A Food Tour in Naples With Cultural Anecdotes

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I am sitting on a bench in Piazza Carità waiting for a group of Norwegian friends of mine to take them on a 7-stop food tour in Naples: street food deluxe. This square was dear to Giacomo Leopardi, who spent the last years of his life in Naples because of its warm weather.

Coffee in Naples

My friends are really interested in the history of coffee and they ask me about the best brand, how many can be drunk a day, and what time of day. Actually, there really isn’t a set rule: coffee is a moment of sharing. Nowadays, coffee is Italians’ favorite drink, but in the past, coffee was considered the devil’s drink, because of its “exciting” power.

Coffee is represented by the number 42 in Neapolitan bingo (tombola) created in 1734. King Charles III of Bourbon and the monk Gregorio Maria Rocco argued about Neapolitan bingo because the king wanted to legalize and tax the game while the monk thought it was immoral. In the end, Charles III managed to legalize the game, but it was forbidden during the Christmas holidays, so as not to distract people from praying. 
Actually, many numbers in Neapolitan bingo are connected with religion. For example, number 24 is Christmas Eve, number 25 is Christmas, and number 26 is St. Anna.

Mozzarella di Bufala

My friends are particularly pleased by a regional delicacy: mozzarella cheese. According to some documents that date back to the XIV century, this kind of cheese was produced with buffalo milk, and in St. Laurence’s Monastery monks used to offer mozzarella cheese to pilgrims. It pairs beautifully with the white wine Asprinio d’ Aversa. Indeed, Aversa and Battipaglia are the two most important areas for the production of mozzarella cheese. It also pairs well with Falanghina, Greco, and Pallagrello Bianco wines. I think mozzarella is the best souvenir a tourist can bring back home from Campania. 


Pasta in Naples

A food tour in Naples must include pasta, especially spaghetti and maccheroni. We reserved a table near St. Domenico Maggiore and the radio is playing Mala Femmena. I explain to my friends that this song was written in 1951 by the actor Toto’. They want to know the history of the food they are eating so I tell them that maccheroni had a very famous fan: Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. According to an Irish guest who visited the Bourbon court, Ferdinand IV used to eat maccheroni with his hands, disdaining the use of cutlery. They are really impressed by this story and they start asking me questions about Ferdinand IV, the Bourbons, and the relationship between Naples and Spain over the last three hundred years. The food tour turns into a lesson in Iberic philology and civilization!

Browsing the Shops of San Gregorio Armeno

After finishing our lunch, we walk to San Gregorio Armeno. These little shops are always busy and the handmade figurines typically used in nativity scenes are made throughout the entire year. The things I like the most are the fountains and mills. There are not only traditional shepherds but also little statues depicting politicians and VIPS.


Naple’s Most Famous Amulet

My friends are curious about a strange object they see everywhere: “o curniciello”. The history of these horns dates back to 3,000 BC, in the Neolithic Age. This lucky charm was used by cave people to bring fortune and fertility. In Ancient Greece, horns were given as gifts to the goddess Isis, in exchange for protection and fertility. The practice of painting them red dates back to the Middle Ages as the color was a symbol of victory over enemies and good luck.

Ending With Limoncello

The tour ends in the best way possible by tasting limoncello liqueur and limoncello cream liqueur which is produced by adding milk making it less alcoholic. Limoncello was invented at the beginning of the twentieth century and its location is a source of contention by Sorrento, Amalfi, and Capri. In this same shop, we can also buy bottles of meloncello (made with canteloupe rather than lemon).

Our food tour has finished. I say goodbye to my friends, who are truly grateful for their experience in Naples.

gallery photos copyright: Anna Visconti

About the Author

Anna Visconti

Anna Visconti was born in Caserta.

From an early age, she showed a strong interest in English literature and books on etiology. During her high school years, she dreamed of becoming a writer.

She studied Foreign Languages ​​and Literature at the Federico II University of Naples and later, following the example of Ulysses, one of her favorite literary characters, she worked as a tour leader and as a receptionist, so she could travel and see the world.

Anna loves animals very much and has already adopted four dogs (a number that is destined to grow!)

For them, she put away her suitcase and chose to devote herself to teaching foreign languages. Anna currently teaches English in Rome and in Pozzuoli.

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