The most beautiful of Naples’s medieval churches seems to inspire great literature. Petrarch, the medieval master of Italian verse, lived in the adjoining convent in 1345, and it was here on Holy Saturday 1338 that Boccaccio (author of the “Decameron”) supposedly first laid eyes on his muse, Maria d’Aquino. The daughter of a count and countess but rumored to have been the illegitimate daughter of Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, Maria was married but preferred refuge in a convent to life with her debauched husband. For Boccaccio, it was love at first sight; he nicknamed her La Fiametta (Little Flame), wooed her with his romantic epic “Filocoppo,” and eventually won her over and convinced her to become his mistress (she jilted him for another man a few years later). You can ponder 14th-century romance as you stroll through the delightful cloisters, then descend a staircase to witness more of the city’s multilayered history: Ongoing excavations have unearthed streets from the Greco-Roman city lined with bakeries and shops, porticoes, an entire covered market, and an early Christian basilica.
- Frommer's Staff