By legend it was in the ‘huge, utterly gothic space’ of the Church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, situated in the very centre of the Centro Storico of Naples, that the 14th Century poet and writer Giovanni Boccaccio first glimpsed his muse, Fiammetta or ‘Little Flame’. He was 21 years old at the time and had arrived in Italy’s biggest and richest city with his banker father from Florence a few years before.
Many thought, and think, that Fiammetta was Maria d’Aquino, a daughter of Robert, King of Naples. Boccaccio venerated her beauty and mind, even if her body remained out of reach as she retreated back into the court and away from Naples city life. Instead of a companion, she would become a constant feature of his later works, many of which recreate Naples in all its earthy reality.