Naples underground, between history and mystery

Naples, a city of many facets, holds in its heart a hidden cultural heritage: a maze of tunnels and tunnels able to tell its thousand-year history. Legends and reconstructions of different eras, well illustrated by the guides who lead the tour, return a new picture of the city, not to be missed especially for those who believe they already know it.

A thousand-year heritage

Naples, founded by the Greeks in the seventh century BC, has a history that has its roots in millennia of culture and civilization. But the visible city, with its majestic squares and secular buildings, is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface lies an underground labyrinth that testifies to the passage of peoples and civilizations through the centuries.

The underground of Naples is the result of a continuous excavation that took place over the centuries. Initially used as tuff quarries -a light and porous volcanic stone- these underground tunnels were then adapted and expanded for different purposes.

The path through the galleries

The underground Naples opens to the visitor its most secret doors starting from the visit to the crypts and the underground cemeteries. 

The Catacombs of San Gennaro date back to the second century A.D. and are considered the burial place of the Christian martyrs. They extend for about 3,000 meters underground: here the ancient traditions of burial are mixed with legends and popular superstitions. One of the most evocative places is the “Fountain of the Souls of Purgatory”, a small chapel decorated with skulls and human bones, where it is said that the souls of the dead are still wandering in search of peace

We then move on to explore the remains of ancient Neapolis, the ancient Greek city on which today’s Naples was built. This part of the route includes cisterns, tunnels and tunnels that date back to Greek and Roman times. 

Afterwards, the Bourbon Galleries: built in the eighteenth century during the reign of the Bourbons, were originally used as escape routes for the royal family in case of emergency. During the Second World War they were used as an air-raid shelter for the population.

The medieval cisterns, the next stage of the tour, were used for the collection and storage of drinking water. Their majestic arches and water distribution system are an important testimony to the engineering skills of medieval builders.

The underground tour includes a visit to the Co.R.E Gallery, a contemporary art gallery that offers the opportunity to fantasize working imagination, just like when exploring excavations and archaeological areas.

Afterwards, the War Museum offers an immersive experience, which brings the life and experience of the Neapolitans to life during the Second World War. 

About 40,000 people found refuge in the city’s underground during the war years, waiting for the war to come to an end. During the reconstruction of Naples the lack of means of transport caused objective difficulties in the disposal of the debris: the same were then used to fill the ancient wells underground. This space remained essentially a landfill until the 1980s, when volunteers decided to clean it up. Thanks to their commitment today Naples offers visitors a unique route.

The tour ends with a visit to the Teatro Greco Romano or Teatro di Nerone: it is located in the open air, in the area of Via Anticaglia. From here you can access an old Neapolitan apartment, lift a trap door and find yourself again underground, directly inside Nerone’s private dressing rooms.

Foto : Unsplash

Underground Naples: timetables and tickets

The tour lasts about 60 minutes. Claustrophobic people can make an alternative route, even if, in general, those suffering from these problems tend not to appreciate the visit, especially because they have to give up many interesting stages. 

The route is accessible every day, including weekends, but some specific stops may be forbidden to the public on certain holidays or during exceptional events. It is therefore important to check the specific opening days on the official website.

The ticket costs 15 euros, 10 euros for students, 8 euros for children. There are discounts for groups of 10, 15 or 30 people. 

Underground of Naples: a heritage to be saved.

The underground Naples is a precious heritage that deserves to be preserved and enhanced. 

In recent years many associations and institutions have been committed to promoting knowledge and conservation. Thanks to guided tours and redevelopment projects the underground of Naples are slowly emerging from the shadows to show the world their beauty and their historical and cultural importance.

The future of underground Naples presents several challenges and issues that require proper management and intense collaboration between local authorities, cultural organizations, local communities and other stakeholders.

One of the main concerns concerns the conservation and maintenance of underground structures: given their antiquity and fragility it is essential to take appropriate measures to preserve these historical sites from structural damage, erosion and degradation.

Urban development can also impact the subsoil and interfere with the stability of the foundations. Work should also be undertaken on waste management, groundwater control and pollution prevention. 

At the same time, continuing archaeological research underground in Naples can lead to new discoveries and a greater understanding of the city’s history. A very rich history that is up to us to increase so that it is known by those who will come after us.

Copertina: Unsplash

Autore: Eleonora Di Mauro

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