A Colorful Evening in Trastevere, Rome


Located on the west bank of the Tiber River and south of Vatican City, Trastevere has a spirited medieval old-town feel. Greenwich Village in New York came to mind as I slowly made my way through the tightly winding streets. Quaint, comfortable, charming, incredible nightlife….Trastevere is all of these and more. Read more

Pizza Makers, Italy’s New Endangered Species?

A wood-fire oven is key to making perfect pizza in Italy

“Aromatic, cheesy, delectable…,” words that expressed my first taste of Margherita pizza in Naples. Did I forget to mention unforgettable?

Neapolitan pizza could easily be my addiction. Each time I prepare a return visit, I’m dreaming of a pizza feast again. Italy has the edge on the essence of what a pizza was born to be. As it should, since Italy is the mother of this delicious invention.

So what’s the problem? As an iconic attraction that has represented Italy in a mouth-watering fashion for years, pizza has lost its luster….to the young Italians, that is.

Italian schools today are not preparing students for traditional trades, particularly manual jobs such as pizza makers, tailors, carpenters and electricians. These jobs have lost their prestige among the younger generation of Italians. It has been the foreign pizza makers that have recently helped to keep the traditional pizza making alive in Italy.

Check out these statistics ~ 

According to Italy’s Accademia Pizzaioli (Academy of Pizza Makers).

* Around 4 in 10 pizza makers in Italy are non-Italian.

* At least 100,000 are employed in pizza making plus additional 50,000 on weekends.

* Of the total, 65,000 are Italian while approx. 20,000 are from Egypt and 10,000 from Morocco.

* Currently, there are some 6,000 vacant pizza-making jobs across the sector.

* Italy has an annual average consumption rate of 7.6 kg per person second only to the U.S. with an average of 13 kg. per person.

* In Italy, pizza is big business…there are approximately 63,000 pizzerias bringing in some 10 billion euros in yearly revenues.

* Daily, Italy churns out 5 million pizzas which total 1 1/2 billion each year, according to Coldiretti, Italy’s largest agricultural association.

* Almost half of young Italians are unemployed but few want to make pizzas for a living.

As a result, Italy has chosen Neapolitan pizza as its sole candidate for protection under UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list for the 2015-2016 cycle. They feel strongly that urgent measures are necessary to keep the art of Neapolitan pizza alive.

The Italian National Commission for UNESCO decided to recognize the art of Neapolitan pizza makers in tribute to their culinary skills and their place in the world’s gastronomic traditions. 

Pizza makers in Antica Pizzeria  brandi in Naples
Pizza makers in Antica Pizzeria
Brandi, Naples (photo courtesy of Susan Spano, L.A. Times)

This last March in Naples, Pizza makers at Antica Pizzeria Brandi baked the first Neapolitan ‘DOC’ (controlled designation of origin) pizza intended to be the symbol of the upcoming Expo world fair in Milan. This will be done through the initiative of Coldiretti. The pizza is composed of local traditional specialties which include buffalo mozzarella from Campania, San Marzano tomatoes, Vesuvius cherry tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil from Sorrento. All of these products are protected under the EU’s system of geographical indications.

The Neapolitan pizza has been around for quite a while. It was invented in Naples between 1715 and 1725, followed by the Margherita pizza in June of 1889. Allegedly, Italy’s iconic Margherita pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella and basil was first created for Margherita of Savoy, Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy.

Neapolitan pizza ready for the wood-fire oven

Characteristics of Neapolitan pizza include dough cooked in wood-burning ovens, with a crunchy but tender consistency of the crust, and by it’s lightly acidic tomato taste, along with the addition of oregano, garlic, basil and fresh mozzarella. The base should be no more than an eighth of an inch thick and cooked between 60 and 90 seconds in a stone oven with an oak-wood fire. The role of the pizza maker, or pizzaiolo, and the wood-fire oven also contribute to the success of the Neapolitan pizza.

The ingredients, red, white and green, were supposedly intended to represent the colors of the Italian flag.

“The pizza symbolizing Expo aims to valorize national identity in a situation in which almost two in three pizzas are obtained from a mix of flour, tomato, mozzarella and oil coming from thousands of kilometers away without any indication for consumers,” Coldiretti said. “Inclusion of pizza in the UNESCO list protects a business that generates 10 billion euros in Italy alone, in the roughly 63,000 pizzerias and take-away joints, outlets serving pizza by the slice and providing home delivery.”

Naples is determined to maintain its reputation as the spiritual home of one of the world’s favorite foods. I couldn’t be happier!

Do you have any special memories of eating authentic Italian, or Neapolitan pizza? I would love to read your thoughts…..

Article Sources ~

* Some Four in 10 of Italy’s pizza makers are foreign ~ ANSA

* Milan EXPO pizza created in Naples

Naple’s Secret Below the Chaos

Working my way down the vibrant street markets of Napoli just recently was mind-boggling. Scooters roared and car horns impatiently pierced the air. Throngs of people clogged the medieval arteries of the city, pressed in to look over and purchase their products from busy shopkeepers. Store windows behind them displayed rows of hanging tripe, lamb, and prosciutto, as well as mouth-watering bakery items and slices of pizza for a euro.

In a crowded intersection where two streets meet is Piazza San Gaetano. It was here that I found something I least expected in the heart of this bazaar world. Standing in front of me towered an old basilica. San Lorenzo Maggiore was a sight to behold.


This handsome thirteenth century Gothic church was built on top of a previously existing city hall by the Franciscan order in Naples during the lifetime of its founder, St. Francis of Assisi. Evidentially, Charles I of Anjou decided to build his fortress, Maschio Angioino, where the Franciscans had an existing church. Charles compensated them by providing this site for the present church of San Lorenzo Maggiore.


What is surprising and not noticeable until you enter the building is that it is also a monastery as well as a museum. The museum takes up three floors and gives a history of the area around San Lorenzo beginning with classical archaeology.

But the most astonishing part of all are the remains of an original Greco-Roman market that was excavated over a period of 25 years and has been opened to the public since 1992. Located in the middle of the historical center that began as the Greek-Roman city of Neapolis (new city), this market is one of only a couple of large-scale Greek-Roman sites excavated in the downtown area. For those of you who love ancient Rome, you won’t want to miss this.

Very close by is the Napoli Sottoterranea, the Napoli underground which is seen only by tours, but this is not part of San Lorenzo’s underground.

The following photos were taken while I explored the area. It truly is a rare experience of stepping back in time, from the old earthy smell to the uneven stone streets and arches. However, it requires patience and some imagination to figure out just what you are looking at. There are no tour guides or audio guides, and most of the information is posted in Italian. What was labeled or partially described I have identified below the photos.

Once an outdoor street lining the doorway to small shops. Once an outdoor street lining the doorway to small shops. This is the original street level of the ancient city of Neapolis.

Both a Greek (Agora) and Roman (Macellum) marketplace are the main discoveries that lay below the church. Dating from the sixth to the first century B.C., these streets are perfectly preserved underneath present-day bustling Napoli. Built into layers of volcanic ash and rock called tufa, these ruins are remarkably well-preserved.

Stairway leading up from the road and old arches with shops between them.
This covered space was a market area, and shows seven interconnected rooms, with barrel vaults pierced by skylights to draw in air and sunlight.

Small shops, called tabernae, line the roads and each one has a skylight of sorts. They would be dank, dark and creepy without them.

In these shops it is possible to notice selling counters and wall-niches for the storage and display of various articles. Fascinating….

This a laundrette where clothes were scrubbed clean.
This is a laundrette where clothes were scrubbed clean.


A ‘tintoria’ was a shop to dye fabric
Possibly a well of sorts….I just know it is very deep!
One of many small shops with tables and storage underneath, that lined the ancient streets. Notice the ‘skylight.’
More tables with storage underneath


A ‘fornaio’ was a bakery. Imagine all the business they must have had!

Once you are ready to return to the surface, a stairwell leads you up to a courtyard, which is the 14th-century cloister of the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore. Outside the cloister and back into the streets of Naples, it seems inconceivable that below all the surrounding congestion and frenetic activity lay a still, silent world that once was a bustling marketplace of its own.

Naples, from Egg Castle to Underground Pizza

Naples, one of my favorite Italian cities, is a case-study in the many layers that bring the real Italy into existence. Often described as gritty, undisciplined, shady and confusing, Naples is genuine old-world history iced with nuovo Italia. Don’t be put off by it’s scruffy exterior. Naples will disclose herself slowly, one layer at a time. But one thing I can assure you of is this…..her many dimensions will remain with you always.

Italy Destinations offers an unbelievably exciting adventure(link below) right in the heart of Naples. How does spending an extravagant evening in the San Carlo Theater, the  oldest working theatre in Europe, sound? While enjoying the ambience, you sip cocktails while listening to classical operatic masterpieces of incredible beauty.

San Carlo Theater Panorama
San Carlo Theater Panorama

Imagine exploring Naples Underground the next day, which lies forty meters below the historical center of Naples. Here, inside the ruins of a Roman Theater, you will learn the secrets of assembling authentic Napoletana pizza with experts standing by to help you make it. Open air fire oven included.

Descending to the Naples Underground
Descending to the Naples Underground

Look below the surface of Naples.…there you will discover incredible depths of richness that you never imagined. Ancient historical artifacts, old Roman roads and markets, art and mosaics from the first few centuries, catacombs and ancient temples are all there for you to explore with your group.

Back in the city that evening, a gala dinner awaits you at Egg Castle. Stroll the elegant terrace in the late evening breeze afterwards as you take in panoramic views of both the ocean and the city of Naples. A promise of a romantic evening is in the air.

Egg Castle
Egg Castle

This itinerary had me almost out of my seat and running to the front of the line. Everything from elegance to charm to ancient underground discoveries to Egg Castle had my heart pounding. For anyone looking to experience some of the best Naples has to offer, this is for you. And if you run to the front of the line too, chances are excellent that you will find me there!

For complete details for this tour, see the Italy Destinations website below.

*Naples- A Deep Experience 

Pizza, Napoli Style

Naples Side Street- Searching for Good Pizza
Pizza and Naples are synonymous! 

We had just spent the day exploring the National Archeological Museum of Naples. A  big task. I loved taking in all the fragments of art and history, from ancient Pompeii to the early Romans. Although it consumed a lot of energy, it left me in a state of bliss.

Afterwards, winding our way down the Via Tribunali, a major byway through Naples, we found ourselves overcome by a colossal hunger for pizza. And of course, we all know that Naples turns out the very best.

Pizzeria-hole in the wall with people waiting...good sign!
Pizzeria hole in the wall with people waiting…good sign!

We passed several before we found this one, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Founded in 1870, this pizzeria has been established here since 1930. There are only two true Neapolitan pizzas~ Marinara and Margherita.

pizza crew
Crew of the L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, keepers of “the sacred temple of pizza.”

So many can’t be that wrong! However, as I worked my way through the crowd, I found that I needed to take a number and wait. I didn’t hesitate, especially after spying Julia Roberts on a poster from her movie “Eat, Pray, Love” on the front door. Her pizza scene was filmed right here in this tiny little unobtrusive pizzeria. Julia Roberts and this many people certainly can’t be wrong. I took up my posts outside and waited patiently for 30 minutes (yes, I timed it. I was starving!).

Juliea Roberts besst
Julia Roberts inhaling pizza in “Eat, Pray, Love.”
We sat with locals
Lunching with locals is always the best! They know where to find great bargain food.

Inside were six tables built to seat four people each. We enjoyed great conversation with a young couple from Naples next to us. She spoke less english and was a bit quiet, but she had a warm and engaging smile.

Great Smiles!
Love Those Grins!

My husband Carl had a lively conversation with this young man. He is an attorney in Naples, and his English was excellent.

Happy Tummies, Great Company!
Happy Tummies, Great Company!

We did as the locals do and ordered what they did~Margherita with extra cheese. I was not disappointed. It was the best pizza ever. Since then I have been looking for the same pizza, only to come up disillusioned. Well, no better excuse to go back to Naples and gratify my cravings at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele!

Pizza Michele sign
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
Via Cesare Sersale,
Naples, Italy