Iíve largely considered Naples a necessary evil, a stop along the way to more desirable destinations. The city felt especially grimy on my most recent visit; the scene outside the central train station resembled a doomsday movie set, with people weaving shopping carts among stalled traffic and mountains of trash. I kept expecting Tom Cruise to zip by our taxi on a motorcycle.
Stuck overnight because of flight scheduling, we dutifully headed to the Archaeological Museum whose treasures of antiquity sadly get overshadowed by their derelict surroundings. From there, we wandered Old Townís narrow streets past stalls selling religious tchotchkes and crumbling buildings so beautiful their neglect seems criminal.
Admittedly, Naples has a certain energy, a kind of living decay that both puts me on high alert and gives me a travelerís high. The countless churches certainly leave a lasting impression, as do those famous Neopolitan pies. But it wasnít prayer or pizza that saved the day. It was La Stanza del Gusto (Via Constantinopoli 100; 081401578), a cheese bar and restaurant not listed in our guidebook. Looking to change our sonís diaper, we stumbled upon this gem and had the meal of the trip.
Seated at a communal table in the colorful, ground-floor space, we devoured small plates of fried artichokes and homemade pasta ó it was the kind of culinary epiphany tourists in Italy expect but don't always find. We didnít make it upstairs but plan to return for the tasting menu next time. The Campanian cuisine is reason enough to book that cheaper ticket with a layover.