Earthly and full of life, Naples lay claim to the discovery of both pizza and Sophia Loren. Italy’s third largest city also boasts of enchanting castles, excellent museums, a splendid cathedral and colorful neighborhoods linked by cobblestone streets.

Naples’ renowned Museo Archiologico Nazionale (National Museum of Archaeology) offers a remarkable assortment of antiques. Lovers of both art and history flock to the museum to view the splendid frescoes, statuary, glass and silver excavated at Pompeii, Herculaneum and elsewhere. Highlights of this treasure trove of ancient art and artifacts include a huge compelling mosaic of Alexander, The Great fighting the Persians, an exquisite blue vase with cherubs bringing in the grape harvest and the fabulous jewels from the Farnese family collection.

But, pstt! There’s even more. The infamous Gabinetto Segreto, explicit frescoes and paintings removed from the ruins of brothels in Pompeii, is open to visitors on a regular basis. Alternatively admired or condemned by king and curators for centuries, the Obscene Object’s Room, as it was once called, has become an X-rated favorite.

It’s quite easy to see why the Amalfi Coast (Coastiera Amafitana), a 43-mile stretch from Sorrento t Salerno, has inspired lovers, poets and musicians for centuries. From the time of the ancient Greeks, the crystal-clear blue waters, spectacular scenery and turquoise skies have lured kings, Hollywood royalty and modern-day jet setters.

Contemporary visitors still appreciate the soaring landscape and sheer cliffs of the coast. In Sorrento, just south of Naples, legend claims that sirens enticed sailors to watery graves. You won’t find any sirens these days, but you may find shopping in Sorrento for exquisite jewelry, designer clothes and handicraft just as tempting.

The cliff-hugging ride along the rocky coast to the chic, trendy towns of Amalfi and Positano is both breathtaking and exhilarating. One of the many highlights of the trip is a stop at the peaceful village of Ravello, where Romans hid from the wrath of Huns and Visigoths in the early fifth-century A.D. Elegant homes such as villa Rufolo, which is said to have been the inspiration for Richard Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal, dot the cliffs.

And never miss the homemade pizza in Naples. But why is it that pizza, Naples cherished contribution to world cuisine, tastes even better in its hometown? Is it the thin but soft crust? Is it because of the bursting-with-flavor San Marzano tomatoes grown nearby in rich, volcanic soil or the silky mozzarella made from water buffalo milk? The sea-salt, fresh herbs and fine olive oil too stands as a contender. Great ingredients count, but so does the skill of the pizzaioli, the pizza makers who learnt from their grandfathers to roll the slowly risen dough, flip the pizza from a long-handled paddle into a wood-burning oven, and remove it with split second timing, perfectly cooked. Today, despite the infinite variations, Naples’ favorite pizza remains the simple tomato-mozzarella-fresh basil Margherita, created with colors of Italian flag in 1889 for the queen of Italy. So meaningful is the Margherita to Neapolitans that it has been designated a protected product with its own seal of authenticity.

By yanam49

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