Ok, so I’ve come around to accepting that there are other things to do in Naples than eat pizza. It was tough though, and took something as tremendous as Naples Underground, or Napoli Sotterranea, to prove it to me. It’s as creepy as any underworld tale, but there’s a friendly guide to take you through the twisting, winding passages below the streets of Naples.
There are a number of tours, each beginning in different parts of the city, with each tour revealing different sections of Naples Underground. The tour my girlfriend and I took featured the underground remains of a Greek-Roman theater. It began in the vincinity of the Duomo di Napoli (directions are offered here). The small gift shop at the ticket office has a window in the floor that offers a glimpse in to the world below. English language tours leave throughout the day, and when we arrived without reservations, we only had to wait 15 minutes for the next tour. The tour cost is 9 euro per person. While the price had kept me away during previous visits to Naples, I can now attest that the experience is well worth it.
We followed our guide down a deep, long stairway until reaching a series of large rooms with towering ceilings. Our guide explained the ancient method of constructing homes in the area over 2400 years ago, which created the underground city that we were now walking through. The inhabitants dug large holes to excavate stone that they then used to construct houses. The large holes were subsequently used as wells. After enough people had populated the area, there were so many wells that they were connected to create massive underground aqueducts. At one point, the aqueduct was so large that it connected Naples to Rome, a distance of nearly 140 miles.
The aqueducts were eventually closed down when cholera swept through Europe and they were never again used to provide drinking water. During WWII, some of the people in Naples decided to use the underground city as a bomb shelter; creepy toys and graffiti from that time period can still be seen. A few of the rooms are still used today, some for biology experiments, and some to serve as a venue for art shows. There were also rooms with water in them, making for a stunning visual experience.
My favorite part of the tour was the candle-lit trip through some very narrow passages. This part of the tour, however, may not appeal to people of large bearing or those with claustrophobia. Everyone in the group is given a candle and taken on a short journey through thin passages and into a room that features some pretty incredible sights. I’m going to leave those sights a secret, however. I can’t give it all away! The tour guides are very good at creating fun surprises and I wouldn’t want to ruin the anticipation and excitement for readers who will one day take the tour.
Though the underground city has been mapped for over fifty years, the endeavor still struggles to raise enough money to unearth more of its incredible remains. When our guide showed me a map that depicted the size of the underground city, I was amazed to find that it stretched well beyond the current borders of Naples. Our tour, we were told, includes less than 1% of the giant, Naples Underground.
Yes, Naples offers so much more than good pizza!
Written by Mattie Bamman for EuropeUpClose.com