a distance, seem to grow out of the sea. From Mergellina you can see lots of Naples, Castel dell’Ova and Vesuvius all bathed in a warm glow. There are lots of cats roaming about the marina here – presumably the fisherman let them have a few fish when they come in. Someone had even built them a little house on the rocks.

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Look at this cat box in Mergellina 🙂

2. Check-out Castel dell’Ovo. Legend has it the great Roman poet Virgil put an egg into the foundations – if it breaks, disaster will strike. Now the castle is used as offices and exhibition halls but it still has it’s old charm.  It’s free and interesting to wander around. It’s set on a little islet, connected to the seafront by a bridge. At the base of the castle there’s a collection of nice looking  restaurants facing onto the harbour. There are some nice views when you get to the top. This month there is a contemporary art exhibition by Lello Bavenni – it wasn’t ‘my cup of tea’ but it’s free and it’s set in a cave which is always good!

3. Get lost in the area called Santa Lucia to the left of Via Toledo (one of the main shopping streets in Naples). It’s maze of streets are interesting to walk around during the day and you get the feeling this is the ‘real’ Naples. In the evening it’s positively bustling and full of places to have an aperitivo. If you keep walking up as high as you can go, you get to a nice panorama of the city alongside an old abandoned military barracks.

4. Explore the old town around ‘Spaccanapoli‘ (‘Divides Naples’) which is where the majority of shops are. Many are dedicated to selling tourist stuff like ‘portafortuna’ (good luck charms), primarily of the red “corna” or horn variety. If it’s not a shop selling those, then it’s selling models for “presepe” (nativity scenes) the making of which is a big tradition in Naples. They sometimes apply mechanics to the models so they move. I took pictures of my favourites less religious models (below): a dentist leaning repetitively into the mouth of this poor bloodied man and even George Michael and Prince (and someone else familiar I can’t put my finger on!).  There are lots of food and drink places here too and a heavy smattering of churches.

5. Watch people try and walk through the two horses in Piazza Plebiscito blind folded. Apparently it’s a tradition (to do it, rather than watch it).

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My favourite thing about Piazza Plebiscito are the sculptures of past Kings on the Royal Palace which borders the piazza, particularly this one…

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I imagine he was captured mid-conversation after someone asked him why he had a chicken on his head. “Who? Moi?”

5. Check out Galleria Umberto, near Piazza Plebiscito. It’s absolutely stunning with its glass ceilings. It’s a shopping mall so free to get in.

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6. Walk up to Certosa di San Martino. It’s a very elegant building on top of the hill. You can get a funicular train for only 1 euro but it was shut when I tried. Alternatively, you can walk up there from the main road using the ‘Pedantina’ (this word means basically ‘nice pretty little walkway’ but in my opinion it was a ‘Pedantaccio’ (‘horrible walkway’) which seemed to go on forever and was covered in broken glass which I can only assume is the result of the youth  launching bottles from the top piazza to the path below. The Certosa is 11 euros including an audio guide. Unless you’re an absolute art aficionado, the audio guide probably doesn’t add a lot. There’s impressive murals and veneered artwork and other interesting permanent exhibitions like the presepe (nativity scenes which Naples is known for), carts and boats which are all interesting to see. However, for me the views from the terraces and garden were well worth the price of the ticket.

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And just look at this ‘presepe’ complete with flying angels!!!

My favourite picture in the Certosa was:

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I think the artist has perfectly captured the  ‘exhausted mother expression’ showing us no parent is exempt: “No I don’t want to play ball, perhaps if you let me have a wink of sleep this last week I wouldn’t be quite so exhausted”.

7. Visit the Santa Chiara monastery. It’s 6 euros to get in. There’s a museum element to the building but it’s worth paying just to have a few minutes relaxing amidst the orange trees and sit in the shade of the cloister. The decor is vibrant in the square to say the least, a little bit like a tacky seaside resort but it actually rather works I think!

8. Marvel at photo’s of the renown Veiled Christ marble sculpture on your laptop comfortably in your hotel room. Alternatively, spend 7 euros at Cappella di Sansevero queuing to see it, have your view blocked by tourists (pesky tourists) and then leave 5 minutes later (because there’s nothing much else to do there) without even being allowed to even take a photo.  The statue is very impressive indeed, a real work of genius by Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753, but in my opinion you can view it in more detail and get the same, indeed more of, a sense of awe from photos when you’re not surrounded by loads of other people. On the other hand, thousands of people on TripAdvisor have judged it the top thing to do out of hundreds of things to do in Naples so what do I know!

9. Have a sit down and relax in the Gesu’ Nuovo church. It’s pretty ugly on the outside but lovely, spacious and cool on the inside! There’s lots of other churches to see too and it’s worth popping into them to have a look when you go past one.

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10. Whilst you’re in Naples, it’s important to try some traditional Napoletano delicacies!

  • Margherita Pizza. I had mine at Acquolina on the coast at Castel dell’Ovo. Neapolitan pizza is doughy and soft; thin in the middle and bready and thick at the edges. Ask for Mozzarella di Buffalo which is the more superior mozzarella – you can really taste the difference. I’ve always preferred thin and crispy pizza’s but I could be converted by the one I had here. Great service too. I got two complimentary glasses of prosecco and a limoncello!
  • Espresso Naples style. Have this at the Gran Caffe’ Gambrinus on the corner of Piazza Plebiscito. The woman at the till was horridly grumpy (you have to pay at the till first and then take your receipt to the bar to get your drink) but the barmen more than made up for it. You have to ask for a “caffe” and try not to feel short-changed that you’re getting about 3 millimeters of coffee in a cup that will burn the skin off your lips. Apart from being scalding, it really was a good espresso – not bitter at all. AND it came with a refreshing glass of fizzy water (which I assumed was to take the taste away of the coffee but it seems to be used as a palate cleanser before it).
  • Sfogliatelle. These are traditional flakey pastry delights with a creamy centre. Mmmm.
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Not the best photo of a traditional margherita pizza but I was trying to be quick before I was seen!

On a slightly separate but related note; watch out for the waiters weaving in and out of traffic wielding cups of coffee. Good coffee seems such an important thing here people order it in rather than just making a cup in their office kitchen!

If you’ve seen Naples or have anything to add please do leave a comment…

Tune in for Part 3: Pompeii & Herculaneum.

x

 

 

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The Good Life in Emilia-Romagna: Part 2 -Restaurants

Buongiorno a tutti,

I’ve decided to split up part 2 of my Blog Tour having two food and drink sections, one dealing with place to eat and the other dealing with the manufacturing side of it. I acknowledge this is quite a bad trilogy strategy, given Part 3 is yet to come and may also be broken down into a couple of manageable chunks! My Trilogy is fast becoming a Pentalogy…

Now as a precursor to this section – I will mention that we got all of our food free for this blog tour and whilst there was absolutely no mandate saying we should only write nice things about the restaurants, it’s difficult not to feel obliged in some sense. However, I have not sold myself to the devil… I feel like I can honestly say that all the food we had over the course of the blog tour was excellent whilst maintaining my honour and integrity! I mention this because…

CambioLogico – Forlì

… is probably the best restaurant I’ve ever been to. And I’m going to say something now, but you must promise not to skip this review out of some ill-informed and misguided stereotype…  It’s a vegan restaurant. I’m vegetarian. It’s not actually too difficult to find vegetarian food in Italy – there will always be a pizza or a pasta with tomato sauce that I can eat.   The same goes for restaurants in the UK – there’s always something to eat but it’s never very imaginative. To be honest, in my opinion, the “meat” options aren’t either so I never feel any great loss.

But this restaurant is ALL imagination. We had a taste of some of their most successful dishes and each one was incredibly impressive. Being vegan forces a creativity that the meat eating community can usually only ever dream of. In fact, I was recently at a Michelin star restaurant and as interesting as it was, I don’t think it had anything on this restaurant, even the meat courses from what I could see. Given the amount of thought and effort that went into the preparation of each dish, well, I’m quite frankly stunned that the prices are no higher than any other restaurant you can find in town.

The menu changes regularly and includes raw food dishes as well, but they were so well prepared you wouldn’t even notice.  These chefs are more like chemists of nature, mixing organic and locally sourced ingredients together in a way to produce something which seems completely unrelated to the original elements! We had courgette spaghetti with a lemon and ginger cream, tartlets, the nicest burger I’ve ever had made with beetroot and rice of all things, crackers and “cheese”, ice-cream, “cheese”cake and about a million more things. We were all completely stuffed by the end of the meal and even my slightly more carnivorous fellow bloggers were thoroughly impressed. I only had my camera phone so I haven’t done the meal the justice it deserves but here’s a peak…

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The music was great (in fact, it’s as though they hacked into my personal playlist!), there was a great ambiance, and I’m really pleased to say that it was incredibly popular too with most tables booked out.  We met the chef who, together with our waiter,  were incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about their work.

So in summary, if you’re ever in Forlì, go to this restaurant!

Casa Spadoni – Faenza

One evening we had a “cena di solidarieta”, a dinner of solidarity as part of the Settinama del Buon Vivere where there must have been well over a hundred guests, all in formal evening wear (I had to ‘acquire’ formal evening wear the previous day! There is limited scope for going to balls, living in the middle of nowhere, so my gala dresses were somewhat non existent).

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These are some snaps from the night with myself and fellow bloggers!

Casa Spadoni itself is a great venue – very elegant, nicely decorated and quite frankly, massive. The food was also good, particularly considering just how many people they had to serve at the same time. The dish in the bottom right hand corner of the photo below was cheese, cheese and more cheese. I love cheese, I hadn’t thought it would ever be possible to have enough cheese – but in fact, I found my limit!

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Osteria Nascosto –  Forlì

An “Osteria” is a place to eat where they serve simple, home-cooked traditional meals. “Nascosto” means hidden and I can confirm, it really was hidden but well worth finding. The décor was rather basic with tiled walls and bright lights – certainly not a romantic setting, but I really liked it. There clientele are locals and when that’s the case, you know you’ve hit upon a good place. It felt a bit like we had been let it on a secret!  The food is very much traditional from the Romagna region.  I ate passatelli – a type of very short fat spaghetti made with eggs, bread crumbs and parmesan. You don’t find it anywhere else in Italy and so it was my first taste. Once you get over the fact it looks a bit like worms, it really is very tasty. I might have a go at making some myself!

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I loved this cup, saucer and jug “objet d’art”.  I might have a go at doing that too!

Amburgheria Creativa – Forlì

I have been known to complain about the lack of international food in Italy. I miss curry, chinese and mexican… and I miss burgers! I think it’s probably different in a city, but certainly where I am, you can’t get a burger. So I was pleased when I heard we were going to check out a new burger place in Forli that opened recently.

These are burgers with a twist – using ingredients sourced locally, cooked in-house and with a ‘Romagnolo’ feel – in fact, that was even the title of one of the burgers! The staff here are proud about their heritage and their ethics and it comes together really well in the form of a selection of, I must say, very tasty burgers. I think it’s fair to say that in Italy vegetarians are often an afterthought but here the first part of the menu was dedicated to vegans and vegetarians. Their attention to detail was excellent – for each burger there was even a recommended beer. Burgers to me have a bit of a junk food reputation – the kind of meal you have when you’re tired and just don’t care whether you’re going to be eating a million calories. However, this burger was so light that I left feeling healthier than when I went in.

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The decor is young and hip – I loved their rope light. The only downside, but also it’s upside I guess, is that it caters more for takeaway (takeaways are few and far between in Italy! Particularly ones that deliver and don’t just do pizza!). There isn’t a lot of space to eat inside and although there are tables and chairs outside, winter is coming!

So all in all, I’ve eaten so much good food that I will need to diet until Christmas in order to lose the weight I think.

Watch this space for part 3 of the Pentalogy!

A presto,

x

 

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Touring Forli…

Buongiorno a tutti!

I’ve been on a Blog Tour! Never heard of one of those? Neither had I until a month or so ago when I was invited along as part of a tour by Romagna Fulltime and the Camera di Commercio di Forlì to explore the city of Forlì (note the accented “i” which means you pronounce it Forleee!). There were only seven  other fellow bloggers here with me so I felt thoroughly honoured to be invited along. As it turns out I’ve been following some of these bloggers for years so it was lovely to meet them in person and I’m thrilled to have discovered some new blogs too. We were a diverse bunch, each with  our own individual perspectives. My fellow bloggers are experts in art, history, wine, food and architecture and then there’s me of course, more of a jack of all trades and master of none!!!!!!!!! Anyway, to hear what the others have to say about Forlì, check out these blogs:

As a bit of background, Forlì is a city in Emilia-Romagna (the next region to the north of Le Marche where I live). It’s a nice city. It doesn’t have the grandeur of places like Rome and it’s definitely not quaint. In fact, the city initially has a bit of a utilitarian feel to me. From a purely superficial standpoint it would be easy to overlook Forlì because of that, but don’t! It’s interesting BECAUSE of that. It’s the architecture, and the history behind it that sets it apart from other Italian cities and makes it well worth a visit. Apart from the cultural and architectural aspects, the town authorities are passionate about Forlì as a base for art and exhibitions. I visited Forli for the first time earlier this year to see an exhibition of one of my favourite artists Giovanni Boldini, an absolutely amazing portrait painter from Ferrara (one of the nearby towns). It was an excellent exhibition so I was already somewhat pre-dispositioned to like Forlì  from an artistic perspective anyway.  However, we had a whirlwind tour of three other exhibitions (some of which served to further my  confidence in my own artistic abilities!) and it’s only added to my esteem in that regard.

As an aside, if I’ve got any of the information in this blog wrong, then it’s entirely my fault. The talks and the Guides were excellent but my Italian translation skills at speed, particularly after wine and massive meals sometimes leave a little to be desired!

Anyway, here are some photos taken around the town…

 

 

Architecture – Fascist and otherwise

We had a very interesting walking tour from Bernadette, our guide, focusing on the architectural side of the city. If you want to do this yourself, everything is in very easy walking distance of the center and there are lots of maps to help you find your way at the Information Tourist Office.

Mussolini, the Italian Dictator, was born 15km away from Forlì in a town called Predappio. I don’t think this was adequately impressive enough as a town in its own right so Forlì took on the role of being his more public “home”. It was an important place for him and his regime and there are a lot of reminders of that around the city . There are a lot of people who like Mussolini in Italy, including most of my neighbours. We learnt about him in school in the UK, none of it particularly good, so it was a surprise coming to Italy and hearing about how many still to hold him in such high regard. However, in Forlì, I can see why people might have liked him and still do. There were vast parts of Emilia-Romagna completely under-developed and covered in bogs. Mussolini extended railway networks, built schools and housing and developed industries on otherwise unused land.

My favourite part of the tour though was a stop off in what is now a school but previously, was the ex Collegio Aeronautico (Aeronautical College, Piazzale della Vittoria). A series of black and white mosaics cover the walls and show the history of air travel from start to finish (well, not quite  “finish”, things have carried on a bit since then). It was fascinating! Click on the images for more information…

If you’re interested in Fascist Architecture, then check out the Atrium Route. It’s a tourist itinerary connecting several countries in Europe which have cultural heritage of different totalitarian regimes. Forlì is on the route, as is Predappio (Mussolini’s hometown). The pack we received as part of the tour is pretty extensive and comes with information cards for each of the main sites. I’ll be keeping it in mind if I venture further afield.

Though there was a focus on the Fascist architecture on the tour, actually for me, of note are the number of houses that have frescos just beneath the roofs, all with different designs. Really quite pretty. You don’t see that in my area!

The Verzocchi Collection at Palazzo Romagnoli

This exhibition was in Palazzo Romagnoli, an interesting building in itself with frescos on almost all of the ceilings. It’s a nice place to wander around. Verzocchi was Forlivese (meaning someone that comes from Forlì) and an entrepreneur. He commissioned paintings with the theme of “Work”. There are about seventy all in all and they show not just a slice of history in terms of the type of work back in those days, but also the style of paintings. They all had his brand “V&D” painted into the picture, usually on a brick. It’s quite a challenge to find some of them! My thoughts on this exhibition? I really like the idea that this entrepreneur requested paintings from people with only two criteria – the theme and the brand. There should be more of that! From a wanna-be-artist perspective, I found this collection an odd mix of inspiring and frustrating. I’ve included below three of the ones I found most inspiring/frustrating with  my rationale.

So, in summary, I’m always worried to present myself as an “artist” but no more; if these guys can get away with it, so can I (and now you can see perhaps why I’m not a famous art critic). On a separate note, there’s little information about this collection online. If you’re interested, visit!

Afro, Pensieri nella mano at Musei San Domenico

This building is ideal for exhibitions. It’s a converted ex-convent and where I saw the Giovvani Boldini exhibition a few months back. Currently the downstairs is dedicated to the works of Afro Basaldella, an Italian painter  (1912 – 1976). Afro seemed to do a bit of everything; painting, tapestry, jewellry makingand printing.

His works are a bit too abstract for my liking but I appreciate his diversifying into different mediums!

Steve McCurry at Musei San Domenico

Now this was spectacular. I suspect many of you will know some of his most famous photos, even if you didn’t know his name. The exhibition is entitled “Icons and Women” and is a photo journal of his time travelling the world. His photos are amazing. The subject matter, the composition, the photos themselves… they’re just absolutely stunning, each and every one. Our guide was very knowledgeable and was able to recount the stories behind many of the photos making it even more interesting. The exhibition is breath-taking. I thoroughly recommend going!

The next exhibition at the San Domenico Museo is dedicated to Piero della Francesca, Indagine di un Mito (Investigating a Myth) from the 13th February 2016. We had a sneak peak at some of the paintings (or at least, photos of the paintings) that would be included in the exhibition and there are some I recognised from other exhibitions in the area. I think my favourite painting of his is of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. I always thought with portraits that you’re supposed to paint your subject with an element of flattery. Poor Duke. Piero must have been a brave man. Anyway, it’s an interesting style of portrait. You don’t often see portraits in full profile and the vast background makes it pretty unique. I’m hoping to go back to Forlì to see the rest of the exhibition.

Duke

Churches

My neighbour has drilled it into me that I must visit every church I come acrosss. I did my duty in Forli. Evidence included below.

She often tells me that the churches are where most of the artistic masterpieces are and she’s right. This is my new favourite statue…

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Where better place to keep your creepy looking lion?

 

Where to eat

As part of the tour we ate at a couple of restaurants. On the first night we went to Salume’.  It’s highly rated on TripAdvisor and I can see why. The food was great. They had some good vegetarian options too and a massive selection of wine it seemed. The service was good and the restaurant stylish and intimate. The mascarpone cream desert was gooooooood.

The next day we had lunch in Eataly, a chain of restaurants and seller of Italian food products. The Eataly in Forlì is the first one I’ve come across but there are others around Italy too. It was in a superb location, in the main square (Piazza Saffi) and there are great views from the piazza from the third floor where the restaurant is.

Where to stay

We were based in Hotel Massini which is a minute or so walk from the main piazza so very central. The service was good. They didn’t even complain when I forgot to check out!

Travelling around

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It’s easy to get around the center in Forli just on foot but there are bikes to hire if you’d like and if you want to go further afield, there are buses and good train links to the local area.

Summary

All in all, it was an interesting couple of days and I’d certainly recommend a visit. If you’re coming from outside the area then it would be easy to combine it with a tour taking in Ravenna (click here for my review of Ravenna!), Rimini, San Leo and San Marino (I went to those in one fell swoop – read about it here). There’s even a Romagna Visit Card which will allow you to get into some of the main sites at a discount or for free.

Finally, something that made me chuckle (but not the woman at the stall)…

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Forli is the only place I know of where you can buy wallets made of man skin (ok, OK, I can see that perhaps the more likely translation is that these wallets are made out of leather and are for men but I prefer my version!).

If you have any questions on Forli, or if I’ve made any heinous errors, or if you’d like to  invite me on a Blog Tour (I would like to make it clear that I’m available to travel abroad too… the Maldives, the Bahamas…), then please get in touch!

Have good weeks all,

x

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