An unrelenting, vibrant city, Naples is a colorful tangled mess, with eons of history, high-profile museums, fabulous monuments, and vibrant street life. Licking ice cream on leafy Piazza Bellini under Greek columns, you’ll glimpse Roman bricks revealed by the crumbling plaster walls of a gorgeous Renaissance palazzo. Graffiti is everywhere. That’s Napoli. Beautiful and ugly. The city sprawls around the shore of its famous bay, with panoramas of Vesuvius in the distance, while its ebullient ancient heart is cleft by Spaccanapoli, a chaotic street full of life, and with a heady mix of tack, tourists, students, fast-food stalls and the occasional impromptu operatic performance.
Pizza with thin, deliciously thin crusts is one of the joys of Naples. It’s on offer just about everywhere. Neapolitan street food, like pizza and rice balls stuffed with mince and cheese (called arancini) all gained popularity on the city’s crowded 18th-century streets. Pizza was invented by poverty-stricken Neapolitans who only had flour, oil, tomatoes, and basil to cook with. Fried pizza a oggi a otto– meaning a pizza eaten and then paid for eight days later – became a staple foodstuff for the poor. On payment, they picked up their next pizza from street vendors with their mobile ovens and so the credit cycle continued. Pizza Margherita is easily the most popular; buy it on the street or sit at a table in the ubiquitous pizzerie. The pizza was named in honour of Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, who visited Naples in 1889: its colours – green (basil), white (mozzarella) and red (tomato) are those of the Italian flag and pay homage to the first queen of the new Italian state. Take kids for the ice-cream pizza at Chalet Ciro.