What lies beneath Naples?
I’ve visited Naples a number of times over the past few years, so when I visited the city once again during a day visit by Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas I had to put my thinking cap on as to what I could do.
Having done some research to find something a little different I came across the Borbonico Tunnel situated under the bustling city of Naples. This immediately peaked my interest and I decided to head straight off the ship and investigate. I found out there are a number of tours which take place throughout the week, but on weekdays only a standard tour of the tunnels is offered at regular intervals through the day. Further tours which delve deeper into the tunnels take place periodically.
The Borbonico Tunnel was originally an underground passage, constructed by the military to enable movements (and escape by the Monarchy if need be!) between the Royal Palace of Naples and Military Barracks near the coastline during the 19th Century. Parts of the tunnel date back even further to the 17th Century, utilising some of the ancient aqueducts of the city.
The entrance to the site is very modest up a quiet street past Piazza del Plebiscito and unless you know where you are going you’d easily miss it. In fact, I later learnt that the entrance used to be a vets until relatively recently when work began to rediscover the tunnel system.
So a small group of us gathered in what could have easily been an operating theatre in a past life before our very friendly and helpful guides took us down a very old stone staircase, which slowly but surely got narrower and shorter as we plunged into the darkness. There we found ourselves in small caverns which slowly opened up into bigger and bigger spaces. Within these spaces relatively new artefacts can be found from the 20th Century, including modern toilets, for during the Second World War the tunnel system acted as the principle air raid shelter for the City as it was pummelled by bombs from above. Our guide explained in detail about the stories of the tunnels and the living conditions during the War.
We ventured on into the main passage which was originally meant to connect the Royal Palace with the Royal Barracks at Via Morelli. The passage was never finished during the reign of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon due to engineering difficulties but what had been completed was an impressive structure. As we walked down the passage we glimpsed the ancient Aqueducts which the tunnel had been built over and used to supply the city. As we walked along, glipsing the massive aqueducts the tunnel gradually became bigger and bigger until we found ourselves in a grand cavern surrounded by numerous cars and motorbikes.
These cars and motorbikes were stored in the tunnels during the latter half of the twentieth century, when the nearby police used the tunnels as a car impound (via another entrance). There they were left and forgotten about, many of which are well preserved. The tour finishes with an exhibition of a number of artefacts found through the tunnel.
Overall, I loved the tour and the history of the tunnel. Only a fraction of the tunnel system has been excavated so numerous further secrets may lie buried under the city of Naples. If you find yourself in Naples I definitely recommend taking a look if you have time.
The price for the standard tour is great value at €10. For more information please visit: http://www.tunnelborbonico.info/en/home/
Images copyright © 2016 Associazione Culturale Borbonica Sotterranea