A Bird’s-Eye View of Naples, Italy

Flying into Naples, Italy on a clear day is a treat. The airport is located near the city center and the landing flight path often goes right over the Naples. Sometimes it’s too hazy to see clearly, especially during summer months, but over the years I’ve spotted the gardens at the Royal Palace of Caserta, the islands of Ischia and Procida and enjoyed some great bird’s-eye views over Naples. Last week on the way back from London it was a beautiful day with blue skies and a fairly clear view thanks to north winds. I was glued to the window as the plane made a large bank coming into the Naples airport. I caught a glimpse of Ischia out the opposite window and knew soon I would be able to see Capri. As the plane leveled, I squinted my eyes into the blue.

Landing in Naples Airport Island of Capri

The faint outline of Capri in the distance

There in the distance I could make out the faintest outline. My eyes traced the familiar curves of the island from the peak of Monte Solaro down to Capri town sitting in the saddle and over to the sheer cliff dropping off from the Villa Tiberius. The view was faint, but I knew it was there. Not long after I looked down to see the oddly shaped islet Nisida. It is of volcanic origins, which is what created its circular shape and the round little bay that make it so easy to spot from above.

Flying into Naples Airport Nisida Island

A glimpse of the island of Nisida near Naples

It’s fun to try to spot as many landmarks in Naples while flying over on a clear day. That little port there on the right is called Mergellina, and it’s a pretty part of the city overlooking the bay.

Landing in Naples Airport Mergellina

The pretty port at Mergellina in Naples

I try to see how many castles I can spot in Naples while flying over. Below you can see the Castel dell’ Ovo in the late afternoon sunshine.

Castel dell' Ovo Bay of Naples

The Castel dell' Ovo jutting out into the Bay of Naples

And then there’s Castel Sant’Elmo in the Vomero above Naples. Can you spot it below? It was clear enough that I could make out the white facade of the church at the Certosa di San Martino. What a view!

Flying into Naples Castel Sant Elmo Certosa di San Martino

Flying over the Castel Sant' Elmo and Certosa di San Martino

Coming over the centro storico, I always look for the glass dome of the Galleria Umberto I and the green roof of Santa Chiara. Can you find them below? (Hint: The dome is on the right and Santa Chiara is under the wing of the plane.) How many other sites can you make out in the photo?

EasyJet flying into Naples Italy

A bird's eye view over the centro storico of Naples

There were some very large cruise ships in the port of Naples last Monday, but one was exceptionally large. I think gigantic is appropriate. I couldn’t believe how big it looked, even from so high and far away!

Cruise ship in the port of Naples Italy

Now that's a huge cruise ship - even from the air!

As the plane came in to touch down, there was Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. It’s always there to greet you when you land in Naples. It would be more reassuring, I suppose, if it was a dormant volcano. But I’m awfully fond of it nevertheless.

Mt Vesuvius landing in Naples Italy airport

Mt Vesuvius while landing in Naples

What has been your favorite or most memorable experience flying into Naples?

Spring Colors on the Amalfi Coast

Spring beach scene on the Amalfi Coast

The colors of spring are arriving on the Amalfi Coast!

That color there—the intoxicatingly beautiful turquoise—is one of my favorite signs of spring in Amalfi. Now through May, the sea is often the clearest that you’ll see all year long, and the colors are simply gorgeous. Doesn’t it just make you want to dive in? You’d better be prepared though, because the temperature right now is only about 14 C (57.2 F). Brrr! Still a little too chilly for me. But I could sit and stare into those colors for hours!

Amalfi Coast beach in March

Tempting turquoise sea in Amalfi

In Amalfi, the colors of spring are starting to arrive. The pots lining the promenade overlooking the Marina Grande beach are filled with red, pink and white cyclamen.

Spring flowers in Amalfi

A pot of cyclamen along the promenade in Amalfi

Walking around Piazza Flavio Gioia in Amalfi, a bright orange flower on a cactus plant caught my eye. What a burst of color in the spring!

Piazza Flavio Gioia in Amalfi

Look at that orange!

We took a drive to Pontone, a hamlet of Scala, to stop by to see a talented woodworker who had repaired a small piece of furniture for us. While waiting, I noticed this big plant covered in tiny purple flowers climbing up the railing of a house nearby.

Spring Flowers Amalfi Coast Scala

Pretty in purple in Pontone

The smell was sweet and had attracted lots bees along with wandering photographers in search of spring. It certainly was happily blooming in this sunny spot overlooking Atrani below. Does anyone know what this vine is called?

Purple spring flowers on the Amalfi Coast

Do you know the name of this plant?

Recipe for Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

Italian Recipe for Pasta e Ceci

What’s your favorite Italian dish? That’s one of the questions I’m asked most often when visiting family and friends back in America. When I say pasta with chickpeas, the response is usually one of surprise or interest. I’ve always loved chickpeas, but I had never enjoyed them cooked in such a simple and lovely way until I had pasta with chickpeas for the first time in Italy. This is true cucina povera, recipes made traditional by poor peasants in Italy. Many of these recipes, like pasta e ceci, are home recipes, and you’ll not likely find them on the tables of fancy restaurants. All of this makes pasta with chickpeas a perfect dish to make at home – it’s simple and the ingredients are extremely inexpensive. And it’s healthy, too!

The recipe below is from my husband’s sister in Ravello. She’s been my inspiration and shared countless recipes and cooking tips over the past years, helping to make my dive into southern Italian cooking fun … and very tasty. She’s also been my teacher lately in learning to use a pentola a pressione, or pressure cooker, which dramatically reduces the cooking time in this recipe with chickpeas. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, check out Eleonora’s recipe for Mamma’s Pasta e Ceci on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino or Cherrye’s quick recipe for Lagane e Ceci on My Bella Vita. Happy cooking!

~ Pasta e Ceci ~

For 2 (if you’re really hungry) or 3 (if you feel like sharing)

Ingredients

150 grams dried chickpeas

5 cups water

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (optional)

1-2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

Italian flat leaf parsley

150 grams of pasta (short pasta like fusilli, penne or a mix works great)

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl or pot. They’ll get much bigger, so make sure there is plenty of water.

2. Drain chickpeas before beginning. Combine the chickpeas, 5 cups water and a small amount (1/8 teaspoon or less) in your pressure cooker.

Soak chickpeas overnight before cooking

3. Close pressure cooker and place over high heat. From first whistle, lower heat to minimum and cook for about an hour.

4. Open pressure cooker carefully according to its instructions. Add garlic, olive oil, salt and parsley and bring to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes, or longer if the chickpeas need to cook a little more.

Olive oil garlic parsley salt for pasta e ceci recipe

Tip: Some cooks prefer to cook the pasta in a separate pot and then join with the chickpeas, while others cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas to pull as much flavor into the pasta as possible. The amount of water used in this recipe is enough to cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas, which is my favorite way.

5. Add the pasta directly to the chickpeas and monitor the heat level to keep the mixture bubbling gently. Follow the pasta cooking time suggested on the package to cook al dente. Stir frequently, especially toward the end of the cooking time to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. I like to use a wooden spoon to squish some of the chickpeas while stirring to create a nice creamy texture.

Tip: My favorite pasta for this recipe is called Pantacce Toscane, a flat pasta with wavy edges around the small pieces. They make me think of miniature magic flying carpets, and are truly magical in this recipe!

Pasta with Chickpeas Italian recipe

6. When pasta is cooked and the consistency has thickened, turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top and additional parsley if desired.

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I hope you’ll enjoy this traditional, simple and healthy Italian classic in your home.

Buon appetito!

First Signs of Spring

Spring on the Amalfi Coast Beach

The first signs of spring are arriving on the Amalfi Coast. The sun is warm, and it feels just that little bit warmer each day. The narrow streets of Amalfi feel like one big construction zone. Walking through town is a bit like winding your way through a maze of tables set outside while floors are scrubbed, walls are refreshed with new coats of paint and shops and restaurants are rearranged and freshened up for the busy season ahead. Spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning here! Shops and restaurants all over town slowly starting to reopen after a break in February. Traffic was a bit more chaotic than usual at midday since a large section of Piazza Flavio Gioia was marked off with orange cones where bright yellow parking lines had just been freshly painted. Not far away, a woman was sitting on the Marina Grande beach sunning her legs. The sea is so very tempting, and soon enough it will be warm enough to enjoy a swim!