Napoli

February 22, 2013-NapoliRain-1629

February 22, 2013-NapoliRain-1629
Napoli, or Naples, is a town that unfortunately has set a reputation for it’s crime and scandals.  The city itself is one of the oldest cities in the world.  The city has been home to numerous empires and got its name from the ancient Greeks as Neapolis, or “New City.”  As I will discuss in the next post, Naples was a major target during WWII and is known as the most bombed city (the green roofs are due to the United States bombings of the city).   Being one of the most populous cities around the Mediterranean, it is understandable that it also has one of the largest historic centers in all of Europe.

The straight street seen in the center of the photograph is known as the “Spaccanapoli” was an ancient Roman road to the center of the city.

The beautiful weather we received while on our trip is accurately portrayed in this photograph.  Lots of rain.  Taken from Castel Sant’Elmo.

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After an early ride on the train, we got to Napoli just in time to see the sky’s open up – with lots of rain.  Unfortunately this would set the trend for the two days we were spending in one of the most famous southern Italian cities.

We were on this trip as a “field study” for our class, the Economics of Organized Crime.  The trip was to show how illegal and legal things coexist within the city of Napoli (mainly when it comes to things affiliated with the mafia powers of the area).

Right off the train, we took a metro over to a vertical tram that brought us up towards Castel Sant’Elmo.  The Castle itself dates back to 1275 and has been used for a number of things.  Currently, it is being restored as a museum and provides tourists with great views of Napoli.  After braving the rain hitting us sideways, we walked down to a cafe near the historic centre of Napoli.  Our professor had us try a traditional Neapolitan treat called a ‘babà’ which resembles a cupcake, but with a longer bottom.  It is a very fluffy, doughy treat that is drizzled with a sauce that has a rum flavor to it.   

February 22, 2013-Omega-1661Omega

With some fresh pastries in our stomachs, we headed over to the Omega Glove Factory.  This factory is one of the ONLY remaining true leather/handmade glove factories in the world.  There are only a handful left in Paris.  The owner, Mauro, (who is a direct descendant of the founder almost a century ago) gave us a great rundown of how the gloves are made in over twenty-five steps – all by hand!  There is a small documentary on their website (http://www.omegasrl.com) that the owner made a few years back that fully describes the process.  It was amazing to see the impact that the factory has on the surrounding neighborhood.  It not only has provided jobs for many years, but also gives them pride and protection from the mafioso in the city.

February 22, 2013-OmegaAlberto-1651Mauro demonstrating how to make a glove

For lunch, we enjoyed some (quasi) classic Neapolitan pizza, margarita with prosciutto.  I only say quasi because the true Neapolitan pizza has anchovies and capers on there – not to my taste.  With our stomachs full of delicious pizza, we began a tour of the town centre, which included tens of figurine shops.  We even go to stop into a Limoncello factory to see how it’s made – a staple of Italy.

When the rain began to pick back up, we headed to the hostel to settle in before dinner.  We headed back to the same restaurant for dinner to try some more staples of the Neapolitan cuisine.  Many family members and friends may know I’m not the best at trying new things, but that has been part of the growth process of being in Europe for me – try anything and everything new.  Most of the time it has been because I honestly have no idea what I’m eating, and the rest to purely experience the culture.  So here we are, I’m about to try a dish called “Linguine al Cartoccio”.  A giant paper wrapped bag is placed on a table near our table and ripped open.  The waiter serves us portions of linguini with clams, mussels (sounds normal?), full prawns/shrimp (okay.. not used to this), squid…. AND octopus.  I did my best on most of shellfish, but there’s something about squid and octopus that I couldn’t get past.  Octopus actually isn’t bad, but seeing the tentacles didn’t do it for me.  But hey, fresh Mediterranean seafood is hard to hate. Thankfully we were rewarded with a spread of delicious desserts.

We took the word of our professor to head over to a ‘concert’ he had mentioned we should check out.  It was (still) pouring rain, so we quickly made our way over to someone’s apartment where there was a stage set up.  A very talented quartet jam band was playing, so the trek was actually worth it to see some local musicians.  We left after a few songs due to exhaustion to find it was still pouring out.   A five minute sprint later, we were back at the hostel to get a good night’s rest.

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