Naples, Italy


NAPOLI - I have just returned from a few days’ R and R in Naples (Italy) and really feel that there should be another R in there – R for Research, into paintings, sculpture, opera, wine and food. We applied ourselves assiduously to the task and came back Refreshed. There is something about the place that gets under your skin – in my case, I gaze dreamily at Monte Vesuvio and half-imagine that I am Emma Hamilton. I do not, however, see her tramping round all the churches of Spaccanapoli, in all their Angevin glory, but she might well have lingered long over the same view from the Certosa di San Martino, the Carthusian monastery founded in 1325 by Charles of Anjou on the St.Elmo hill, looking down on the Bay of Naples. The Farnese collection of pictures in the Museo di Capodimonte needs much more R, while two of Caravaggio’s most dramatic chiaroscuro works are in the magical Pio Monte della Misericordia and, almost hidden away, in the palatial Banca Commerciale Italiana – worth the visit alone.
When sated by the formidable statuary in the Museo Nazionale Archeologico, tumble down the hill to the echoing splendour of the Palazzo Ducale – and then repair to lunch. For most in Napoli, this means pizza, but as we have a very good Corsican pizzeria near our home in London (infamy!), we preferred dialect-speaking ‘dives’ for antipasti and pumpkin risottos. Dinner was a different matter – here we sought out establishments that were distinctly ‘fishy’, in the nicest possible way. At Da Dora, dishes of sautéed clams and ‘tartufi di mare’ led into lobster linguine followed by oven-cooked turbot and potatoes, while our Last Supper was at the waterside La Scialuppa, with a giant, line-caught sea bass for four, poached in acqua pazza. All this was washed down by one of the local volcanic whites such as Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino – overall, we thought the best producer was Feudi di San Gregorio.

And the music – the magnificent, jewel-box San Carlo opera house glitters after renovation. We heard a moving, traditional production of La Bohème. But the highlight was my husband displaying a hitherto unknown knowledge of Neapolitan dialect songs, requesting Tosti’s Marechiare from the ‘wandering’ (and expert) minstrel at Da Dora – we had Respect!