Lazzarom (It. lazzaro, a leper), the lowest classes of the populace of Naples, including porters, itinerant venders of food, boatmen, beggars, and all without a fixed place of abode. The name is derived from that of the beggar Lazarus mentioned in the parable of Christ. During the middle ages lepers were obliged to wear a peculiar dress, consisting simply of short drawers, shirt, and hood, and down to a recent time this costume was generally retained by the lazzaroni. At the end of the last century their number was estimated at 40,000, most of them sleeping in the open air, in archways, or in large baskets which they carried with them. Though idle, ignorant, and vicious, they are abstemious, frugal, and, when not excited, proverbial for their good nature. They used to elect yearly their chief, the capo laz-zaro, who was formally acknowledged by the government which was better able to control the lazzaroni through him. The lazzaroni have frequently played an important part in political revolutions. They aided Masaniello in the revolution of 1647, and during the siege of Naples by Championnet in 1799 they fought bravely, their capo Michele being afterward appointed a French colonel.

In recent times the lazzaroni have generally been identified with the Bourbon interests and reaction; the dread of their being turned loose to pillage the city having been used during the last reigns of the overthrown dynasty as an effectual check on the middle classes. Of late they have lost many of their peculiarities; efforts have been made by the government of Victor Emanuel to inspire them with a love of cleanliness and order, and they are no longer recognized as a separate class, but are enrolled in different districts, and subjected to the same police regulations as other citizens.