Are you planning to spend your next holiday on the Amalfi coast and would like to discover it in an original way? Here you will find everything you need to visit the underground of Naples!
Bordered by the Mediterranean and overlooked by the threatening Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a city that does not leave anyone indifferent. With nearly a million inhabitants, the bubbling capital of Campania is indeed colorful, noisy and in constant effervescence.
Strolling through the alleys of the city center, admiring the countless churches, discovering the San Carlo Theater and Castel Nuovo, strolling in the People’s Square in front of the Royal Palace, there are a thousand and one things to see and do in Naples. The capital of Campania, which is twenty-eight centuries old, offers its visitors an exceptional historical and cultural heritage.
If you are looking for a surprising activity, take the direction of the underground of Naples. Eighty kilometers of galleries – dug in the city’s basements – are an original way to discover the history of Naples, from ancient Greeks to modern times.
Ready to burrow deep into the bowels of the city? Here is everything you need to know to visit the underground of Naples.
History of the Naples undergrounds
Visiting the underground passages of the city of Naples allows you to discover many aspects of the history of this mythical city.
Five thousand years ago, the Etruscans reportedly dug the basements of the city of Naples to extract tuff, a porous volcanic stone that was particularly useful for building construction. The Greeks will continue to extract this stone in order to fortify the city’s walls and build monuments.
When the Romans arrived, the underground was transformed into aqueducts to supply the city with water from the springs of Mount Somma. At the end of each underground, there are huge cisterns, in which the inhabitants of the different districts of the city come to get water. Some houses, belonging to rich and powerful families, have direct access to the underground from their homes. It was at this time that the pozzari appeared. These young men went down into the underground by climbing the tuff, in order to collect water and supply these houses. The city’s population grew rapidly and in 1629, the underground tunnels had to be enlarged to meet a greater need for water.
In 1884, a terrible cholera epidemic ravaged the city of Naples. Very quickly, we notice that cracks cause the sewers to pour into the water from the underground. They were then abandoned until the Second World War. For many years, they will be used to store the city’s waste. But, while the city of Naples was being bombed, the Neapolitans decided to rehabilitate the underground to protect themselves from the bombardments. It is estimated that more than four thousand people have found refuge there.
Since the 2015 Milan World Expo, dedicated to food, the city of Naples has been conducting a botanical experiment in its underground galleries. Today, thousands of tourists flock each year to visit Naples’ 3,500 m2 of underground space. An unusual way to visit the city.
What to see and do in the underground of Naples?
The visit lasts about 1h30, but know that you will not be able to visit the underground of Naples without a guide to accompany you. It would be a shame if a tourist, a little too reckless, got lost in the countless corridors of the underground.
To visit the underground of Naples, or the Napoli Sotterranea in Italian, go to Piazza San Gaetano. From there, you will reach the bowels of the city thanks to 136 very well maintained steps, which will lead you to a depth of forty meters, in a huge room perfectly lit. Let’s go for a breathtaking visit!
First of all, you will discover one of the gigantic aqueducts built in Roman times. You will witness a very interesting reconstruction on the tufa excavation technique, carried out using simple wet wooden piles. You will also discover the living conditions of Neapolitans who took refuge in the underground during the war, as well as an exciting museum from the Second World War. Open your eyes! Open your eyes! Many objects have been stored in the galleries and graffiti on the walls testify to different periods and civilizations. Your guide will not fail to share with you the many anecdotes and legends that Neapolitans like to tell about their underground passages.
The visit continues in narrow and dark corridors. Claustrophobs abstain! Equipped with a candle, you will discover the ancient Greek-Roman cisterns, such as the one built under Emperor Augustus or the famous Piscina mirabilis which constitutes the final reservoir of the network. Look up to admire the wells used by the pozzari.
You can also participate in some scientific and educational activities offered by Naples’ underground botanical garden, Orti Ipogei. Would you like to bring back a small souvenir of your visit? Why not opt for the famous Tufello, a wine aged in the basement of the San Gregorio Armeno convent that is claimed to be good for fertility.
Finally, the visit ends on the surface with the discovery of the remains of the Greek-Roman theater, accessible via a mysterious trapdoor located in a basso, a traditional Neapolitan dwelling. This theater, built in the 4th century BC, was greatly appreciated by Emperor Nero, who loved to sing there. It is said that he bribed the audience before his performances. Beware of those who did not applaud!
How to get to the underground of Naples?
The entrance to the Napoli sotterranea is located in Piazza San Gaetano, just next to the Basilica of San Paolo Maggiore.
- By foot
If you are staying in the center of Naples, walk to Piazza San Gaetano. It is located in the historic center of the city.
- By public transport
It is easy to get around by metro in Naples.
– Line 1: the nearest metro stations to Piazza San Gaetano are Dante and Museo
– Line 2: Cavour stop
- By taxi
All taxis will take you to Piazza San Gaetano without any hesitation, at a reasonable cost per kilometer (count between 1 and 2€ depending on the season and the time of day).
Schedules and prices of Naples undergrounds
The visits take place every day between 10am and 6pm, every hour in Italian, every two hours in English.
In 2019, the price to visit the underground of Naples is 10€ per person. In order to avoid queuing once on site, we advise you to buy your tickets in advance on the internet.
GOOD TO KNOW:
– Don’t forget to bring a sweater for the visit. In the underground, the temperature is around 14°C.
– Unfortunately, the site is not accessible to persons with reduced mobility.
– History lovers will undoubtedly appreciate the borbonico tunnel accessible from the 4 Vico del Grottone. Dug in the 19th century by Ferdinand II of Bourbon, this gallery can be visited on foot, but it is possible to walk its flooded parts by raft or thanks to a suspension bridge, for the most sporty.
– If you enjoyed visiting the underground passages of Naples, do not hesitate to visit the catacombs of San Genaro, the largest necropolis in Naples or the cemetery of the fontanelles, which welcomed the countless victims of the 1656 plague and cholera in 1836.
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