Eat Pray Love: Naples, Pizza, and Spiritual Epiphanies

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Eat Pray Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What happens in the Eat Pray Love Naples pizza scene? Why was getting pizza in Naples so important in the book?

In Eat Pray Love, Naples pizza plays a surprisingly important role in Elizabeth Gilbert’s happiness. While getting pizza in Naples, Elizabeth has an epiphany about how to be happy, and the mistakes she made along the way.

Read more about Eat Pray Love, Naples, pizza, and how all these experiences changed Elizabeth’s perspective.

Eat Pray Love: Naples Pizza is the Best on Earth

One of Gilbert’s happiest memories from Rome was finding a farm stand down the street from her studio. She purchased fresh asparagus and paired it with poached eggs, olives, goat cheese, and salmon for lunch. She took her plate to a sunny spot on the studio floor and ate every bit with her fingers. With her Italian paper and her beautiful lunch, she felt happiness oozing from every poor. Her instinct to feel guilty about doing nothing kicked in. But she brushed it off. She’d finally learned bel far niente

Food was a constant source of pleasure for Gilbert in Rome. Another friend, an American food writer living in Italy, took her to all the best restaurants in Rome. Luca introduced her to an Italian delicacy—lamb intestines. And pastries, gelato, and cappuccino were daily favorites. However, one of the most memorable meals Gilbert had was pizza in Naples. 

After meeting a young Australian woman backpacking through Europe, Gilbert found she was jealous of this woman’s adventures. True, she was on her own adventure, but the energy of visiting a new place and living in a new place was different. Since she was in Rome for four months, she felt more like a resident than a traveler. To feed her wandering spirit, she and her Swedish friend Sofie took the train to Naples, the birthplace of pizza and ice cream. 

Giovanni was from Naples and made Gilbert promise she’d go to the best pizzeria in town. To Gilbert, the best pizza in the city that invented pizza meant it would be the best in the world. She couldn’t wait. 

Pizzeria de Michele did not disappoint. Both Sofie and Gilbert had other-worldly experiences eating this pizza. The crust was thin but soft. The cheese dripped off the sides, and the tomato sauce was tart, salty, and sweet. Each ate a whole pie themselves and ordered another. 

At some point during the meal, Gilbert caught a reflection of herself in the window. She was heavier because of all the eating, but it wasn’t the weight she saw. Instead, she saw a vibrant, healthy, and happy woman, someone she hadn’t seen in years.

No More Men

In Eat Pray Love, Naples pizza made Elizabeth come to an important conclusion. One pleasure Gilbert removed from contention was sex. Before arriving, she’d made the decision to practice celibacy during her year-long journey. The Italian men challenged this decision often. They were dark, handsome, and immaculately groomed and dressed. But she needed this time away from men and relationships. She’d never taken this kind of break before. 

Since the age of fifteen, when Gilbert had her first boyfriend, she’d been jumping from one guy to another. Sometimes they’d overlap, and there was never more than a week’s break between partners. This scenario was made worse because of who she became in her relationships. 

Gilbert didn’t have boundaries with men. When she was with someone, she was with them completely. She morphed into whoever they wanted her to be and gave every ounce of love, attention, and money to ensure their happiness—often at the expense of her own. She lost herself completely to the extent that a friend once told her she looked like her men, like a dog that resembles their owner.

Gilbert always felt lost and unsure of who she was due to this cycle of changing herself to suit her lovers. A year of celibacy would allow her to learn who she was without a man. She also saw it as a public service, likening her celibacy to the law taking away someone’s driver’s license after a string of accidents. Loneliness was sometimes a consequence of this decision. But when she started to feel lonely, she’d tell herself to sit back and enjoy life without making someone else responsible for her happiness. 

There was another reason Gilbert wanted to be celibate. She was still in love with David and knew it would be unfair to start something with someone else with those feelings. Plus, she and David were still on-again-off-again before she left, and she wasn’t sure where they stood. Each had expressed a similar hope that one day they might figure out how to be together. Before she could be with anyone else, she had to understand where she stood with David. It’s clear that in Eat Pray Love, Naples pizza is about more than just delicious food.

The Final Act of Eat Pray Love, Sparked by Naples Pizza

On her way back to Rome from Naples, Gilbert was hit with the realization that she had to officially end things with David. She knew they loved each other, but they made each other miserable. And it wasn’t realistic to hope that one of them would change and they’d find a way to live harmoniously. 

Her happiness in the Eat Pray Love Naples pizza place showed Gilbert that she might be able to live without David. Other happiness waited for her somewhere else. And even if it didn’t, she needed to cut the string tying them together before she could know for sure. 

That night, she wrote David an email, the first communication they’d had since she left. She told him it was time to accept that their love was special but not sustainable. It was time for them to go their own ways. She also gave her blessing for him to find a new love. She hit send, knowing it was the right thing to do. But it still hurt. 

The next day, Gilbert checked her email at the Internet cafe multiple times. Despite her conviction, there was still a part of her that hoped he would promise to change and ask her to stay. Late that evening, she received his response. He agreed that it was time for an official ending. He ended by saying he knew she would find another love that would make her happy.

In Eat Pray Love, Naples pizza is an iconic scene because of its emotional influence, and of course, because of the delicious pizza.

Eat Pray Love: Naples, Pizza, and Spiritual Epiphanies

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Eat Pray Love summary:

  • Why Elizabeth Gilbert needed to divorce her husband
  • How she was able to find joy again in Italy
  • How Gilbert was able to find balance with Felipe

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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