At the end of Via San Gregorio Armeno (which leads off Via dei Tribunali) you will find the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore.
The church itself is worth a look, dating from the 13th and 14th century although with a much later facade.
But it is the excavations underneath the church and adjacent convent which are most important, imo. Where else but Naples could you walk from the present-day surface down into Roman and Greek streets whose buildings still stand two storeys high?
You start in the convent courtyard, where there are the excavated remains of a temple. You can enter some of the convent rooms...beautifully decorated and very important in their time. But when you go downstairs to the excavations (only open since 1992, after work which had taken 25 years) you will see something very special indeed.
About half the original Roman marketplace has been excavated. You will walk upon the same streets as Neopolitans of the past and see the buildings which show both their original Greek structure and later Roman additions. There's a 'bank' (still with the holes for its iron grille, a 'safe' and a clear place to queue), cafes (with ovens perfectly preserved and even a serving hatch for customers to collect their food), laundries, shops....a cistern for rainwater (arched over with stones, something the Romans knew how to do but the Greeks apparently did not), a fish market with stone slabs looking exactly the same as those I saw in the Cinque Terre villages...
When I visited I was given a guided tour by a very keen young volunteer, enthusiastic about practising his English. He was a most pleasant young man but I really would have preferred to have taken my own time. A guide will certainly help if you know little about archaeology or about how the Romans lived, but is not otherwise necessary imo.
This is also an unmissable experience, I think..and one which is likely to be more appealing for children than the wonderful Archaeological Museum.
San Lorenzo is open 0930-1730 every day except Sunday, when it is open 0930-1330. There is an entrance fee for everything other than the church itself; I *think* I paid 9 euro but cannot find the receipt. The experience is worth the entrance fee, imo.
This is another of the many churches in the historic centre of Naples, but we visited not to see the church itself but what lies beneath it - an original Roman market, about half of which has so far been excavated.
Entry here was a little confusing. You go in through a door which is signposted to the museum, and up some stairs to a desk where you pay for entry to both that and the excavations, but if like us you’re only interested in visiting the latter you then have to retrace your steps almost to the exit and turn right into the cloisters. Follow the occasional signs “Scavi” to find the steps down to the archaeological finds.
The first layer you come to is part of a medieval shop; beyond this you descend further to find yourself walking on a Roman street. Small signs indicate the nature of the various shops that you pass, e.g. a laundry.
This market place is the only large-scale Greek-Roman site excavated in the downtown area, and as such may be worth a visit, but if you’ve already been to Pompeii and Herculaneum you may find, as we did, that it’s rather less interesting. Still it’s worth a short detour and the €5 asked for entry. And if you can’t get to those more famous sites, or find them over-run with crowds, this is a good little spot in which to pause and imagine yourself back in Roman days.
Opening hours during the week are 9.00 – 13.00 and 15.30 – 17.30, and at the week-end 9.00 – 13.30. No photography is allowed, hence the scanned ticket, but I must confess I sneaked one (photo 2), though I was careful not to use flash which could damage the stones if too many people used it.
Much like other major basilicas in Naples, San Lorenzo Maggiore comes with its own religious complex, including a convent and cloister. The complex we have today is mostly from an 18th century reconstruction, but it preserves not only Mediaeval Gothic sections but also subterranean Graeco-Roman ruins, all of which are now open to the public as a fascinating museum exposing the ancient ruins and displaying other works of art. The ruins come in layers, the oldest of which date back to the 4th century BC and are of the Greek agora. Later ruins are from the 1st century AD and belong to the Roman Forum, and higher up still are remains the 6th century Paleo-Christian basilica that preceded la Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore. On ground level is the Baroque cloister, with its interesting well topped by a statue carved by Cozimo Fanzago. The cloister leads into a Mediaeval Gothic hall, whose vaulted ceilings rest on ancient columns and are painted with colourful Renaissance period frescoes.
One of the more interesting basilicas in Naples, San Lorenzo Maggiore is a mix of various architectural styles. It was constructed in the 13th century, replacing a 6th century basilica built over Roman ruins, from which many Corinthian columns have survived in today's structure. The 13th century construction was commissioned by Carlo d'Angiò (Charles of Anjou) and designed by French architects, who left us with the only example of a French Gothic apse in the whole of Italy. The basilica's existing campanile was built in a Renaissance style in the 15th century as a replacement to a 13th century predecessor. Furthermore, much like many churches in Naples, San Lorenzo Maggiore was embellished in the 16th century with rich Baroque decorations, of which only the façade and a single chapel have survived. Bizarrely, the rest of the interior was restored to its Gothic origins during a late 19th century renovation, which saw the entire Baroque embellishments in the interior stripped off. Next to the Basilica are its convent and cloister, which are nowadays open as a museum and provide access to incredible subterranean ruins from Roman and Ancient Greek Neapolis.
Under the gothic church of San Lorenzo Maggiore you can experience a walk through the ancient greek- roman Naples, visiting the excavations who brought to light three different layers of the ancient town of Neapolis.
Upon entering into the cloister, go downstairs and access to an intermediate level (datable to the Middle Age).
There are some ruins of the columns and the walls of the old Hall of Justice, where the popular represantatives (the administers of law) met.
Going downstairs for 7 meter more, you’ll be charmed by a long roman way called “il cardine” (roman cardo, in the picture), with the Aerarium, where was kept the treasure of the city. Here there are the ruins of the typical shops such as the “fullonica” (the laundry), the baker’s shop where bread, focacce and cakes were made, and many others. Nowadays there is no much of those shops but you can imagine them like the ones that you can still see in the street of St. Gregorio Armeno (the overhanging excavations street). In these shops the best craftsmen create “neapolitan corni” (the typical red horns against evil eye) and sculpt little statues of nativity scenes (“pastori”).
If you visit the excavations of St. Lorenzo, you’ll be able to see the centre of city going through the typical lanes (vicoli).
From Monday to Saturday: 9.30 a.m. – 5.30 p.m.
Sunday: 9.30 a.m. – 1.30 p.m.
TICKET: 4 euro; 2 euro (for groups, students, over 60 and under 18)
[Egicom05 – by Naples’ eyes]