5.18.09 Notorious Napoli and the Best Pizza in the World!

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Pizzaria da Michele

5.18.09 Notorious Napoli and the Best Pizza in the World!

 

Two kinds of guys are in Napoli:  the “bad guys” and the nice guys who warn you about the bad guys!  Fortunately, we only met the nice guys today, who twice provided warnings.

 

Napoli is not the type of place I’d choose to live. It’s hot, loud, dirty, trashy, dusty, crime-ridden and poor.  The city has been run for many years by organized crime families who maintain most of the wealth gotten from drug running.  Sound fun?  Still, we wanted to see it.

 

So we took our Pompei Circumvesuviana Train in this morning (18.

Charles eyes that pizza
40E for the 4 of us round-trip) the half hour to Napoli. 

 

Napoli trains are graffiti-painted ��"not sure if the artwork was commissioned or volunteered.  There’s no air conditioning.  Here’s my rating system for train rides in hot cities:  fine, miserable, and unbearably miserable.  Today’s rides were merely miserable, particularly this afternoon’s hot ride home.  Still, it beats walking!

 

There were many tourists on the train with so much luggage, you’d think they were moving here!  They looked like sitting duck targets for the forewarned “bad guys.” with their pristine color-matching rolling bags.  Yikes!  I figured that as long as they were around, nobody was going to pick on us. 

 

The stations here do not have escalators up to the streets (and are not wheelchair accessible).

Double mozzarella!
  I helped one older lady haul her second suitcase up the two flights of stairs. 

 

You have GOT to be able to carry all of your luggage.  That is rule number one for safety. 

 

Plus, when it is a million degrees, you are running for the hourly train that is leaving in 30 seconds, and then you stand in the aisle of the hot train (hanging on for dear life) for 45 minutes, you do not want a bunch of bags with you!  People, love yourself and pack light!

 

When you are packing, just think of Maslow’s base level of needs:  water, security, food, clothing, and shelter.  The rest just doesn’t matter after awhile and your focus will be elsewhere.

 

Back to Napoli:  the Information man in the Napoli train station was very helpful with a map and directions to Pizzaria da Michele’s.

Pizzaria da Michele
  The people we met in Napoli, while city gruff, were as nice as in any city we’ve visited. 

 

We walked the main street from the Napoli Centrale station, which admittedly is not one of Napoli’s best areas.  The people hanging out on the street seemed to be unhappy poor with crushed spirits, which is different from poor-but-happy in Mexico.  It was hard to see.

 

Horns blow repeatedly with irritation, cars maneuver in a free-for-all through intersections with traffic lights that aren’t lit, and hundreds of makeshift tables of the same sales items (sunglasses, bead trinkets, and fake handbags) line the main streets.  The people look worn, dejected, tired.  Housing buildings look the same.  It is not a particularly fun city to visit.

 

Here’s how to cross the road:  go to the little blue arrow signs that indicate a pedestrian crosswalk -there may be lines painted on the road too.

Pizzaria da Michele
  Don’t just stand there waiting for traffic to stop for the pedestrians because it won’t.  Just walk across -oncoming traffic *should* stop.  And so should the three high speed motorcycles zooming past the cars.  Go quickly because they’re counting on it.  There are no lights or signals indicating when you should go.  Good luck!

 

Pizzaria da Michele (“mi-KEL-ee”):  Lunch was exceptional!  We arrived at Pizzaria da Michele at 11:25am and waited first in line for an open table until they opened the back section of the small classic pizzeria.  We chatted with some backpackers from Ohio and some Canadian ladies behind us in line. 

 

One lady admitted she had read “Eat, Pray, Love” which describes this place.  Today is her 40th Birthday and coming here was her wish!  I love that.

Napoli
  While the guys acted clueless, I suspect they knew about “the book” or had at least been advised to go there.  We enjoyed exchanging travel info with them -they too are headed to Capri tomorrow, but then to Rome. 

 

Fortunately, right after one of them asked, “What would possess someone to go off traveling for a year?” (an odd question indeed coming from an amiable fellow traveler), we were seated in the opened back room.

 

We ordered the requisite Double Mozzarella pizza as well as the Margarita and the traditional pizzas, which were all divine.  You only get a few choices of pizza type.  This is serious pizza.  They are 5th generation Master Pizza Makers who have strong beliefs about being pure to the traditional pizza.  I am not kidding- look them up on the internet.

Napoli
    

 

The best pizza is made in Italy, and the best pizza in Italy is in Napoli (the birthplace of pizza), and the best pizza in Napoli is said to be at de Michele’s!  They are known for the secret way their dough is leavened.  If you’re late, you might miss out because they can run out of dough.  Closed on Sunday, so we timed it for today.  THEY are the real reason we came to Napoli:  to eat the best pizza in the world!

 

Charles afterward said, “That was AMAZING.”  He thinks Master Pizza Maker is one heck of a job.

 

Pizzas around this here are 12” handmade thin crusts, olive oil, tomato sauce, and on all but the traditional Neapolitan kind, cheese.

Napoli
  They run from about 4E to 5.50E each and are generally for one adult each, since the crust is thin.  They are delectable!

 

Afterward, we stopped in a few stores, browsed some markets, and headed back to the train station.  A Floridian woman originally from Napoli, stood on the train with a sleeping baby and full gear until we shared a seat so she could sit too.  Several strapping men on the train did not get up to offer her a seat, which is unusual - most people have been very polite during our travels.  This train ride ranked miserable with the heat, but at least it was only 30 minutes and a cool siesta in Sugar followed.

 

More on Southern Italy:

 

There is a lemon tree in our campground and it is filled with ripe yellow lemons!  Very neat!  The stalls beside the train road (by the ruins) sell lemons, oranges, and a lemon-cedar, which we thought was a gigantic lemon.

Napoli train
  We bought some of each and have made fresh squeezed lemonade and orange juice.  Yum!  Will let you know about the lemon-cedar, or whatever he called it.

 

Last night we had a near-emergency when our campground pizzeria did not open at 7pm as expected!  In fact, it was closed for Sunday- how could this be?! 

 

So we got directions to the town of Pompei just down the road a ways and enjoyed a delightful pizzeria while our waiter, Ciro (“Chir-O”) played some music that had “Americans” in it.  We videotaped it to see if we can figure out later what they were saying about us! 

 

Our chef came out with our pizzas to meet the Americanos and he checked not only to see if these Texans supported “W”, but to see if we voted for him “ten years ago.

Limon-cedar
  I think he was happy when I declared “Never Republican- never!”  Everywhere we go people tell us how much they love Obama.  One little kid said, “I love Obama and my mama!”  Cute! 

 

I tried to order a small glass of house red wine, but somehow ended up with a little carafe that was at least 2 plastic cups worth for 2E.  Some communication is lost in the translation, but it was all delightful.

 

It was Sunday Promenade night in Pompei!  Everyone was out walking the cobblestone street of this small town.  There were families, kissing couples (Lia thinks this public display of affection from France on south is very strange) - everyone! 

 

However, there was something odd- for being such a small town, there weren’t many greetings happening, as if locals didn’t know each other.

Fresh limonade
  In Mexico and Guatemala, all the people would be out on the streets, but they would be socializing with each other.  Here, people would just walk, buy gelato, and window shop.  I am curious about this.

 

Here’s more about our experience in southern Italy: while it’s hot during a few afternoon hours, a pleasant cool breeze blowing.  The sun is bright and hot, while the shade is delightful.  Many birds sing melodically in the morning.  The bushes, trees, and clover are all blooming and perfuming the sweet air.  We are fighting allergies with all the pollen, but it is a lovely place.

 

Our Spartacus campground staff is delightful, and we particularly like Rosario.    We have campers near us from Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.  While we exchange smiles and waves, there’s not much further camper interaction.  I need to initiate more, but the language difficulties admittedly intimidate me.  It would be so great to speak multiple languages fluently!

 

Camping in Pompei and visiting the other places by train was a great suggestion by the Church’s.  We get very attached to the people in each area and it quickly feels like “home”.  If we rely on public transportation, then it is much easier to base for a few nights rather than to move around and relearn a new area’s services.  We’re having a wonderful time!  Capri tomorrow and then on to Greece!

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Pizzaria da Michele
Pizzaria da Michele
Charles eyes that pizza
Charles eyes that pizza
Double mozzarella!
Double mozzarella!
Pizzaria da Michele
Pizzaria da Michele
Pizzaria da Michele
Pizzaria da Michele
Napoli
Napoli
Napoli
Napoli
Napoli
Napoli
Napoli train
Napoli train
Limon-cedar
Limon-cedar
Fresh limonade
Fresh limonade
Naples
photo by: Joost1976