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Traditions are still everything in Naples. The city prides itself on San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown nearby and are considered by many to be the best in the world, as well as the finest Lacryma Christi vines, ripened by stroking sea winds and the sun beating down on Vesuvius. The region produces the creamiest buffalo mozzarella in the world and grows its own indigenous broccoli, called friarelli. Cultivation methods are written into law to regulate producers, making it impossible to cut corners on quality. This abundance of produce then finds its way from fertile volcanic soil into the neighborhood markets, and locals take it home and cook it with care according to ancient recipes.
By publishing the stories of our local heroes, visiting them on culinary tours, or directly fundraising for them when they are in need, we attempt to honor their work and their essential role in maintaining the fabric of the city. Our purpose is twofold. Yes, we want to get travelers to some good places to eat. But we also want to make sure that some of these spots and the artisans making food there find a new audience and get the recognition and support they deserve. They are holding back the tide of globalized sameness, which is not easy work – even if it’s done unknowingly. But we believe that every meal counts and, with the help of our audience, they will add up. We are committed to their perseverance and hope that our modest efforts encourage them to keep at it. Our work is also guided by a belief in: Honest Tourism: The places where we eat and craftsmen that we feature on our culinary tours are all selected with this purpose in mind. We’d never accept a free lunch or consider a discount for our tour groups, because that would contradict our central goal, to support them. Nor do our guides receive any commissions from shopkeepers. Honest Journalism: The same principal is applied to the publishing of stories. There are no sponsored posts or even advertising on CB. The writers and photographers are paid fairly for their work on stories that we all believe in.
The cities we are drawn to all have a culinary tradition of untold richness as well as a certain tension, be it political instability, the tug between East and West, the clash between modern and ancient identities, migration, rapid gentrification, bankruptcy, or a post-colonial hangover. Our decision to get started in a city is always the result of a trip filled with many meals where we are given in intimate view of that tension, right there on the table. By getting lost in this warren of independent food purveyors struggling to preserve or adapt tradition in fast-paced urban life, we start to discover the deep complexity and true flavor of the city. At present, you’ll find our regular dispatches from Athens, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Marseille, Mexico City, Naples, Porto, Queens (NY), Shanghai, Tbilisi and Tokyo.
As travel to most of the cities where we work has resumed, Culinary Backstreets is working with a new set of safety guidelines designed for the physical well-being of our guests, guides and members of the local community that we encounter. These guidelines have been developed in line with the best practices published by governments and health officials in the countries where CB works with regard to restaurant and tour and trip operation. With these procedures in place, our guests — led by our team of professional guides, who are being trained accordingly — can explore with peace of mind. The new procedures we are instituting include:
Culinary Backstreets’ mission has always been to preserve, protect and celebrate local culinary traditions and the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Now, more than ever, we remain focused on this goal. These days, we are paying close attention to the physical, economic and psychological well-being of the local communities and the people who keep them fed. We view this as an opportunity for cities to develop a tourism model that makes sense for them and that avoids the mistakes of the past, and for companies like Culinary Backstreets to be part of that process by renewing our commitment to a more sustainable way of traveling and working. By joining our tours and trips, you are contributing to this effort, which includes:
Culinary Backstreets is offering maximum flexibility for our guests, as we realize that travel this summer and fall might involve unexpected cancellations or postponements. So that our guests can book with confidence, we are putting in place the following cancelation policies:
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Tour the Backstreets of Naples With Us
Beyond Pizza: Neighborhood by Neighborhood, Bite by Bite
Our Backstreets Envoys, Always Searching for the Next Hidden Gem
Amedeo, Naples Bureau Chief
After 25 years in a career in communications, Amedeo finally succumbed to his true calling, dedicating his life to the study of a phenomenon that he calls “Neapolitan way of living”. The city’s unique cuisine, music, literature and local dialect are all a part of his ongoing research and the subject of lectures he gives at a local university. He is the author of several books about Naples, including Mangia Napoli, the definitive guide to eating in Naples and operates a publishing house called, Cultura Nova. His passion for Naples is best experienced walking with him in the backstreets, where he knows everyone by name and, most importantly, where to find the very best bites of the city.
Chiara, Naples Walk Leader
Sicily-born Chiara moved to Naples in order to attend the Oriental Languages University and fell hard for the unique city. As a professional guide, Chiara finds her work to be the perfect expression of all her interests such as art, archeology, history, culture, food, communication; in one word, her passion for her city.
Debora is a professional guide, and a proud Neapolitan. From the ancient alleys of Pompeii to the backstreets of Centro Storico, she feels right at home. Growing up just outside the old city walls means she knows the fishmonger and taralli baker on a first-name basis and she has strong opinions on who makes the best sfogliatelle in town. As a culinary guide, she sees herself as a bridge between visitors to the city and the culture-bearers of Neapolitan gastronomic heritage, hard at work in the kitchens around the city.
Francesca Russo is first and foremost a “Napoletana verace”, a true blue citizen of Naples, and her love of the city is infectious. For more than a decade she has been sharing her favorite parts of Naples as a professional guide. From the grand palaces to the humble backstreet trattoria, she’s always on the hunt for people and places that express the true identity of the city. She drives a vintage Fiat Uno, loves scuba diving and cycling. She makes a divine Neapolitan ragu.
Gianni, Naples Photographer
Gianni Cipriano is a Sicilian-born independent photographer based in Napoli, Italy. His work focuses on contemporary social, political and economic issues. Gianni regularly works for The New York Times and has been documenting the ongoing upheaval in Italian politics for L’Espresso weekly magazine since 2013. His editorial work has also appeared in Time, Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, among others. He graduated from the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at the International Center of Photography in New York in 2008. He has received recognition and awards from POYI (Picture of the Year International), American Photography, New York Photo Awards, International Photography Awards and the the Ian Parry Scholarship. Gianni’s work has been showcased in group exhibitions in venues such as the Rencontres d’Arles, FOLI Lima Biennale of Photography, MOPLA, Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalism and at the MAXXI museum in Rome.
Giuseppe, Naples Correspondent
100% Neapolitan in the heart, blood and soul, Giuseppe – or, as everyone calls him, Peppe – worked his way around the world with a number of jobs. During the years he developed a passion for travel and food writing and has now found his true calling: educating the world on everything there’s to know about pizza, his favorite food. He has spent the last 10 years spreading the pizza gospel by any possible means: through his blog pizzadixit.com, writing articles for magazines, setting up events, hosting a podcast, publishing a newsletter and in any other way. When he’s in Naples (or even traveling), you’ll most likely find him sitting in a pizzeria.
Luciana, Naples Correspondent
Born and raised in Naples, Luciana has been working as a journalist and food critic for more than 15 years, contributing to Italian and foreign guides and magazines such as Gambero Rosso, Identità Golose, Reporter Gourmet, Italy Magazine, Great Italian Chefs and Eater. She is currently senior editor at Food & Wine Italia and is co-founder and editor at Pizzaontheroad.eu. A professional olive oil taster, she loves to trek around the Italian hills and mountains, travel all over the world and taste everything but snails.
Sara, Naples Photographer
Sara graduated with full marks and honor in Architecture in 2013 at the University Federico II in Naples, Italy, with a thesis on the temporary reuse of abandoned spaces in the historical center of Naples and a mapping of its architectural objects. After her graduation she studied photography and worked as an assistant for a documentary photographer for one year. In 2014 she won a scholarship for a PhD in Urban Design at the University Federico II. Her research interests lie in the strategies for temporary reuse of abandoned space, visual representation of territories and the stories that live within.
Sonia, Naples Walk Leader Born and raised in Naples, Sonia studied art history, archaeology and Oriental languages before working for years as a schoolteacher. Eventually, her true passion- frescoed churches, incredibly rich archaeological sites, the cuisine and street life of Naples- led her out of the classroom and into the streets. Now, as a professional guide, Sonia gets to spend all of her time with her beloved subjects. Sonia is eager to challenge contemporary stereotypes of Naples by showing off the city’s classical beauty, hospitality and unique cuisine.
Stefania, Naples Walk Leader
Naples native Stefania is truly in love with her hometown. Living in the buzzing heart of the city and working as a professional guide, her daily life is infused with the art, culture and gastronomy which make the city so special. But her favorite aspect of Neopolitan life is experiencing the city’s living culture: talking to the producers whose hands make mozzarella, pick tomatoes, knead pizza dough and sharing that connection with visitors to the city.
CB’s work was started in 2009 by Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer as a humble food blog called Istanbul Eats. The following year we published a book of our reviews, now in its fifth edition. That year we also launched our first culinary walk in Istanbul, a route we are still using today. In 2012, we realized that what we built in Istanbul was needed in other cities we knew and loved. We started CB that year with Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai as pioneering members of our network. In 2013, we added Rio and also launched our iPhone application in Istanbul. In 2015, Tokyo and Tbilisi came into the fold. That year we published mini-guides to Barcelona and Athens and also launched an iPhone application in those cities. Our Eatinerary service, which provides travelers with tailor-made culinary travel itineraries, was also launched in 2015. In 2016, Lisbon – the latest city to kindle our curiosity – joined the CB network. In 2017 we added Naples and Queens, NY – two places with very compelling stories to tell – to our roster and also published full-size eating guides to Athens and Barcelona. In 2018, Porto joined the list of cities we cover.
Visual Dispatches from the Frontlines of Local Eating
Where is Naples?
Naples is a city in the Campania region in the south of Italy. Located in the center of the Mediterranean, it has been influenced by every corner of this sea: language, art, culture and, of course, gastronomy. Naples is the third-largest city in Italy in terms of population, after Milan and Rome, and is the cultural capital of southern Italy.
What are the best things to do in Naples?
A city founded by the Greeks, which then became Roman, Naples has more than 3,000 years of history and culture to explore. The ancient city center is entirely protected by UNESCO, and here it is possible to feast on the best pizza in the world – in the city where pizza was born. There are historic monuments, art galleries and architectural works to visit, as well as the seaside. Just half an hour by train is the most-visited archaeological site in the world, the lost city of Pompeii.
When is the best time of year to visit Naples?
The best time of year to visit Naples is from April to June and from September to October. The temperature is almost always mild, and even in winter it is often possible to eat outside. In April, there are Easter celebrations with a lot of different foods on offer. May is a month of culture, with many cultural heritage sites open into the evening. December is particularly festive, with Nativity scenes and Christmas sweets all over the city. August is hot and the city is quiet, with many businesses closed.
What is the weather like in Naples?
Naples has a typically Mediterranean climate: The winters are mild and quite rainy while the summers are hot and sunny. It never snows, though once in a while can you admire a white-tipped Vesuvius from the city. It rains often in autumn, which is the rainy season, but it is still nice to be out, even in the rain. Summers are warm, with little rain, and the average temperature is just under 80 F. There are no real extreme climates in Napes, so anytime is worth a visit.
Is Naples expensive?
Prices in Naples are much lower when compared to the United States, and especially when compared to other European cities. The average price of a 3-star hotel in Naples is about $100. A cup of coffee costs just about $1, a simple beer about $2, and a sit-down dinner can run about $30. In many of our favorite backstreets restaurants, you can have a full meal for $10 a person. A metro ticket is just over $1.
Is Naples safe?
There’s no denying that Naples has always had a bad reputation. But with its status as a top tourist destination, it has become a safer place for visitors. Today, neighborhoods once-considered dangerous, such as Sanità or the Spanish Quarter, have become incredibly popular for tourists. Like any big city, it is best to remain cautious of your possessions while in a crowd, and to pay attention to your surroundings when alone.
What is the best food in Naples?
The most famous dish of Naples is hands down the pizza. The art of the Neapolitan pizza makers is UNESCO protected, after all. Every Neapolitan has their favorite pizzeria, but the quality level is high everywhere. There are no gas or electric ovens, only wood – otherwise it is not true Neapolitan pizza. Neapolitan cuisine has even more to offer than its delectable pizza. It is it is essential to taste Neapolitan ragù, a dish where meat and tomato cooks for many hours. The Genovese is a dish not to be missed as well: a sea of onions and meat. Eggplant Parmigiana is another dish born in Naples that is famous worldwide. Don’t miss the Neapolitan broccoli, a kind of broccoli typical of the region.
Where is the best place to stay in Naples?
Each neighborhood has something to offer. Chiaia is an elegant spot near the sea, and makes for a lovely area to stay in Naples. For those making their first contact with the city, accommodation in the historic center is always a good bet. For those who have been to Naples before, venturing out to Sanità or the Spanish Quarter are also good options.
What is the Covid-19 situation in Naples?
The Italian vaccination rate is at about 84%. Masks are no longer required in open spaces. Mask are only necessary on public transport, cinemas, theaters and hospitals.
Can Americans travel to Naples?
A proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test are necessary on arrival for most tourists. U.S. citizens are permitted to enter visa-free for up to 90 days.
Can I fly directly to Naples?
International Airport of Capodichino is the airport serving Naples. It is a small airport with connections to many European cities. There are direct flights from New York with United Airlines. The airport is very close to the center, a 10-minute drive. From the airport, you can take a 3 euro shuttle bus that will bring you to the central station or the historical center.
What is the best restaurant in Naples?
Naples has an immense number of incredible restaurants. For breakfast, head to an espresso bar for sfogliatella and coffee. Have lunch in a tucked-away trattoria, like pasta at Mangia e bevi or Neapolitan classics at Spiedo d’oro. Book a table for dinner at a slightly more elegant spot, such as Ristorantino dell’Avvocato or Buatta in the Vomero district. Check out our list of 10 essential Naples food spots for more ideas on where to eat in Naples.
Are there beaches in Naples?
The closest beaches to Naples are in Posillipo. You can get there in about half an hour on the metro (line 2, Mergellina stop). If you want to spend a day by the sea, you can take a ferry to Capri, Ischia or Procida. Just one hour by car is the stunning Amalfi Coast – Positano and Sorrento will blow you away.
Is Naples suitable for children?
Naples is a welcoming city for children. There is an abundance of choice in things to do and eat that kids will love. Restaurants always have simple food for the little ones; typically Italian children love macaroni with sauce and cutlets. And, what kids don’t like pizza! Art and culture are also adaptable to children’s tastes in Naples. In the National Archaeological Museum, workshops are organized to explain archeology to children; at the Madre Museum, there are often workshops to explain contemporary art as well.
The streets of the old town are stone, but pushing a stroller isn’t too difficult. Crowded areas in the evening that might be better avoided include the Chiaia nightlife area, the Quartieri Spagnoli and Piazza Bellini.