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A culinary tour of Naples – best leave your calorie counter at home
A city of contrasts: Naples is known for its rustic charm and good food, but also for its poverty and loud, crowded streets. The best way to discover the good bits of the city and its culinary highlights is to fully embrace "Italianità", the spirit of Italianness, which you will find in abundance in Italy's third-largest city.
To fortify yourself well before meandering through the narrow streets of the historic city centre, start off with a typical Italian pastry in an espresso bar. You'll be spoilt for choice when you see the heaving shelves in the pasticceria, but we quickly decided on our favourite, sfogliatelle! This shell-shaped pastry made of cleverly crafted layers of puff pastry has a creamy filling made of semolina, ricotta and candied fruits and is perfect for those who love a sweet breakfast. However we were also unable to resist the rum babas and mini wild strawberry tortes.
Fuelled with caffeine and pastries, the next stop you should make is at one of Naples' many markets. Almost every city district has its own little market. The atmosphere is loud and rowdy, so when haggling over the price of seafood, vegetables or fruit and the like you may need to resort to hand gestures to make yourself understood. The seafront fish market in the Mergellina district is particularly worth a visit, and if you get up early you can watch the fishermen unload and display their catch.
If you need an oasis of calm in amongst the swerving mopeds and honking car horns, try peeking into some backyards. Looking at ornate buildings, gardens overgrown with plants or delightfully clean-smelling freshly washed laundry drying in the sun for just a little while will provide a moment’s escape from the hustle and bustle of life in the big city.
The area around the "Via dei Tribunali" is a good place to be if your tummy starts to rumble as you are strolling through the maze of narrow streets. On every corner you'll find little street food stalls and window displays with food to go. Basically, the Neapolitans love fried food and you will find things like fritto misto (fried fish and seafood), arancini (stuffed rice balls), panelle (chickpea fritters) and even fried pizza – but switch off your calorie counters if you want to enjoy them to the full. To drink we recommend a glass of cooling and refreshing "granita al limone", which is made from incredibly aromatic lemons grown on the Amalfi Coast.
The biggest crowds on the Via dei Tribunali will always, however, be found at the pizzerias. They are the pride and joy of Naples. In the birthplace of this fast food classic the doughy, elastic crust is light and airy, and the topping made of tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella, basil and olive oil goes perfectly with the typical Neapolitan base. The pizzaiolos are in complete agreement on one thing, which is that only the best ingredients from the area around Naples must be used, to ensure that even a simple margherita becomes an unforgettable gastronomic experience. Moreover, if you don't manage to get a seat in one of the restaurants with their wood-fired ovens, you won't go hungry as you can also get takeaway; for instance a "portafoglio" is double folded so you can eat it straight from the oven. The best pizzerias such as "Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo" and "Di Matteo" are easy to find – they are the ones with the biggest queues outside on the street.
If you would like to spend the evening in a rather more peaceful location then you can get comfy on the seafront promenade in the warmth of the setting sun. There is a selection of market stalls to visit, and then you can sit back with a glass of Apérol Spritz in your hand, look out at the nearby islands of Capri or Procida and enjoy reflecting on your day.
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