A quick afternoon trip to downtown Napoli two weeks ago still has me captivated by the magnitude of its beauty and traditions. Beginning with the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore that has history both above AND below ground! The Basilica was commissioned by Bishop Giovanni II (533-555), and consisted of a portico (nartece), of a wide room divided into three naves, and semi-circular apse sided by pastophores, whose floorings are still visible today. The church and the monastery are considered as one of the first Franciscan settlements in Naples. Here the minor monks have been living since 1234 with an intense spiritual action combined with a strong cultural activity. Elsewhere here, you can discover a Neapolitan presepe (nativity scene) built by Franciscan friars. The composition of the crib, the small town of Bethlehem, the shepherds, the angels, animals and landscapes with its small buildings, and people that represent the birth of Jesus Christ contains a special feature: the scene depicted here is not the typical Bethlehem landscape with mountains and desert, but the Neapolitan quarters of 1700 with its typical characters- the woman who takes care of the house, the carpenter, the pizza chef, butcher, etc. There is also a statuette with an unexpected charisma: Benito, a good drunker drinking a good glass of wine near the grotto of Jesus. This symbolizes that Jesus’ birth takes place in a variety of human families and He is not ashamed to be a “citizen” of this city, loving and accepting this community without looking at their possible “holiness.” More beauty can be seen on the walls and ceiling of another room. Once the refectory of the friars, the ceiling is completely covered with frescos dating back to the first half of the 17th century!
Another show stopper, with slightly less color than the frescos but by no means any less magnificent, are the Basilica’s underground excavations. Simply astounding. They begin in the 6th century with the remains of columns and ruined walls from the court House of San Lorenzo, and go down another 2,000 years where you can walk an ancient Roman road which contained remnants of a variety of shops once used for bakeries, wineries, and laundry!!
Un altro capolavoro, con un colore leggermente inferiore agli affreschi ma non per questo meno magnifico, sono gli scavi sotterranei della Basilica. Semplicemente sbalorditivo. Iniziano nel VI secolo con i resti di colonne e muri in rovina della Casa di corte di San Lorenzo, e scendono per altri 2.000 anni dove si può percorrere un’antica strada romana che conteneva i resti di una varietà di negozi un tempo usati per panifici, cantine e lavanderia !!
And we couldn’t go home without having la pizza napoletana which, of course, led to more fascinating street discoveries: seeing Pulcinella (the masked joker from Neapolitan puppetry), their devotion and love for soccer, the traditional Neapolitan presepe (handmade Nativity scenes) and characters, and finding curniciello (lucky red horn).
E non potevamo tornare a casa senza avere la pizza napoletana che, ovviamente, ha portato a scoperte di strada più affascinanti: vedere Pulcinella (il burlone mascherato dei burattini napoletani), la loro devozione e amore per il calcio, il tradizionale presepe napoletano e personaggi, e trovare il curniciello (corno rosso fortunato).
— San Lorenzo Maggiore — La Neapolis Sotterrata — San Gregorio Armeno —
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!