Does anything sound more cozy than walking into a house on a chilly fall afternoon to the smell of long-simmering meat in tomato sauce?
Didn’t think so.
Sundays in Naples are reserved for eating a large, late lunch with family. The most popular preparation is the famous Ragù Napoletano (o’ rrau, in dialect). Nonne all over the city lovingly babysit a gently bubbling pot of love over the course of hours.
Ragù Napoletano starts with a base of tomato purée wherein large, tough cuts of meat are simmered.
In addition to the cheaper, tougher cuts of beef and pork, one would typically add pork sausage, braciole, and sometimes even meatballs. The meats are browned in a pan with minced onion, then red wine is added to deglaze.
At this point, the tomato purée is added slowly and the whole lot is left to simmer very slowly for at least 4 hours, but frequently more.
The sugo (sauce or gravy) is used to dress dried pasta (usually a short pasta, although long is used as well) and served with grated cheese as a primo piatto.
The variety of meats, which are now achingly tender, are consumed as the steaming secondo piatto, or main course.
An abundant array of contorni (side dishes) would always be served in any Neapolitan house. They would most likely include broccoli raab and fried eggplant, along with whatever looked great at the fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable monger) that morning.
And the entire extended family gathers around the table for the warm embrace of ragù.
The peschereccio, or fishing boat, is the simple subject of so many images of quaint Italian life. It contains the essence of the sea, and the promise of a fresh seafood dinner next to a sweating caraffe of cold white wine. It is the symbol of life in a seaside village, the reminder to take it slow, a reminder of the past that still exists in the present.
Now that the sun is going down on summer vacation and everyone is getting ready to return to the workdays of September, think of the fishing boats and the seagulls. Try to remember that life is, indeed, sweet.
Above: The Lido di Ostia near Rome (photo via BeachesZone).
So many of you out there are getting ready to travel, and hopefully your European jaunt will include at least one great Italian city. Since it’s summer and no Italian cultural experience is complete without tanning like an Italian, we want to point you in the direction of some of Italy’s best urban beaches.
Maybe you’re doing 48 hours in Venice or Rome and want to get a little beach time in? Visiting Naples and can’t make it to the Amalfi Coast? Never fear, there’s always a Spiaggia near.
In Venice, just a quick boat ride across the lagoon will get you to Venice Lido. It’s home to the Venice film festival, and the setting for the Thomas Mann’s classic novel, Death in Venice. There are two public beaches and tons of private areas to choose from where renting a beach chair and umbrella are possible.
In Rome, tan as the Romans do. The beach isn’t exactly in the city, but a quick 35 minute train ride with get you to Ostia Lido. It’s a great escape from the heat and you’ll run into many other Romans escaping as well. There is also Santa Marinella which will take about 45 minutes by train. While these beaches are far from being at the top of the list of Italy’s best, they have been cleaned up and provide the hot, beach-craving masses with blue, sparkling Mediterranean water.
Naples has arguably some of the prettiest water and most dramatic scenery of all of Italy’s urban beaches. Spiaggette (small sandy beaches) and scogliere (stone beaches) dot the coastline of the city in areas like Chiaia, Mergellina and Posillipo. The latter is home to the storied village of Marechiaro with its tiny sandy beach and classic architecture. Heading west just a bit, you’ll find Bagnoli with its long stretch of beach that hosts a variety of bars and discotechs that fill with the Neapolitan youth on any given night of the summer. No matter where you choose to fare il bagno (take a swim) in Napoli, you’ll be delighted to enjoy a breathtaking view of Vesuvius as it stands watch over the ancient city.
Photo via Tyson Williams Photography.
If you ever go to Naples, you can’t miss the sprawling Piazza del Plebiscito. It’s one of the largest piazze in the city and dates back to the early 19th century.
Although it was eventually named for the referendum that unified Italy, its construction was initiated by Napolean’s brother, Murat as a tribute to the emperor. This massive piazza is anchored on one side by the Royal Palace and on the other by the Church of San Francesco di Paola.
The Royal Palace most famously housed the Bourbon kings (I Borboni), but it pays tribute to the eight rulers in the history Kingdom of Naples with a line of statues lining the side that looks onto the Piazza.
The Church of San Francesco di Paola gives an imposing embrace to the opposite side of the square. When Joachim Murat first conceived the idea of the building and the square, it was not meant to be a church, but an extension of the royal brotherly tribute. The building was eventually converted, consecrated, and named for a 16th century monk who lived in the monastery that had occupied the land previously. The imposing pillars and domes remind one of the Pantheon, and it gives just the right flair of the dramatic to the west side of the piazza.
Today, Piazza del Plebiscito is a place for young lovers to park their scooters and embrace in the warm night air. It’s also a prime place to passeggiare, have a smoke, or people watch.
Under the stars and kissed by the salty mediterranean air, there is hardly a more beautiful place be on a Summer’s eve in Napoli.