I have long purported that Naples is one of my favorite cities: chaotic, crass and crazy. I longed for Mz. Riz to understand my love of, well my motherland. My love affair with Naples began in 2002 while working on a show called “The Five Star Hotels of Italy”. Yes, I know, it’s a tough life but somebody’s got to do it. The Neapolitan hotel we profiled was Hotel San Francesco al Monte.
The hotel was an old monastery that had its humble beginnings in the 15th century. Yet even living in the lap of luxury, I wanted to explore the thriving web of activity that lay below in the Quartieri Spagnoli or Spanish Quarter. Cameraman Stephen Sheridan and I entered the maze of streets as its residents began their day. An indelible image seared into my memory: A man on a turquois scooter holding a large bag of fresh baked bread that rested on a sack of flour that was secured between his feet was accompanied by a backpacked child wrapping a careless arm around his father’s waist. I later found the best place to by sfogliatelle. I was in love.
I loved this city in all its unpolished glory. The faces that walked by me seemed to be long lost family members.
Yet when Mz. Riz and I arrived the city seemed even more unpolished, I’d venture to say worn out. My heart sank. What had happened to my love? Nothing really. We arrived on Sunday, many places are closed and the trash didn’t get picked up. So we set out to explore the chaos, but not on an empty stomach.
Off we went to find Starita a Katie Parla recommendation that was confirmed by the woman at Hotel Il Convento’s front desk who said it’s where she eats pizza. It’s a hike and of course we got lost but were assisted by a lovely woman who led us to the street that housed this humble palace of pizza. It was great. The menu’s simple, the service fast, in fact, Mz. Riz was amazed at how quickly the pizza arrived. And the pizza? Devine. The crust light and perfectly charred, the San Marzano tomatoes sweet and the mozzarella skillfully dispersed and not piled on like in the states. Yummm!!
Mz. Riz returned to Hotel Il Convento while I explored the well worn Spanish Quarter. A few things about this particular area:
- I don’t think anyone owns a clothes-dryer.
- The roads are narrow slim and side view mirrors are the victims.
- It’s a real live neighborhood.
- And I was the only person holding a map and camera.
I climbed the alleyway by the hotel with my destination being the Hotel San Francesco perched above the quarter. In this square behind the ubiquitous floating laundry is where I first encountered the art. And so my journey became the destination as I followed one piece of art to another.
I don’t know whether it was the artist’s use of space, (ever mindful to respect officials postings and parking regulations), sense of humor or it’s absurdity drew me in. I’ve searched the internet desperate to the name of the artist, to no avail. So if anyone has any information please send it to me.