Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

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Canada’s Adult Lifestyle Publication

The Naples Nobody Knows

          Story and Photos

By Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features


Puzzuoli and Naples in background

 Norman Castle in Naples
Cuma tunnel to Apollo’s Sybil
“Did you get to Pompeii?” That’s the first question everyone asks when they hear we’ve been to Naples. Our answer is No. Nor did we head for tourist-trampled Positano on the affluent Amalfi Coast. Ditto for commercialized Capri.

But we did stroll around 2,800-year-old Cuma, the first Greek colony established on the Italian peninsula some 350 years before the founding of Naples.

It’s the images of these fortress-like ruins and nearby Pozzuoli, Sofia Loren’s birthplace, that appear when we think of Naples. As do memories of Simone, Dario, Maria and Tulia, who whisked us through the crammed and crowded cobblestone streets of this cosmopolitan complex built at the base of Mount Vesuvius. The volcano on the southeastern edge of Naples is responsible for a couple of the world’s better-known ruins – Pompeii and Herculaneum.

However, about 30 kilometres on the west of Naples is Cuma, a sight that can satisfy both the avid and amateur archeologist. With a 4 euro entry fee, they can amble over and around the remains of temples to Apollo and Jove on the acropolis that overlooks one of the most enthralling expanses of beach along the Mediterranean shore.

It was these soft waves rolling up against the softly curved shoreline and the natural hot springs that drew the Greeks here. It’s also the land of myth and magic that Virgil etched into legend. Both avid and amateur will get a kick out of walking through the 145-yard trapezoid tunnel hollowed out of the massive rock to the grotto of the Sybil, Apollo’s prophetic priestess who foretold Aeneas’s future.

On the drive to Cuma, you can stop at a roadside overlook to peer down into Lake Avernus, which contemporaries of Homer and Virgil believed to be the entrance to Hades.

Before embarking on any of these jaunts, you have to sample the original modern pizza – the margherita. It’s available everywhere in Naples. While this type of flatbread dates back several centuries, it was in June 1889 that Neapolitan chef Raffaele Esposito created the Pizza Margherita in honour Italy’s Queen consort, Margherita of Savoy, who was visiting the city. He garnished it with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, to represent the red, white and green Italian flag. He was the first to add cheese.

After washing down this palate-pleaser with wine and beer, it was time to dive into side dishes of fresh seafood, also available everywhere in this seaside city. Then it’s chased down with a toddy of the local favorite – the citrus-flavored liqueur limoncello, which is sipped as widely here as Starbucks coffee is in Seattle.

There are sites aplenty to see between snacks in this, the third-largest city in Italy.

We stopped at the il Vero Bar del Professore on the edge of the massive Piazza Plebescito, the largest square in Naples. It was given that name after the plebescite of 1870 that made Naples part of the Kingdom of Italy under the House of Savoy. On one flank are the municipal palace and Real Teatro San Carlo, the opera house that has been operating continuously since 1737. Behind it is the Norman Castel Nuovo, where you can board a hop-on-hop-off bus to tour the town.

After sampling two specialties of il Vero Bar – a coffee with nut cream and a sfogliatelle (roll) – Simone led us to San Severo Chapel to view The Veiled Christ, completed in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino, reposed among more than two dozen other intriguing works of art.

Then we headed for the central metro station, dodging anything on wheels as we danced through the Piazza de Gesu, one of the city’s prettiest piazzas decorated with churches and statues. The station is tucked firmly in a section locals call Calcutta because of the constant commotion created by vendors and vagrants, booths and bicycles, walkers and watchers. Our train took us to a stop within minutes of our bed-and-breakfast in Pozzuoli, a commune on Naples’s western border that was once the busiest seaport on this section of the Italian peninsula. It was here that St. Paul landed about 60 A.D. to establish a Christian community.

A recently built waterfront park and walkway makes this one of the more pleasant promenades alongside the Mediterranean.

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 1, 2011 at 7:58 pm


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“Take a week and visit Sicily,” everyone tells us. “ You have to see Palermo. Drive around the island and stop wherever you wish. The food is good.” We sorta agree that’s next time. U-T oldtimer Frank Saldana has visited the island a few times and he loves it. Any time of year is fine because of the climate but Mariolina said she likes February best because the blooming almond trees cover the hills with color.

Packing Them in in Panicale

Oil festival weekend of Nov. 21 – 22 was touted as a “gastronomic experience” of new wine and olive oil of the region. There are those who say, without argument or declamatory tones, that Trasimeno olive oil is the best in the country. You have to keep in mind that everything here is a festival. Bologna even had a Festival for Festivals, sorta leaving you with the feeling that, if there isn’t a reason for a festival, we’ll have one anyway. It brings in the booths and the tourists and the dollars. This little village has transformed itself into a tourist-dollar magnet. Prices are aimed at the transient, not the local. Friday’s weekly market was about half the size of those recalled from the past. And most of the ex-pats, from Europe as well as U.S., head home for the winter.

Met Santa Claus

Ran into entrepreneur Bobbie (a Swedish ex-pat whose last name I forget) in the piazza this morning (Nov. 19). We chatted for about half an hour until his wife, Ann, came to retrieve him. He’s growing a beard to be Santa Claus Dec. 24 for the kids of the village.


Wot a trip! Simone met us at the station, introduced us to his friends – sculptor/artist Dario Correale, girlfriend Maria, their roommate Tulia, and acrylic painter Rosario – who showed us the real Naples after we walked to and into some of the sites after a 90-minute hop-on/hop-off bus tour around this metropolis built at the foot of Vesuvius: “Christ in the Veil,” Santa Lucia, Little Calcutta, Piazza Plebescito, Palazzo Reale, Parque Virgiliano, Pozzuolo e Camu. The last is a 3,000+-year-old archeological site that few folks visit. We walked thru a long tunnel/warehouse to the Apollo sybill’s niche and then climbed to the acropolis to walk around the Temple of Apollo and, at the top, the Temple of Jove, with a magnificent view of the Med shore, and the islands of Proscida and Ischia. Ruins not as impressive as others but quiet and easier to visit. It was where the Greeks established their first sites for vacation homes on the Italian peninsula and founded Naples later. Harness racers were putting their horses thru their paces on the beach while we were enjoying the vista.

And we supped and sipped our way thru pizza margharita, birra Moretti, lemoncello, grappa, spaghetti and clams, fried pumpkin blossoms, fried shrimp, fried mozzarella, fried pasta cakes, mozzarella napolitana, mussels, lagostina, Dario’s parents gave us cookies and grappa and lemoncello and mandarino and, to take with us, a bottle of lemoncello and two bottles of home-made red wine for my birthday.

Four-hour train ride (26 euros each) got us home shortly after midnight tired and happy, in need of a shower and happy, a bit sad we left but happy we went.

Rain Routine

Our first rainy day here was almost welcome. It gave us a chance to rest, especially since we were invited to, and accepted, an invitation for cake – it was a gorgeous-looking and tasty chestnut cake with layers of meringue and cream that looked like a lady’s expensive hat — and cards with Riccardo and Mariolina. Invite was for 9 p.m. and we stayed until after midnight.

The wet weather cut down the size and time of the weekly Friday market in the piazza. It also gave Carla, who takes care of the church (Chiesi de San Michel) the opportunity to wash her car. She sweeps off the muck and mud  with a broom.

Downpour also prevented Simone (Aldo’s son) from putting out and plugging in the all-red-light Christmas tree in front of his osteria — Il Gallo del ????

We spent most of the day reading and napping and eating and napping and reading and napping.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Europe, Travel

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