In post-Covid times, Neapolitans have been spending more time outdoors, lounging on the grass, letting the children play and, of course, having a bite to eat. And it’s possible to do all this in the city, without having to go “out of town.”
Obviously grilling, lighting fires and complex preparations are prohibited. So for now we have to settle for a simpler marenna, which is the Neapolitan word for “snack” – sandwiches and prepared dishes, mostly.
Here are three of my favorite parks in the city to picnic at as well as nearby rotisseries where you can stock up on typically Neapolitan flavors.
First up is Virgiliano Park, in the Posillipo neighborhood. It’s also called Parco della Rimembranza (“Remembrance Park”) and, in a play on words, Parco della Gravidanza (“Pregnancy Park”), because it used to be a common meeting place for Neapolitan couples looking to escape the prying eyes of family and friends. Besides it’s reputation as a clandestine spot, the sea view from the main terrace is breathtaking: It offers a gorgeous panorama of the island of Nisida and all the Phlegraean Islands.
Before heading to the park, pick up pizzas and other fried foods at Elettroforno in Piazza San Luigi. One of the historic rosticcerie in the area and a favorite of Neapolitan youth, it is located on Via Posillipo and for decades has been a destination for Neapolitans in search of the city’s best pizza.
In the 90s, with my white Vespa 50 special, I ran up the curves of Via Posillipo. My destination – Piazza San Luigi, for pizza at Elettroforno. It was cheap, excellent and huge. The baker steadied the large rectangle pan of pizza using a triangle spatula in one hand and cut the pie with the knife in his other hand, sliding over a square slice topped with peeled tomatoes and provola cheese.
The very low price and the exceptional flavor, enjoyed while taking in the sea from above Posillipo, made it an obligatory stop on those rare occasions when I skipped school. Today’s offerings are much more diverse, including pizzas of every type, fried pizzas and other delicacies. And above all, the spectacle of a natural stage: the Gulf of Naples!
Bosco di Capodimonte
Bosco di Capodimonte was the garden of delights for the Bourbon kings of Naples. When Carlo di Borbone (Charles of Bourbon) built his palace in the first half of the 18th century, he made sure it was adjoined by an immense forest so that he could dedicated himself to his favorite pastime: hunting. Today, the Capodimonte Forest is the largest green lung in Naples, all in all very close to the center and easily accessible on foot or by bus.
I like to enter from Porta Grande (on Via Ponti Rossi), sometimes stopping for a coffee or aperitif at Bar Passaro, a pastry shop with a small yet delightful garden just in front of Porta Grande. From there, I continue on until I reach Porta di Mezzo, where the most beautiful paths of the park begin.
Today, the Capodimonte Forest is the largest green lung in Naples, all in all very close to the center and easily accessible on foot or by bus.
For an outdoor snack, I stop by the historic Neapolitan rosticceria Imperatore, which years ago had several branches in Naples. Although there aren’t as many outposts today, it still remains a temple of traditional Neapolitan cuisine. Many consider its frittatina, a bucatini pasta omelet with meat, peas and béchamel, as the best in the city. I particularly love the Montanara (fried pizza with tomato and mozzarella), the potato croquettes stuffed with salami, the arancini… but really, whatever looks best in the display case is what I usually order.
Sometimes I pop into the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, which houses one of the most beautiful paintings by Caravaggio, The Flagellation of Christ. The museum’s cafeteria is also very scenic, with tables arranged in the corridors of the monumental courtyard.
This is the easiest of the three parks to reach by public transport. Located in the heart of the Vomero neighborhood, it’s a few meters from the Vanvitelli underground stop and the city’s three funiculars (Centrale, Chiaia, Montesanto).
The villa was designed at the start of the 19th century and became the residence of Ferdinando Borbone with his new Sicilian wife, Lucia Migliaccio, whom some called the most beautiful woman in the south. It offers a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Naples and houses the National Museum of Ceramics Duca di Martina.
Leaning against the wall and looking out over Capri, I like to bite into a Neapolitan delicacy. Here, too, you are spoiled for choice. Standing in front of Rosticceria La Padella, I want to order it all: the ricotta and spinach canestrino, the gluttonous bombolone (a dome of puff pastry that contains a heart of ricotta and ham), the rustic sfogliatella with ricotta salami and ham… it’s so difficult to choose. Padella’s frittatina, which is beloved across the city, is their most requested item, followed closely by their arancini and potato croquettes. But the symbol of Padella is the rotisserie chicken – the smell fills the square at all hours of the day.
Another local institution is Friggitoria Vomero, which has stood on the corner of Piazza Fuga since 1936 and made generations of locals happy with their fried delights. I like to get a small cuoppo (or paper bag) to go, full of potato croquettes, scagliuozzi (fried triangles of polenta), arancini, fried eggplant and ciurilli (zucchini flowers).
When picnicking in Naples, it’s truly difficult to run out of food – there’s always some tempting morsel just around the corner.
Editor’s note: As summer heats up, we’re looking to get outside. So we asked our contributors to write about their favorite spots to eat outdoors as well as nearby shops to fill a picnic basket for Picnic Week 2020.
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