Napoli & South Italy

napolivesuvioIf your idea of Italy is about sea, beach, sun, pizza, pasta and delicious food, music, smiling people, relaxing life, historical sites and tradition…then you should visit South italy! Unfortunately most of tourists concentrate their ‘italian tour’ at northern cities (Venice, Florence, Milan and Roma), which are without any doubts very charmful and interesting destinations. However the southern part of italy is more genuine, out of mass tourism paths and is where the ancient Italy was born, under Greek influence and during the roman empire. Nowadays South italy is a controversial land, not well developed compared to northern regions, with dramatic issues (mafia and organized crime, high unemployment rate, lack of infrastructures…) but good travellers will take advantage of an authentic spirit, friendly people, high sense of hospitality, genuine life style and cheap prices. The entire southern region (despite many local diversities) has a common soul with Spain, France, North Africa, Croatia, Greece and Turkey. Somehow it could be an unique entity due to the many similarities, strongly influenced by mediterranean sea.

 

 

Napoli

100_9326Napoli is one of the symbol of the Italian beauty, listed as UNESCO world heritage site. its panorama is unique, made by the small magical islands of its gulf (Capri and Ischia), city hills and the Vesuvio volcano the stunning Sorrento’s peninsula. A visit in this city is something out of ordinary…Most of visitors don’t understand the city’spirit. Indeed Napoli is messy and dirty, however it’s authentic and not comformized too, something unique to see in Europe. Napoli was well developed, wealth and one of the top european city until two centuries ago, before northern italian empire conquered south italy (under spanish empire) and turned it out to the currently poor conditions. About pizza, the best pizzeria are at ‘via tribunali’ in old city area, the ONLY pizza is margherita and marinara. Please do not ask for any different type. Pastries are very good, ‘must-to-try’ are babà (with rum) and sfogliatella (in royal gallery there is one of the best). Coffee as to be tried as well, the city’s water flavor is strongly influenced by the volcano and it gives a special taste to everything based on water (coffee, pasta and pizza included). The historical caffè ‘Gambrinus’ at the main square ‘Plebiscito’ is a place to go, for amazing interiors and coffee taste

napoliarmenoThe nativity scene street (Via S. Gregorio armeno, in the oldtown) is wonderful and highly suggestive during Xmas period, as well as packed with people and crowded, you will breath history, culture and genuine local social life. In the city there is the oldest theater in Europe. City soul is something extraordinary, not easy to find in any other european city. A mediterranean relaxed lifestyle blended with its typical kaos. Napoli is deeply controversial, one minute you hate it and the next you are in love with the city.

-Discover Naples as you’ve never seen before on a vintage Vespa in the company of a friendly and experienced guide! Tour is also available for Sorrento and Amalfi coast, Flegrean fields…for a unique and funny experience (find more info here)

 

pizzaTry the unique, real pizza, Margherita, this is the city where it was born, it’s healthy and despite the simple ingredients (mozzarella and tomato sauce) is stuffy! The best choices would be near Via dei Tribunali (historical centre) and ‘Da Michele’, this pizzeria has a unique feature: they only do pizza Margherita or Marinara (just tomato, garlic and oregano, and a splash of oil, of course!). They say that these two kinds are the original pizza, if you add too much toppings you’ll lose the real taste of the pizza, that is very simple, made only of a good, thin base, good tomato, and fresh mozzarella (if this is the case) Note that there is usually a queue at these restaurants – At Da Michele get a numbered ticket from the waiter on the door when you arrive

For a budget lunch go to small bakery shops and grocery shop ‘salumeria’ and ask for ‘colazione’. A fresh piece of bread filled with mozzarella/cheese/ham…

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Keep in mind that the city centre is not the “rich part” of the city, so the historical centre may be somehow gritty and in some parts impoverished . If you want to visit the elegant part of the city, you can walk around the wonderful promenade ‘lungomare’ (the Riviera di Chiaia or Via Francesco Caracciolo), and visit Via dei Mille, Vomero and Posillipo hill, also by using the funicular train. Once there, in the upper part you will enjoy the view of the city and…it will be always stored in your file ‘good memories’ Smile

People in Naples are extremely nice and gentle, and often people are helped by Neapolitans to find some gorgeous attraction not shown in the tourist guide, however be careful when someone approach you and in general, of course, avoid empty streets and dimly-lit alleys at night, do not leave valuables laying out in the open, do not flash around money or other valuables, it is advised not to carry a purse as it can be snatched or “picked” by thieves.

100_3364Don’t miss the opportunity to watch a football match of Napoli. Neapolitan are crazy in love with this club

Wear sunglasses Cool everyday, doesn’t matter the weather condition! Be cool and wear smart clothes and accessories, Italy is the world centre of fashion

Espresso is taken at the bar, standing up and should be drunk within 3 sips. In Napoli you can find probably the best coffe in Italy (due to special water flavor…influenced by the Vulcan Vesuvio). Breakfast consist is something sweet NEVER salty! Dinner before 19 mostly won’t be served, as well as lunch before 12

From the airport you can take a bus for €3 (called Alibus) which has two stops only: Stazione Centrale (Central station) and Piazza Municipio, near the main ferry port (molo Beverello). You can buy your ticket on the bus. If you have time to spare, you can take the 3S bus that will take you to the same stops as the Alibus for a cheaper price. The difference is that the Alibus has limited stops but the 3S will take you to the backstreets leading to the Stazione continuing all the way to the port and a shopping district

carnapoliUse the subway to get around the city. There are six lines of underground subway in Naples. Many subway stations are regarded as fine examples of contemporary architecture and artistic urban decoration, being part of the Stazioni dell’Arte project. Don’t miss the opportunity to use (with same urban ticket) the funicular train that brings to the upper city (Vomero) and once there enjoy the view of the city…it’s priceless!

Nightlife: also due to the high cost of alcohol in nightclubs/pubs, people are usually joining pubs and clubs quite late, maybe spending the evening with friends in a park or square before deciding to move somewhere for the nightlife; Bouncers are usually standing at the entrance of nightclubs/pubs pre-screening the clients, t-shirts and trainers are often off-limits

Use your hands when communicate with Iocals as well as body and facial movements Laughing 

 

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napolivesuvioNearby Napoli-Daily trips:

Amalfi and Sorrento Coast — stunningly beautiful rocky coastline nearby Napoli, so popular that private cars are banned in the summer months
Capri and Ischia the famed islands in the Bay of Naples, formerly a favored resort of the Roman emperors
Pompeii and Herculaneum — two neighbouring cities covered by an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, now excavated to reveal life as it was in Roman times
Vesuvius — the famous dormant volcano with a stunning view of the Bay of Naples.

 

Immagine 088Flegrean fields: A volcanic area, partially still active, on the border of the city of Naples. A Greek colony later turned into an important area during the Roman empire. Noblemen chose Baia for their summer vacation, among sinuous villas and thermae. Cuma used to host the Sybil horacle, the Apollonian priestess that foretold the future. From the Fusaro Lake Aeneas descended into the under world, as descrive in the VI Book of Virgil’s Aeneas.
A land of history and mythology. A place that, still today, presents peculiar features. There’s the Solfatara with its powerful smoke-holes in Pozzuoli. There are the lakes, bodies of water formed in the extinguished volcano craters. And then the bradyseism, characterized by the gradual uplift and descent of the earth’s surface. From an architectural point of view, the area preserves many remains of the ancient splendour: the anfiteatro Flavio (the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy) in Pozzuoli, the Castle of Baia, the Piscina Mirabilis in Bacoli, Jupiter’s Temple in Cuma, the submerged city of Baia…

 

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Budgeteuro…tips

– Check trenitalia and Italo website in advance if you are planning to travel by train in Italy, special ticket offers are available.
– If you want to save money but you like to enjoy a fresh beer, go to any grocery shop and buy it. Drinking a beer in a park is not forbidden at all. Littering it is!
– Drink tap water, it’s free, it’s eco-friendly, it’s easy to be refilled at any of fountains dotted around every Italian city. And remember to don’t waste plastic bottles! 😉
– Try a Barter! Get free accommodation by exchanging a service or something you have with you! Yes, there is a net of rural guesthouse and B&B that are happy to host you in change of anything but money. Books, clothes, DVD’s…but if you are good in making movies or taking pictures there are many good chances you could be accommodated. Visit this website or this one (unfortunately the website is only in Italian)

 

Other southern destinations, cities and main regions:

Puglia-Apulia

tremitibeachApulia-Puglia has much to offer to travellers and good-life lovers: sea (ionian and adriatic coasts) and a fantastic land, both rich of delights (grapes, fruit, vegetables, olives, dairy products, fish and shellfish); a mild climate with warm sunshine almost all year round; art, history and culture, with a side of genuine and friendly people.

 

Gargano peninsula, partly covered by the remains of an ancient forest, Foresta Umbra, the only remaining part in Italy of the ancient oak, and beautiful coast and Tremiti island

Grottaglie, pleasant town with an interesting area of ​​ceramics, a well-preserved castle and an ancient historical center made of a dense network of narrow streets, whitewashed houses and ancient churches. Nearby you can visit: gravine, rocky area where they had originally established the first populations; Fantiano’s quarry, an area used for extraction of local stone, tufo, converted to park, which is home to a music festival with a unique atmosphere. Grottaglie also offers excellent murals by international artists, who gather each year (in September) to decorate facades and walls of the old town.

 

alberobelloAlberobello: Alberobello is known as the Capital of the Trulli. The trullo is a fascinating architectural feature of this area of Puglia, a building with conical roof made without mortar. Alberobello has special status internationally – designated a UNESCO world heritage site – because its collection of some 1,500 trulli in an urban environment is unique. Some of the trulli are now used for stores, restaurants, and lodging. But many are still inhabited by locals, who are very friendly to visitors. As a world heritage site, Alberobello is a tourist attraction, but as it is less accessible from the tourist-heavy west coast, it is not overrun by tourists, and most tourists of Alberobello are Italians.

-Cisternino, similar to Grottaglie, comes alive in the spring and summer months, when the narrow streets of the old town are full of people walking and outputs for eating in typical restaurants of the country, many butchers in the evening, prepare the meat and serve the customers that can be enjoyed on the spot. 

 

ostuniOstuni, The geography of Ostuni is stunning. The landscape has a unique pallet: from the red earth grow silvery olive trees crowned with green, while the while city stretches before you under an azure sky. The ancient heart of Ostuni is a maze of corridors and stairs, twisting up to a pinnicle with views for miles and miles.

 

martina-Martina Franca and Locorotondo, nice towns in Valle d’Itria, full of interesting architectures and historical buildings

Lecce: Lecce has been dubbed the Florence of the South. Whereas many people (not understandably) skip it in favour of the nearby beach towns of the Salento peninsula, this city, distinguished by its elaborate style of baroque buildings, has at least a couple of days of attractions worth seeing

 

Otranto: a wonderful seaside town nearby Lecce, with a pleasent old centre, in old greek style, white houses and narrow streets, crowded of people during spring and summer. A must to see in Apulia

 

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Sicily

varie 131Sicily is a huge island where every little city has its own culture and tradition. You will find great variety of local specialities in all cities over this island with a long history of domination, from ancient greeks and romans to arabs, normans, aragoneses…The cuisine is very exotic and has many spices and unique flavors to offer. Sicilians cultivate a uniquely Sicilian type of olive tree, which they affectionately call the “saracena”. The food is typically Mediterranean but there are strong hints of Arabic and Spanish flavor (Sicily was conquered by many peoples during its long history). Sicilians like spices and have particular affinity for almond, jasmine, rosemary, mint and basil. Sicilians notoriously have a sweet tooth and are among the best dessert-makers in Italy. Try ‘cannoli’ (tubular pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese), ‘granita’ (ices mixed with real crushed fruit and juices), and their most famous export, ‘cassata’ (Arabic-inspired cake). Make sure not to pass up the pine-nut and almond biscuits, as they are always a crowd pleaser. ‘Arancini’ (sometimes Arancine), fried rice balls with fillings, is a Sicilian fast food that is relatively cheap. They can be hard to find outside Sicily, so try them while you’re there.

Do not miss:

Agrigento famous for the Valle dei Templi (Valley of Temples UNESCO World Heritage)
Catania busy university city and economic center, great for nightlife, the gate to Mount Etna (UNESCO World Heritage)
Gela one of the most important old greek cities, archaelogical centre e sea resort on the south coast
Palermo an important city in Italy; know for its beach, cuisine, architecture
Ragusa  impressive baroque architecture (UNESCO World Heritage)
Syracuse (Siracusa) attractive old town and Greek ruins (UNESCO World Heritage)
varie 105Trapani attractive city and gateway to Pantelleria and the Egadi islands, visit Erice (the highest town in Sicily, with it’s ancient stone walled city), the Salt Flats, seaside town of San Vito Lo Capo and Zingaro Reserve (one of the best nature walks, natural beaches and examples of the dwarf palm)

Noto on the South Coast, a Unesco World Heritage site due to the best examples of Baroque Architecture left in Europe today

Aegadian and Pelagie Islands relaxing islands off the west coast
Aeolian Islands beautiful group of volcanic islands (UNESCO World Heritage)
Madonie National Park, the national Park in the Heart of Sicily
Mount Etna the impressive 3323m high active volcano
Mozia ancient Punic city built on the island of Mozia overlooking Marsala
Pantelleria Arab-influenced solitude
Taormina, with a wonderful ancient roman theatre facing the sea
Segesta and Selinunte, Greek temples, theatre and ruins

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Abruzzo

2013-12-20 11.19.55A vacation in Abruzzo offers a taste of the unspoiled Italy. In Abruzzo you can combine within a short distance both sea and mountains.

Castles and Medieval towns are very popular tourist attractions. Abruzzo is also known for its ski resorts (mountain heights can compare to some Alps) and cross country skiing. With many old villages abandoned and remained largely intact, the country side rich with historic sites, Abruzzo has picturesque sceneries to offer.

Abruzzo symbol is Gran Sasso, the highest mountain of the Apennine range. From the top of the Gran Sasso you have views of both the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian (Mediterranean) Seas. Much of the Abruzzo region is in national or regional parks. Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo is a large protected area with good hiking and biking trails. Gran Sasso has hiking trails, spring wildflowers, and winter skiing.

2013-12-20 14.37.05Stay in a rural and authentic agritourism resort! L’uliveto is one of the finest and oldest one in the whole region. Perfect if you like the quiet countryside, relax, good cuisine, wonderful views of mountains.

Lamb is very popular inland and the Abruzzo produces pecorino (lamb’s milk) and goat’s milk cheeses. Pork is also used frequently and on the coast there are many fish dishes.

Regarding drinks:

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (a red wine)
Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (a white wine)
Rosatello aquilano (a rosé wine)
Amaro Gran Sasso (one of the bitter digestive liqueurs)

Ratafia A wine from black cherries fermented in the summer sun

The regional capital of Abruzzo is L’Aquila.  Unfortunately in 2009 it suffered severe earthquake damages, the old city center is still not safe for living

2013-12-19 09.07.12Pescara, with wide sandy beaches, is a resort town with mediterranean pinewood. Easy to reach by the city airport. Stay at Bed& Breakfast Villa Paladar, best B&B in town, according to tripadvisor.

There are many small villages and town considered ‘authentic’ medioeval towns, spread all over the region

 

 

 

 

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