Thursday, February 4, 2010

San Lorenzo Maggiore

The Naples Underground: Less than a block away from Napoli Sotterranea, don't confuse this underground with the extensive two-hour tour.  Located in the heart of historic Naples, San Lorenzo Maggiore is a smaller underground, but you can walk without a guide, viewing crumbled archways and vendor shops.  It's the only underground that has preserved the city's ancient foundations.

The ruins date back to the Imperial Age following the earthquakes of 62 and 64 AD.  Archeologists found oil lamps imported from North Africa, but the lamps showed no trace of usage.  In this way, experts hypothesized that the lamps were stock items and, therefore, this must have been a bustling marketplace that offered international wares.  Amphorae were found here in abundance, once holding regional wines that sold in exchange for fish (garum) sauce that arrived from the Iberian Peninsula, dried meat from North Africa, and oil that was likely imported from Greece.  The vase makers often put their trademark names on the amphorae, such as A. Vibius Scorfula and A. Valerius Fortunatus.

The names themselves spark questions that can only be left unanswered:  Who were these people?  How did they live? What happened to them?

The examples of amphora as well as other crockery are on display upstairs in the museum.  Within the underground, I can only wander along barren dirt paths or up metal stairs, trying to imagine what these hollow vendor spaces must have looked like.  Then, I come upon a brick oven so well preserved that it seems at any moment wood logs inside might flick once again with fire.

The San Lorenzo Maggiore Church right next door to the underground is worth a peek too.  First built in the 6th century A.D, a Basilica was constructed over the paleochristian site during the 12th century.  It's here that the writer Boccacio fell in love with Fiammetta.

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