In recent years, Italian novelist Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet has swept through the literary landscape like wildfire. The four books (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child) chronicle the friendship between two post-World War II girls named Lila and Lenù as they navigate late-20th-century life.
Like many readers, Danielle Oteri was enchanted by these books. “I bought My Brilliant Friend last fall on the way back home to New York from Naples,” she told us. “I could not wait to read the other three books! There’s a certain coarseness and roughness in Ferrante’s Naples that reminded me of the Italian-American families I grew up with in the New York area. She really captures the tension between the sexes, too.”
Unlike many readers, however, Oteri and her husband Christian Galliani own and operate Feast on History Tours, and the idea for a Ferrante Fever Tour popped into her head right away. “I knew when three people emailed me about the same idea that we had to do it,” she says. “The Naples I love is an undiscovered place that has so much authentic culture—as overused as the word ‘authentic’ is—and it’s not packaged up for tourism, or self-conscious about its attractions the way Florence or Rome is. I’ve been waiting for Naples to have its moment, and maybe this is it!”
The first Ferrante Fever Tour took place in 2016 — with several Dream of Italy readers joining. The next tour dates are set for September 29-October 4, 2019.
“This is a tour for people who really love books and care about literature,” she says. “It is a real intellectual’s tour.” Since Oteri has a master’s degree in Renaissance history, she has been careful to find experts in the region’s history and culture. Additionally, this tour may be the closest any reader will ever get to the famously reclusive author, who admits “Elena Ferrante” is a pen name and is never photographed (although she does occasionally grant interviews).
However, big ideas won’t mean small comfort—participants will stay at The NH Ambassador Hotel at the harbor, and Oteri plans to introduce them to a lot of comfort food, too. “Much of the food we consider Italian in the United States came to our shores from Naples,” she says. “On this tour, too, we’ll be sure to try some of the foods that Ferrante’s characters eat, like the fancy ‘gattò’ cake, and the super-regional dish of pasta and potatoes.” The tour is limited to 12 participants and prices are as follows: $3,200 double occupancy, $3,800 single occupancy.
For more about Oteri’s love of Naples and interest in Ferrante’s novels, as well as a few ideas about what you may see on the tour, read this blog post, but caveat lector: The final paragraph contains a pretty big spoiler if you haven’t read all four books yet.
— Bethanne Patrick