As the saying goes Naples is “pizza, sun, mandolin and… street art”. Yes, you’ve read it correctly! Naples is renowned worldwide for its unique folklore but the city is gradually becoming also a great place for street art lovers. Be it graffiti, murals or stencils, Naples is exploring new ways to color its walls and give them new life. Still more thrilled about pizza? What if I took you around Naples in search of some of the best street art AND some of the most delicious street food? You would definitely not regret it, I promise!
St. Gennaro by Jorit Agoch + fried pizza at Pizzeria De’ Figliole
At the corner of San Biagio dei Librai and Duomo street you’ll find a 15-mt-tall St. Gennaro gazing into the distance. This work by Jorit Agoch has become perhaps one of the most photographed murals in the city. St. Gennaro is Naples’ protector whose chapel is located in the nearby Duomo. The two blood-filled vials on his lower-right symbolize the “St. Gennaro’s miracle”, a ritual held three times during the year: if the blood liquefies then everything will be okay and there is no need to worry; however, it is believed that if this does not happen and the blood does not become fluid something bad will happen. You’ll probably find many images of this saint around Naples and this is because his figure is so deeply loved by Neapolitans that he has become a sort of icon, not only in the religious sense but also in the more “pop” meaning of the term.
While you should definitely visit the Duomo, I suggest to take Vicaria Vecchia street (the one on the left of the mural) go straight until you find Pizzeria De’ Figliole (Via Giudecca Vecchia, 39) for a well-deserved and super caloric treat: the pizza fritta (fried pizza), a typical Neapolitan street food that you won’t easily find outside of Naples. How can I describe it? Its definition is self-explicatory: take one layer of pizza dough so that it covers the other half. Seal it and deep-fry it. Yes, DEEP-FRY A PIZZA: to me, a girl from southern Italy, these words are like a love letter.
At the Pizzeria De’ Figliole you’ll taste one of best pizza fritta I’ve ever eaten. The place is super simple, very cheap and the staff very welcoming. If you’re in for the ultimate “fat experience” try the “completa” (complete): mozzarella, ricotta, salami, tomato sauce, pepper and ciccioli, or cicoli in Neapolitan, little pieces of fatty pork. I know, it sounds like a calorie bomb, and it actually is, but trust me, it’ll be worth it. You’re in Naples, so you’re gonna get fat anyway, there’s no escape.
Madonna with the gun by Banksy + frittatina at Di Matteo
We are now in the historical center of Naples in Girolamini square. This area, apart from being one of the most traditional and typical of Naples, also treasures a street art gem: the Madonna with the gun by Banksy, the only work by the great street artist in Italy. Because of its importance, this stencil has been at the center of various petitions for its protection. Without going into much details, eventually the Madonna has been “caged” in a wooden frame complete with a plate bearing the name of its “protector”.
In my opinion the frame has somehow vitiated the beauty of the artwork and has definitely made it difficult to photograph because of the window pane. However, it has also made it more interesting. The plate reads: “Work by Banksy. Guarded by Pizzeria Dal Presidente and by Agostino The Crazy to make Naples unique”. Pizzeria Dal Presidente is the famous close-by pizzeria while the second is a folkloristic character known in the 70s for his customized motorbike and his disputes against the police. He currently runs the adjacent antique shop. A stencil by rebel street artist Bansky, protected by a pizzeria and an antique dealer? This sort of things can happen only in Naples, a crazy city capable of “neapolitanize” everything and indeed make it unique.
The bizarre plate:
At 94 Tribunali street, a walking distance from the Madonna, there is one of my favorite places ever. Pizzeria Di Matteo is daily assaulted by covetous people in need of their “frittatina” (little omelet). Frittatina is a little piece of heaven at the reasonable price of 1,50 euro. Originally the “frittatina” was made of the leftovers from the Sunday meal, especially from pasta, ragu sauce and other things such as peas and cheese. Today the recipe is almost the same but the frittatina has become more of a treat than a proper meal. Basically, you boil and drain bucatini (a type of pasta), crack some eggs in a bowl and add the ingredients you want, then put the bucatini in a frying pan, add the egg mixture and FRY IT (yes, in Naples you fry like there's not tomorrow). My awful description of the preparation cannot match the bliss you’re going to experience, so just trust me, go to Di Matteo and ask for one (or more) frittatina.
Mural by BLU + "angioletti alla nutella" at Starita
Big men in red and green loom up in a disquieting way on the façade of the former state hospital for the criminally insane (today usually referred to as ex-OPG). The enormous mural by BLU makes use of the building structure (the window becomes a mouth, the wall an arm) to portray the feelings and desperation of the prisoners. Today the building has been occupied by the student collective Ex-OPG ‘Je so Pazzo’ who are doing their best to organize events and initiatives for the civic society in order to encourage active citizenship and create more space for young people.
A 10-minute walk separates the ex Opg from Pizzeria Starita, one of the most famous in Naples. Starita’s signature pizza is the Montanara (fried pizza covered in marinara sauce and then quickly baked) which I absolutely recommend. However, if you have a sweet tooth you should definitely try the angioletti alla nutella, nutella covered angel-shaped pieces of fried pizza dough. Starita’s angioletti are the best in town and also something you don't want to miss since they are one of the most famous recipes in Naples. Plus, you can’t really say no to Nutella in whatever shape and occasion it crosses your path, so say “Not today” to your diet and prepare your arteries to be filled with joyous fat.
The tour is over (for now) but if you want to know more and discover other street art pieces in Naples visit the Instagram account NapoliStreetArt for a thoroughly detailed map of the current artworks in the city! Finally, here's a video to help you get in the mood! And remember, going around looking for inspiring street art takes a lot of energy… so you will need all these pizza calories to help you keep going!
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