By Katherine Wilson
For those who follow Travel Italian Style, you already know we are Italian trip planners who love sending our guests all over the country especially to the region of Campania. Of course, we love the Amalfi Coast but we also have a special place in our heart for the Citta del Sole (city of sun), Napoli.
Naples could easily be one the most exquisite cities in the country, full of amazing food, history, and culture. The best part of this Southern Italian city is it's just as beautiful in December as it is in June and we want to prove it!
To help us do this, we asked Only in Naples author Katherine Wilson to share her valuable insight on how to enjoy Naples during the holiday winter season! As you may have read in her book, Katherine went to Naples over 19 years ago for an internship but then feel in love with a man (and the city) and never returned to the states!
Thanks to her Napoletano mother-in-law (and her husband's family all around) the past 19 years has given her the wonderful opportunity to completely immerse herself in the Neapolitan culture, traditions, and cuisine. So, naturally, we are honored she took the time to share her advice with us on the blog today! Read on to see what Katherine suggests!
1. Spend a morning admiring the Nativity scenes on via di San Gregorio Armeno
When I first visited San Gregorio Armeno, the home of the Neapolitan Christmas tradition of the presepe, or Nativity scene, I was floored. There are tiny terracotta fishermen bringing in the daily catch, women in petticoats doing the wash in a running river, bakers pulling out steaming pizzas from realistic miniature ovens. Wait… wasn’t this supposed to be first century Bethlehem?
What I soon learned is that all of 18th and 19th century Neapolitan culture and craftsmanship is represented in these extraordinary creations. Don’t limit your walk to the scenes displayed on the street: go inside the artisans’ workshops to watch how they sculpt. And don’t forget to pick up a sculpture of Pulcinella, the Neapolitan clown who embodies the spirit of the city.
2. Taste the sfogliatelle at Scaturcchio
The bakery Scaturcchio has been turning out Neapolitan sweets for over a century. When you enter, inhale deeply: this is the smell of Christmas in Naples. The traditional rococò cookies with almonds and cinnamon can be taken home, while the sfogliatella(which can be the curly, crunchy riccia or her smooth sister the frolla) needs to be consumed here while it’s fresh and hot. Pair it with the sweet nectar that is Neapolitan caffè: dense, black, and already sugared by the barista so it becomes syrupy.
3. Visit the Duomo and the Tesoro di San Gennaro
A visit to Naples isn’t a visit to Naples if you don’t stop by the home of the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro, in his chapel in the magnificent Duomo church. In the baroque chapel, after taking in the impossible gold and silver statues as well as the image of the saint himself with his red cape and pointy hat, look up and you will see one of the most crowded, colorful scenes of heaven that exists.
If you think this chapel shines and shimmers, you’ll be amazed by the treasure of San Gennaro next door. The first thing you’ll find in the Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro is the legal contract that the Saint signed promising to protect the city of Naples. In exchange, Neapolitans and foreign royalty over the years have offered him priceless ornaments. In times of war, poverty and devastation, artisans were crafting what many say is the most valuable collection of jewels in the world –more valuable even than the Queen of England’s crown jewels. I gasped audibly when I first saw his miter, a bishop’s hat made to crown a bust of the saint in processions. It has no less than 3694 gems (including diamonds, rubies, and emeralds) embedded in solid gold
4. Take in the view from the terrace of the N’albero
Neapolitans are always complaining that the city government never manages to do any good works or improve Naples in any way. So it was a lovely surprise when I saw the spectacular 40-meter illuminated structure in the form of a Christmas tree on the waterfront that was built at the beginning of December. It houses restaurants, coffee houses, gift shops, and even two thousand real trees that will be planted when the sculpture comes down in March. Take the elevator up to the highest platform to see the breathtaking view of the Gulf of Naples and the Castel dell’Ovo, the medieval castle on the water.
5. Visit the Veiled Christ
One of the greatest sculptures on the planet, the Veiled Christ can be found in the private chapel of San Severo, a little jewel nestled in the dense center of the city. The 18th-century Neapolitan sculptor Giuseppe Sammartino managed somehow to make marble look wispy, and chiseled Jesus’ wounds in a block of stone underneath a marble shroud. The result is a masterpiece that is so powerful it hits you in the gut. And you might be able to guess where he learned his craft: Sammartino got his training in one of the workshops nearby that made figures for the Neapolitan Nativity scenes.
To learn more about Naples, Katherine Wilson's story, or to purchase her book, head on over to this link (click here). Katherine's book Only in Naples is one of our favorite of 2016 and I bet you can still get it in time for Christmas (we are lucky to have a signed copy from Katherine who was so kind to meet our CEO in Rome this Fall)!
Want to Visit Naples?
Naples is a city not to be missed in Italy! Many locals of the region have a saying "see Naples then die." They believe you have not seen Italy unless you see this magical place. If you have some questions or if you are thinking to visit, please contact us here at Travel Italian Style with our Custom Travel Planning services we work directly with a local family in Naples (who's office is right in the city center) to create authentic, unique, and personalized experiences, including some of the tips Katherine mentioned today, just for you!! Info@travelitalianstyle.com for more info.
Meet Katherine Wilson
Katherine Wilson's memoir Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia from My Italian Mother-in-Law was published this year by Random House in the U.S. and translated into six languages. It is the hilarious, touching story of her experiences as an American woman who becomes part of a Neapolitan family, and will be out in eight countries by the end of 2017.