We were all a bit sad to get on the train and leave behind the good times in Bologna, but I was still excited to see Naples, a city I hadn’t yet visited before this trip. As soon as we got off the train, it was obvious that we had moved south. After snowy Bologna, the temperatures in the 50s felt like a heat wave, and the famed grit and disorder of the city were immediately evident as we pushed through street vendors to get to taxis, which then had to circle around the periphery of the city to take us to our hotel, because of a rally going on downtown. Naples was certainly dirty (I have never seen so much dog poop on sidewalks), and wild (nor have I been in so many reckless taxi rides), but still struck me with a particular beauty, especially when we opened our hotel windows to see a gorgeous view over the colorful city out to the water and Vesuvius in the distance.
We dined for the first time in Naples in a tiny, single room restaurant, where I had pasta alla siciliana, with eggplant, tomato sauce, and provolone cheese. Lunch was followed by a visit to the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola, where our visit was being honored with a special seminar on food culture in Italy, at which a number of local professors spoke, and our own was invited to give an impromptu talk about our class. That night, we had our first taste of Neapolitan pizza, which has a thicker crust (more like American pizza) than other typical Italian pizza. Afterward, we headed to yet another beautiful theater, Teatro Mercadante, but this time for an Italian rendition of Macbeth, which had been very interestingly modernized.
Our last day was packed, as we tried to do and see as much as possible in Naples. In the morning, we had a guided visit of the food still life exhibition at Villa Pignatelli, a museum that also has beautiful gardens and old interior decor. During the afternoon, I walked with a few of my classmates along the shore, as we enjoyed the sun and the first truly blue skies of the trip, and passed fisherman, dog walkers, and lovers along the beach. We ended up at the Castello dell’Ovo, a small ancient castle that juts out into the water, and offered impressive views of the city and the sea. In the afternoon, we visited the Garofalo pasta factory, where the owner explained their methods as well as their innovative marketing and the philosophy behind their brand. The visit culminated with a walk through the factory itself, where we saw, tasted, and smelled, pasta in its many stages of production, from cutting, to sorting, to packaging.
For our final meal, we dined at the Città del Gusto, a center for cooking, learning, and eating for local students, where we had pizza, shrimp with potato and broccoli rabe, ricotta-stuffed pasta, fish with vegetables, and a chocolate cake, like a miniature Vesuvius with a molten chocolate core. Now I’m back at Princeton, about to be a second semester senior, and for the first time in awhile I don’t have any more travel on the horizon (if long and treacherous trips to the library to work on my thesis don’t count). Instead, I’ll be trying to enjoy all that I love about this place as much as possible before graduation. This trip to Italy will definitely be among my most memorable Princeton experiences. To see more of the story in photos, visit my Shutterfly site.