The Ultimate Ferrari

I love Ferraris, especially those from the early days of the marque. There’s a lot of excitement today in car circles over the official launch of LaFerrari, the ultimate Ferrari driving machine.

The statistics are amazing. Top Gear says that, ‘with a total combined output of 950bhp, LaFerrari will get from 0-62mph in 2.9 seconds, hit 124mph four seconds later, and top out ‘in excess’ of 218 miles an hour’.  NINE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BHP….And it’s got KERS in that.

A direct rival for the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918, LaFerrari is designed and largely built in-house at Maranello. Looks are a bit ‘meh’ (it’s not got no Pininfarina styling at all) but apparently it’s so fast that it ‘warps scenery‘ and is ‘violent, visceral, synapse snapping, and utterly, utterly addictive‘.

Yours for over 1 million pounds (should you be one of the lucky 499 owners selected by Ferrari). Listen to the noise of the V12 on the video.

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Made Men

In Campania, the NYT reported recently that one environmental group estimates that the local Camorra mafia have illegally buried 10 million tons of toxic garbage since the early 1990s, earning billions of dollars for the mafia even as toxic substances leached into the soil and the water table.  This causes significant health problems including a cluster of cancer cases and has made wholesalers cautious of buying the mozzarella di bufala and other produce from the area.  The cleanup costs would be enormous, if the Italian state could rouse itself to address the problem directly.  Meanwhile the poison continues to seep into the land.

Enjoy your local fruit and vegetables.

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Cool. Italian Style

The Guardian highlights a exhibition this Summer in London:

‘The Years of La Dolce Vita’  explores one of the most fertile periods in contemporary Italian cinema and the simultaneous explosion of celebrity culture. The 80 photographs, on view from 30 April to 29 June , capture the dolce vita (literally ‘sweet life’) enjoyed by Italian film stars and Hollywood ‘royalty’ working in Rome during the 1960s.

Photograph: Arturo Zavattini /Solares Fondazione delle Arti

The 10 Best Pizza Restaurants in Naples

What makes the perfect pizza in Naples, home of the stuff?  Is it the dough, made only with Type 00 flour, sea salt, certain yeast and the special, slightly effervescent water?  The wood-fired oven raised to just the right temperature?  The skill of the pizza maker or pizzaiolo?  Or the simple classic toppings, limited to ‘Marinara’ (originally for the fishermen and consisting of tomato, oil, oregano, and garlic) and ‘Margherita’ (named in honour of a previous Queen of Italy and with tomato, oil, mozzarella or fior di latte, grated cheese and basil)?  The list of regulations for a vera or real pizza is long.  One food blogger tries here to provide the definitive guide.

Certainly pizza here is unique: thin, crisp, smoky crust with a soft, soupy centre.  It has to be freshly cooked with a few, good quality toppings (no pineapple).  And it is best eaten in the Centro Storico.

So here, in Italian and probably highly controversial given the passions that are aroused when talking pizza, here is a list of the top 10 Pizza Restaurants in Naples.  One of our favourites is Pizzeria Di Matteo.  The picture above is of their tiny kitchen.

What’s yours?

Naples – Love it or Hate it?

Naples has divided and continues to divide opinions sharply.

‘Naples is an ill-built, ill-paved, ill-lighted, ill-drained, ill-watched, ill-governed and ill-ventilated city’. 1884 edition of Cook’s Tourist Handbook.

Or:

‘There are places that you go to, and once is enough. And then there is Napoli’.  John Turturro, Passione.

During its golden age as the capital of the Two Sicilies, travellers marvelled at the splendours of the city, the third richest in Europe.  Goethe told visitors to “see Naples and die’, happy that they had experienced the beauty of the New City.  Later, Charles Dickens, taking a visceral dislike to Naples, said:

‘There is nothing on earth that I have seen so dirty as Naples’ as he decried the ‘miserable depravity, degradation, and wretchedness’.

“Today, although observers broadly agree about the merits of the many attractions around the city, including Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi coast and of course Vesuvius, and will rave together about the food, the weather and the beauty of the area, downtown Naples remain like marmite – you love it or hate it.

Supporters, like in this NYT article, note the passion and vibrancy of the city, the multiple layers of history, the sense of human drama played out on narrow streets framed against the Bay of Naples, the quality of the art, not least that of Caravaggio, and the spirit of old and young alike, living cheek by jowl in a crowded, spawning megapolis, the sixth biggest in the EU.  Moreover, they assert, Naples is on the rise and is being taken forward by a dynamic, reforming mayor.

On the contrary, the naysayers assert, Naples remains a lawless, overcrowded, smelly, dirty, crime -and rubbish-ridden slum best avoided.  Many tourists agree and never venture into the narrow, dark streets.

As ever the truth lies somewhere between the two extreme positions.  This occasional blog will try and look below the stereotypes by exploring the culture, history, food and art of the capital of southern Italy and its hinterland, the Mezzogiorno.

Certainly life here can be frustrating but it is never dull.