Napoli: Home of the Pizza, and Giovanni

As you already know, some unforeseen flight cancellations left me with extra time in Italy. Originally, my itinerary had me going from Rome to Florence, and I had considered keeping it that way, until I was told that Florence, while lovely, is not the place to spend an entire week. So, caught between the rock of Rome and a hard place, I sought advice from the wise sages at the hostel reception desk. However, this plan somewhat backfired when they threw the metaphorical kitchen sink at me. Granted, I wasn’t speaking to bonafide members of the Italian nationality, but I figured that having been working in Rome for at least a few months, they’d know what was up when it came to Italy. Unfortunately, they did not. But, after hearing them talk about Naples and all that existed in the southern part of Italy, I figured it was a safe bet. If I didn’t like Naples, I could always go further south.

Getting from Rome to Naples was a snap. Megabus recently started operating out of Italy in addition to the myriad of other locations which it also runs, including but not limited to the United States. For those unfamiliar with the likes of Megabus, allow me to introduce them to you. This low budget bus service will take you from here to there (allowing that they travel from here to there) for a ridiculously cheap fare. If you are lucky, and book things way in advance, you can score a ticket for £1 (they are based out of the UK, so all European transit is measured in pounds). My ticket was a titch more, but still only £10 (or $15 USD); and the trip takes all of two hours. Easy peasy, and BOOM! You’re smack dab in the middle of pizza country.

The alleyways of Naples, complete with quaint Italian charm
The alleyways of Naples

Yes, everything in Naples was coming up roses. I even found a hostel on one day notice with great reviews from all who had stayed there. Talk of a friendly host who makes you a free welcome dinner and tells you all about the sights, sounds, and smells of Napoli. Giovanni is his name and Naples is definitely his game. The reviews said to prepare for a long check in, but I don’t think any amount of feedback could have prepared me for what I walked into.

Not knowing exactly how to arrive at Giovanni’s Home, I had asked an information desk for a map to help guide me. Once I arrived at the hostel, two young girls with keys were in the process of opening the door; I snuck in with them (well, actually, they invited me to) and started the arduous journey up three flights of stairs. Luckily these girls were familiar with compassion and helped me lug my bag all the way to the top. It was already an eclectic experience, then we went inside. Giovanni’s House is really like a big apartment. There is only three or four rooms that house anywhere from six to ten people so it really is close quarters, not that I minded.

Sites around town. I was fairly surprised by home many apartments surrounded the hillside. It doesn't feel as big as it really is.
Sites around town. I was fairly surprised by home many apartments surrounded the hillside. It doesn’t feel as big as it really is.

When I walked in, Giovanni was at his desk, furrowing his brow. I was about to introduce myself when he looked at me and said “Taylor, why didn’t you answer my email?” as if we had met before. At the time my Gmail account was on the fritz, due to “suspicious sign-in activity” (a frustration that I will maintain with Google until the day I die) so I had no idea what he was talking about. I explained this to him, but he still seemed a little peeved that I was unable to receive his emails. Apparently after double checking my email address by verifying with my Facebook, and having still no response, he became very concerned with the nature of my visit. I assured him that I had absolutely no intention of cancelling my stay because, after all the glowing reviews, I was extremely excited to stay! After forgiving my lack of response, he welcomed me into the kitchen for a spot of food. Being nearly six o’clock and having had nothing to eat since breakfast, I welcomed the opportunity to eat a free meal. Especially pasta!

After my initiation dinner, the check-in process began. But not before he had caught a glimpse of my freebie map from the information booth. I swear he was mid-sentence when just the sight of this foreign cartography sent him into a tizzy. I was a little confused, but things became clearer when he revealed his own map that he preferred all his guests use. Once the map was out, the real check-in began. In the span of about 20 minutes to a half an hour, I was completely up to snuff on what to do an see in Naples and outside of it. Walking in to the hostel, I thought that two days would be plenty of time. Walking out, I began to feel I really needed eight. At least, that is why Giovanni recommends.

What he doesn’t recommend is leaving Naples. I understand hometown pride, but Giovanni takes it to another level. Insisting that Naples is more than just a base camp for Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, he has a library of books to insure his argument that Naples is the best place in Italy. Even going to bat against the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Cinque Terre! But who was I to argue? But more important than what to see, Giovanni knew where to eat.

The best margherita pizza I will ever have in my life
The best margherita pizza I will ever have in my life

Home of the pizza, in Naples you will have a hard time finding anything else to eat besides these perfected pies. Though, you do have to watch out because, like Rome, every place claims to be the best Italian; but very few actually do. For the best pizza in Naples, go to Sorbillo’s. Gino Sorbillo. Not to be confused with his cousin who also has a pizzeria on the same block. But according to Giovanni, he doesn’t make pizza. He makes “flip flops”. The girls from the staircase as well as a few others staying at the hostel were already there while I was going through the check-in process. Even though he was begged to “let me go early” I had to stay for the whole spiel. But I made it out just in time for dinner.

When I got to Gino’s, the line was out the door and almost around the corner! But I spotted my group inside so I snuck in and grabbed a seat. The waiter was on me as soon as I sat down! Not having time to look at the menu, but not wanting to wait another hour before he came back around, I went with a classic margherita. Now, for €3, I was expecting a slice of pizza so, when a pizza bigger than the plate was sat before me, my jaw dropped. Then I took a bite, and it would have dropped again had my mouth not been full of food. Best pizza I’ve ever had hands down! And this is a pizza with just cheese and a sprig of basil. Eat your heart out New York, Chicago, and California. No one does pizza like Sorbillo’s; and I should know since I ate there every night (along with everyone else). Seriously, aside from the free pasta dinner, it was pizza, pizza, pizza! And maybe some wine every once and awhile. After all was said and done, our bellies were full, and surprisingly, so were our wallets. For the six of us to go out and all each get our own pizza and beverage, the bill was less than €40. Now that’s what I call winning!

Oh yeah! Baller on a budget.
Oh yeah! Baller on a budget.

After dinner I met a few of my room and house mates. As we all sat outside on the terrace, it felt as if I had found a small sense of community, family and love. Only if for an night, or two.


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