Today my friend, K., took me to the Chiaia district of Napoli, a ritzy, beautiful, clean area with that Old World charm one expects to find in Italy. She and her husband love walking around Chiaia, and having seen it at last, I can see why. It is charming, with beautiful buildings, quiet streets, tree filled alleys leading down to the sea or up the hill to grand villas, and the best of the best for shopping. We're talking Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo. We met in Piazza Amadeo, where the Metro drops off, and as I emerged from the empty Metro and entered an empty piazza, confusion reigned. This is not the Napoli I know. My friend was already there waiting and had realized today was Epiphany, a national holiday here in Italy. We later found the crowds in our walk around the district, but for the morning, we had blessed quiet. I said it was clean, however, Chiaians love to walk their dogs around - this, apparently, is where the fancy dog owners live, and it must just be too much to actually pick up Fifi's poop. One of us stepped in it right away. Our Italian language instructor had informed us that this is considered good luck. I think she made that up.
After a stop off for caffe, we headed down the street, right away passing the gorgeous, baroque, Chiesa Santa Teresa. Mass was just ending, so we popped inside and found two inspiring paintings, a worn and beautiful, tile floor, Christmas presepe, crystal chandeliers forming an arch over the altar, inlaid marble half walls, and a frescoed ceiling. That little church packs a punch. The coral colored facade is covered with statues and cherubs to delight the eye.
|One of Chiaia's storefronts|
Most of the shops were closed, but we lucked into one filled with clothes on saldi (sale!). Sadly, most did not fit, but we gazed longingly into windows of all the other shops with their large SALDI signs and made plans to return soon. Walking along the waterfront, we took the longer, scenic route to our real destination: Brandi Pizzeria, a pizzeria in business since 1780 and the inventor of the Pizza Margherita...or at least the pizzeria who named it. The original name of the pizzeria was Pietro...a basta cosi (Peter...and that's enough). The owner, Peter, did not have sons and gave over his pizzeria to Enrico Brandi. Brandi later left the pizzeria to his daughter. In 1889, the daughter and her husband were invited to the Royal Palace during a visit by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita di Savoia. The husband prepared three pizzas to present to the Royals, including a white pizza, a pizza with sardines, and a tomato and mozzarella pizza. Queen Margherita particularly liked the tomato and mozzarella pizza, and so the name Pizza Margherita was born. The pizza was delicious, and the atmosphere even better. The host (owner? manager? head waiter?) wore a full suit and wandered about refilling glasses while a talented guitarist showed up with quite a repertoire and got the whole restaurant clapping along.
Every pizzeria I've visited is different. Some quiet and unassuming, some bustling and packing the patrons in, some as family run establishments, and yet others as elegant restaurants that happen to serve only pizza. It's a fascinating range of experiences with only one constant...there's not a bad pizza to be found.
I can't wait to return to Chiaia and see it when the shops, bars, and trattorias have their shutters flung open...maybe even tomorrow.
|La Fontana Immacolatella, located along Napoli's waterfront|