Blog of the Week - Napoli Unplugged
Words by Pat Eggleton
This week we are delighted to introduce Bonnie from Napoli Unplugged. If you are going to visit Naples, check out the Napoli Unplugged blog for a slice of everyday life in the city and the website for up-to-date tourist information.
Bonnie, where are you from originally?
I grew up on the Jersey Shore, and I can just hear the chuckles now! I've never seen the TV show so I don't know how well it portrays the Jersey Shore, but I can say that in many ways my upbringing there prepared me for my life in Naples. The neighbourhoods of Naples remind me of the seaside working class neighborhoods of my youth which were popular among Italian and especially Neapolitan immigrants. Oddly enough, my first real job was as a waitress in Italian restaurant and pizzeria run by Neapolitans. I loved working there and got hooked on the Neapolitan lifestyle, but I would have never imagined that so many years later I would find myself living in the real Napoli.
Did you know Naples before settling there and why did you move there?
I had only been to Naples twice before coming here, but my husband lived in Naples in the mid 1970s and had returned many times over the years. His lifelong dream was to live in Naples, so when he was offered a job here, we jumped at the opportunity. We both love the life of the city and the European lifestyle and after nearly 14 years in the Northern Virginia suburbs we were definitely ready for a change.
Can you tell us a little about the area where you live?
I live in one of the city's western districts, the Quartiere di Posillipo, one of the most picturesque zones in the city. The quartiere is built on the hill of the same name that stretches along the Bay of Naples from Mergellina to the promontory of Posillipo, or Capo Posillipo where there is a beautiful park, Parco Virgiliano, which has sweeping views of the Bay. The name Posillipo comes from the Greek word Pausilypon, and roughly translated it means respite from pain. One look at the views of the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, the Sorrento Coast, and Capri from Posillipo and you know why. The district itself is much newer than the historic centre of the city, and in fact it wasn't incorporated into the city until 1925. But during the Roman era it was a seaside resort and it is home to many important ruins from that era as well as many aristocratic villas that were built between the 1600s and 1800s.
What do you like most about daily life in Naples and is there anything that drives you crazy?
My favorite part about daily life here is just that - daily life, the routine and rhythm to my day in a city that seems as though it is constantly in chaos. In reality, the people here live a very structured life and I eventually, albeit kicking and screaming, fell into the routine. My favorite part of the day is doing my daily shopping. Not only do I get the freshest fruit and vegetables, seafood and meat, pasta and cheeses to cook that day, but more importantly, it's my social hour. All of the stores in my neighbourhood are locally owned and family run, so daily shopping is a social event. It's the time of day when I meet up with my friends and neighbours and catch up on the latest news and gossip.
What are your favourite places to visit in the city?
I love nearly every corner of this city, but certainly the Centro Storico. The narrow alleys you see in Centro Storico today are the result of the grid street pattern laid down by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. With little space inside, life spills out onto the streets which are alive with the sounds, smells, and sights of Neapolitan life. One after another, ancient churches and palazzi with crumbling façades open up to reveal spectacular interiors. And under the streets lies a parallel world of aqueducts, tunnels, caverns, and catacombs, not to mention the remains of the original Greek and Roman city of Neapolis.
And your favourite Neapolitan food?
I go through phases with Neapolitan food. When I first got here I loved mozzarella di bufala, insalata caprese, and le cozze (mussels), fresh out of the sea with nothing but a bit of lemon on top. I ate so many mussels in my first two years here that the only time I want them now is in my all time favorite dish, pasta e fagioli (con le cozze). A rich and creamy peasant dish, it is made with cannellini beans, pancetta, and pasta mista. My newest favorite is melanzana - eggplant. I didn't care for it much when I first got here, but now I can't get enough. Last night I had an amazing dish called panciotti con la melanzana e provola - a pasta similar to ravioli stuffed with eggplant and provolone cheese topped with a sauce of Vesuvian tomatoes.
It sounds divine! What kind of articles do you write for your blog and can you tell us about the Napoli Unplugged website, too?
My Napoli Unplugged Blog is a complement to my Napoli Unplugged website, which I developed to promote the city of Naples and to make the city and its many sites and attractions more accessible to the English speaking public. The site has developed into a city portal and covers a broad range of topics. On the blog I write about my everyday experiences: events I've attended, places I've visited, my neighborhood, and every once in a while a rant or a rave.
And the photo blog?
The photo blog is what I like to call "A Slice of Life in Napoli." Every day I post a picture of the different aspects of Neapolitan life, whether it be a spectacular cloister, a dark alley, laundry flapping in the breeze, or a spectacular sunrise. The good, the bad and the funny.
What should a person with only 5 hours to spend in Naples see?
If you only have five hours to spend in Naples, the Centro Storico is a must. Strolling from the Duomo towards Piazza del Gesù you will see one of the most vibrant parts of the city, find great local shops and cafes, trattorie and street food, and you can stop in at some of the most important sites in the city. Along the way you can visit the Duomo, Naples' 13th century Gothic Cathedral that sits on the site of a pagan temple to Apollo and incorporates the city's first Cathedral, the 5th century Basilica Satna Restituta founded by Emperor Constantine; see Caravaggio's Seven Acts of Mercy at Pio Monte della Misericordia; explore the Greco-Roman ruins under San Lorenzo Maggiore Church; pick up one of Naples' famed Christmas Cribs or some figurines along Via San Gregorio Armeno; admire the Veiled Christ at the Sansevero Chapel; see the most beautiful cloister in Naples and a Roman bath complex at the Santa Chiara Monumental Complex; and finally, see the ex-votos in the Gesà Nuovo church. If you have time after that, head over to the water and have lunch around Castel dell'Ovo in Borgo Marinari.
Wow, that’s a great itinerary! Thank you. Can you recommend some blog posts especially for Italy Magazine readers?
I guess I must really love my neighborhood of Posillipo, because I just realized I've written six posts about it but my favorite post is “Saturday Stroll - Through the Valley of the Dead”, a stroll through the rarely visited neighborhood of Rione Sanita.
Happy blogging, Bonnie, and thank you for talking to Italy Magazine.