This Southern Italy illustrated map highlights some of the rich culinary dishes and traditions my husband I had the pleasure of enjoying during our February 2017 visit to Milan (Milano) and Southern Italy. As mentioned earlier, our Italy Culinary Tour started out in the north, followed by an intense city-hopping routine across 14 cities and towns in the South.
Our hyper-rapid tour around the beautiful south took us to places like Naples (Napoli) the capital of the region of Campania (Campagna), Lecce and Bari in the region of Apulia (Puglia), Cosenza in the region of Calabria, and back to Salerno in Campania, just a few miles away from Napoli.
To be honest, we just came back from another trip to Tuscany (Toscana), and so I feel I need to publish this post first before sharing anything regarding our newest adventure under the blog’s Illustrated Travel Stories series!
Another confession I need to make is that I will not be posting everything about our trip to Southern Italy all in one go, especially that there is so much information and so many illustrations to go with them. Therefore, I finally decided on posting tidbits about the trip in installments, to try and tell the story of some of the most delicious local dishes from Italy’s rustic south.
Napoli’s Latest Trending Pizza
Our first night in the south started in Naploi, where we had dinner at a local seaside restaurant and pizzeria called Antonio & Antonio. There, I had the chance to see a number of Napoli’s famed ceramics as part of our table setting. I’m in love with the colours, the motifs and shapes of Napoli’s pottery, and feel they had a big role in inspiring the lemony pattern found in today’s Southern Italy illustrated map!
When we asked the server to recommend the kind of pizzas he thought we should order, he immediately went for Napoli’s newest trending Pizza Napolitana made with vibrantly yellow cherry tomatoes, called Pomodori Gialli.
“It’s Napoli’s newest fashionable pizza,” he told us in his southern Italian accent. He also told us that the pizza topping incorporated Mozarella di Bufala, made from buffalo milk. Mozarella di Bufala is an Italian DOP food product, which stands for “Protected Designation of Origin” (DPO in English). As the name suggests, this certification ensures that products are locally grown and packaged, and in this case ensures that this exquisite cheese is made from the milk of buffalos raised in the pastures of Campania, where Napoli is located.
According to Academia Barilla, Mozarella di Bufala “should be eaten fresh and preferably close to where it is produced.” This explains the distinct difference between packaged superstore Mozarella brands and this fresh variety that offers an unparalleled taste and texture that will surely please the palate.
Casandrino’s Yummy Rustic Pizzas
Our next stop was in Casandrino, a small town in the Italian region of Campania, located a few miles away from Napoli. Casandrino’s nature was very interesting as it had these huge Aloe Vera trees on almost every street corner. This sharply contrasts with the luscious landscapes of Italy’s north, known for its green pastures and lovely scenery.
There, we had lunch at a small family restaurant, called La Villetta Pizzeria. Situated in an industrial district, this restaurant lacks the sparkle and character of other Italian food establishments, but offers some of the most delicious pizzas I have ever had!
One of the pizzas had a topping of fried aubergines (eggplants), red peppers, green peppers, zucchini, garlic, and spinach, along with Mozarella, cherry tomatoes, and an olive oil and tomato-paste base.
When we got back from our trip we tried adding these ingredients to our homemade pizza, and the results were deliciously sublime! However, instead of frying the aubergines, green and red peppers, and zucchini, we brushed them with a thin layer of olive oil and roasted them before adding them to the raw pizza dough topped with a mixture of olive oil and Italian tomato paste (passata).
At Casandrino, we also tried some of Napoli’s most famous desserts, including the Aragostina (Le 6 migliori sfogliatelle di Napoli), a candied puff pastry stuffed with soft Ricotta cheese. This sweet and crunchy pastry looks a lot like Hasselback potatoes with their familiar thinly sliced appearance. They were a bit too sweet for my taste, but a delight to try.
Behind the Scenes: The making of this Southern Italy Illustrated Map
All of the components, foods, and architectural features in this Southern Italy illustrated map were created on site during the trip. I had a small sketchbook with me, and since I’m a fan of urban sketching, I spent most of the trip sketching away in my trusty little sketchbook. Live urban sketching yields different results from illustrations created in the comfort of one’s studio. They are more fluid and more immediate, and I think they capture a very special vibe that feels much more natural and honest than illustrations created from reference photos or materials.
This concludes our first leg of our culinary tour in the region of Campania. We do come back to this region, famous for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline, at the end of the trip, after spending the most part of the trip in the region of Puglia, the southeast “heel” of Italy.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts and illustrations covering delicious foods at one of Puglia’s chic hotels, a scrumptious meal in a rustic restaurant in Apricena, and memorable times at Lecce, the city of romance and beautiful baroque alleyways and buildings!
Southern Italy Illustrated map and travel illustrations by illustrator and artist Yaansoon