Naples/Sorrento or Florence - which is best from a culinary standpoint?
- OC Mutt Oct 2, 2011 03:44 PM
In an upcoming trip to Rome in November, I have two days and nights scheduled for an excursion. Our two options are a trip to Naples for a night then to Sorrento for a night or head up to Florence for two nights. Which choice would offer the best culinary destinations and what recommendations do you have? I have read some disconcerting things about Naples being unsafe, so if that's true it factors into the decision. Thanks Italy hounds!
Why dont you read some of the prior discussions about Naples - and Florence? I think the food in Naples is superb. the style of cooking is totally different from florence and Naples has very few tourists and is quite inexpensive for good quality. Very atmospheric, sort of an older European feeling with real street life, relatively few english speakers.A bit fdown at heels, though. Florence is heavily touristed and a major place for foreign studies, so there are many english speakers - so much so that if you try to speak in italian often the service person will simply answer in English.
Naples/Sorrento the cuisine is light and features many wonderful vegetable dishes, cheeses, the local seafood and of course pizza. I was a little leery given the US red sauce italian tradition, but we really fell in love with this cooking. I felt it had the perfect balance. I remember my first 3 meals there in, I think 2007.
The first was an inexpensive lunch at Chitarra - pasta in a spicy tomato sauce, grilled scamorza cheese, with a extremely light tomato glaze (scrumptious) and salad for maybe 12E. The second was pizza at Sorbillo - a white pizza made with sausage and friarella(like broccoli raab). The third was a meal at a restaurant in Pompeii town which incongruously had a strolling musician for the four tables of tourists there fur lunch- they had a wonder antipasto bar with I think 15 or so selections - grilled and marinated vegetables, cheeses, etc. After a place of that I had a dish of stewed baby octopus, tender, magnificent and full of flavor, (I soaked up every bit of juice with the bread), finally, a delicious and huge fritto misto with all the variety of fish one can miss in such dishes around Italy, all washed down with a nice red from the nearby Vesuvius vineyards.
Florence offers a mainly inland cuisine focussing on beans, roast and grilled meat (the famouns bistecca), delicious vegetable soups, and in the fall, wild boar and mushroom specialties.
I think wherever you go you will have memories of delicious food to bring home with you.
It just takes some preparation - knowing what the regional dishes are and having some good restaurant names in mind. If you look at the earlier posts on these destinations you can get a sense of both these things and some specific restaurant recommendations
But where you go should really hinge on what appeals to you do do - both places have top notch things to see if you are looking for art, churches, architecture - and of course Naples has the sea and the roman and greek remains, Pompeii,etc
Via dei Tribunali, 32, Naples, Campania , IT
Rampe San Giovanni Maggiore, 1a, Naples, Campania 80134, IT
Yes, the restaurant is Zi' Caterina, at 20 Via Roma, near the Anfiteatro entrance to the site.
I had selections (vegetarian) from the antipasto bar, the best fritto misto I have ever had in Italy (extremely ample and varied) and wonderful stewed octopus. I have no idea about their pasta and pizza dishes. It is a huge restaurant which clearly caters to the tourist crowd, but its possible to get good food there. There were renovations taking place the last time we were at Pompeii which made it hard to get out that gate - I dont know whether that is completed now.
There are other well respected restaurants in Pompeii, including Il Principe, President and Il Giardini dei Esperidi (the last outside the town) which I have not visited.
I think Naples has the better local cuisine hands down, and that it is not unsafe although it sure looks unsafe to most visitors, so if that is going to upset your stomach, hard to know how to advise. If you want high-end experimental restaurants, celebrity chefs and Michelin stars, head to Florence.
If food is a major delight for you when you travel and a major motivator in picking destinations, I don't think you should feel obliged to put it in second place in Italy and instead choose on the basis of other attractions. It's a "rule" some people follow, even Chowhounders, but I dissent from it, especially for Italy. An interesting chunk of Italian culture is bound up with its food and its enjoyment of food, and sharing a meal in the same spaces that Italians share their traditional cuisine (as opposed to the "destination" restaurants that attract roving gourmands from around the world) can be soul-nourishing, not just hunger-smacking. The lessons about Italy that can be learned from enjoying a well-prepared Italian meal often remain fresh in the mind long after the details of the academic tours fade.
Barberinbee, thanks for the great advice. Yes, food is a major consideration for my travels but while I like Michelin starred places, I'm not as interested in seeking them out in Italy - I'd prefer to enjoy the local favorites - the pizzas, the pastas, gelato, the cheeses that I cannot get in the US, the salumi and the charcuterie. I'm less interested in the cutting edge cuisine as I am the classics done very well - so a great sandwich or pizza or bowl of pasta is more desirable than white table cloth cuisine. Thank you so much for your insight!