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San Lorenzo Maggiore

One of Naples’ historical treasures, this Gothic church also contains a museum and the remains of an ancient Roman marketplace.

Venture underground beneath the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore to see how life would have looked in Naples around 2,000 years ago. Then compare this to the stylized Baroque and Gothic architecture of the church itself. On the upper floors, a well-appointed museum helps to put the picture together.

The site of the San Lorenzo church stands at the very center of the old Greek and Roman city; a church has stood here since the sixth century. The building you see today, however, was the result of a rebuild in 1270 by Carlo I d’Angio. Subsequent additions and repairs, most notably on the Baroque-style façade, have made the church one of Naples’ most interesting architectural sites.

The mix of styles is also evident in the spacious interior. A Baroque cloister leads you into a hall and refectory, both built in the 13th and 14th centuries. Note several frescoes decorating the walls around the ornate tombs and monuments.

History buffs may well want to pass all this in order to get to the site of the Roman and Greek excavations. From the cloister room, you head down stairs to the site of a first century Roman village. Take in the market stalls, basilica and everyday elements of Roman life, including an old stone oven. Artifacts have been painstakingly restored to resemble their original condition.

Some of the most impressive pieces that were found during the excavation are displayed in the museum, which takes up three floors above the courtyard. The focus of the museum is mainly on the area around the San Lorenzo church, but other items of interest include old shipping charts, which detail the trade routes from Naples, and a selection of 18th-century religious attire.

The San Lorenzo Maggiore is located in the Piazza San Gaetano and is open daily with shorter hours on Sundays. You can reach the church by metro or bus. Entry to the church is free, but there is a charge for the excavation area and the museum.


Guide to Exploring around San Lorenzo Maggiore


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