Underground Naples

Underground Naples

Having survived a day of walking to exhaustion in Pompeii and Herculaneum it was time to take it easy and relax in Naples. Enjoying a well deserved sleep in I spent the rest of the morning looking up flights from Naples to London. I knew the longer I left booking my ticket the more expensive it would be, the problem was I just couldn’t bring myself to hit the buy button.

Making that purchase signalled the end date for my travels and the start of a working life in London. The fact I would be living IN London, a city that could easily keep me entertained as a tourist as well as still being close enough to Europe for trips back whenever possible didn’t matter. And so unwilling to finalise my trip I closed the lid of my macbook and decided to catch a tour of the underground of Naples, leaving that one way ticket to London wait a little longer.

Napoli SotterraneaThe tour at Napoli Sotterranea gave a great look at what lies hidden beneath Naples. Starting with just a regular house in the street nearby we quickly found out that it is actually built into what was once a great Roman Theatre. By way of trap door under a bed in an adjoining room we ventured down into the basement revealing the ancient brickwork that formed the theater. Amazingly the person who had lived in the house for years beforehand knew nothing of the significance of their house or all the the ones that surround it until the last couple of years.

Next we ventured down into the aqueduct’s under Naples. Originally used to get water into the city they had been expanded for use during the last world war to serve as air-raid shelters. We were told stories about how workers tasked with cleaning and maintaining the many wells would sneak into the wealthy houses via their in house well and steal from them during the night.

Naples Tufa ExtractionThe excavated stone (Tufa) from the creation of the wells was later used to build the city walls and later again the buildings that sit above as the Greeks discovered its light weight characteristics. This grew the aqueducts in size creating an almost mirror image of the structure below the earth as it was extracted for use above. To me that sounds like a recipe for disaster, I mean build a structure on the very quarry the stone was extracted from?

At the end of the war the well’s were used for garbage disposal as a way to get rid of the rubble left over because transport was too difficult. As a result of this the floor in the aqueducts that we were standing on is now many times higher than it once was. This disposal signaled the closer of the majority of the wells throughout the city. Where there was once hundreds of wells there is now only a handful still in existence, obviously all dry and boarded up as the water is long gone.

Having never even heard about the kilometres of tunnels that run under Naples until finding this tour I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it all. Maybe it’s just the 5 year old in me but I love exploring old buildings, tunnels etc. There is just something exciting about walking in the footsteps of time gone by and this tour was certainly treating me to that.

Naples TunnelsThe last part of the tour had us take up candles and squeeze along some 100-200 meters of very narrow walkway to view a section that still contained water. Alas my camera was unable to capture a worthy photo from there so you will all just have to take the tour yourself to get a look at the crystal clear water that still exists deep under Naples.

The tour which only runs for around an hour was a great addition to my lazy day. I learnt something new about Naples and had the comfort of the cool underground to save me from the heat above. Returning to the hostel I lounged around in the common area for the afternoon and night sharing my new found knowledge with some friends and enjoying some cold beer’s while eating yet more pizza.

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12 Responses to Underground Naples

  1. FIONA February 21, 2011 at 3:06 PM #

    What a fantastic experience. Hahaha understand completely why you shut the lid of your mac book and put off getting those tickets!:)

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      It was a really interesting tour Fiona and one I was glad to find. As for the mac well yes I so did not want to buy that ticket.

  2. ANDREW February 21, 2011 at 6:45 PM #

    Underground tours are quite a thing to see these days in Europe. The best one I ever did was in Edinburgh. I thought I would try one in Prague and it was disappointing. Somehow brightly lit rooms with outlets in the walls does not give the proper ambience to an underground tour. I’ve wanted to do the one of the Paris sewers too.

    I will have to remember this one when I make it to Naples one day.

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 22, 2011 at 1:45 PM #

      Andrew I’ll have to check out the tour in Edinburgh at some point by the sounds of that. I completely forgot about the sewer tours in Paris when I was there and it was on my list of things to see. Luckily I did at least get down into the catacombs so it wasn’t all a loss.

  3. CHRISTY @ TECHNOSYNCRATIC February 22, 2011 at 5:28 PM #

    Wow, what a cool side of Naples that most people never even see! Just looking at that last photo makes me feel claustrophobic, though. 🙂

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

      Christy they did say to anybody that gets claustrophobic that it might be worth skipping that final section. It wasn’t that bad until you had to go around a corner.

  4. CLAIRE February 22, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

    I know the feeling about putting off booking the flight, even though you know it will be cheaper. I was the same when I booked my flight from London to Toronto, and there was a mindshift into stuff I wasn’t ready to deal with – i.e. looking for a job and somewhere to live.

    Nothing better than more exploration to put it off a bit longer!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

      Claire it was that entire shift from a travelling laid back attitude to one where I would have to work etc that was stopping me buy it. You get so used to enjoying your freedom that I didn’t want to give it up for anything.

  5. LAURA February 23, 2011 at 12:36 AM #

    I was exhausted after walking around Pompeii too! (but it was pretty spectacular) I didn’t have time to go to Naples, though the tunnels sound cool!

    • THE AUSSIE NOMAD February 23, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

      Laura where were you travelling to/from that you skipped Naples but saw Pompeii? It’s only a shortish train ride away and while I’m still not sold on Naples I am glad I stopped there.

      • LAURA February 23, 2011 at 9:00 PM #

        From Rome. I switched trains in Naples, checked my bags at Pompeii, and then went on to Sorrento. With my time frame, I think I made the best decision but wouldn’t mind going at some point.

  6. ANGELA February 26, 2011 at 2:06 AM #

    I’ve been to Napoli only once and loved it. I absolutely adore pizza (yes, pizza-wise I’m the perfect Italian), and my favourite is Napoli’s one. I remember in the pizzeria I went to I ate so much that even the chef came out of the kitchen to see who was the supernatural being 🙂

    I haven’t visited underground Napoli, stayed in the city for a very short amount of time, but I was totally overwhelmed by Pompei. So sad and captivating story that ancient city has. I love history, and walking in such a ghost town that beautifully kept its original look (well, kind of forced to by the Vesuvio…) made me feel like I was stepping back in time myself. I loved looking at the houses, how they were organised, what frescoes they had, their fountains, the shops of the city and, inevitably, since it was mainly a port, its brothels!

    I have spent half a day in Pompei and visited only half of the ancient city, the best reason to go back and explore the other half. I then went to the new Pompei, that too right underneath the Vesuvio, despite the fact that it’s still a very active volcano and threatens lava and ashes on a daily basis.

    I see you are moving to London, I’ve lived there for two years, let me know if you need any tip on surviving the jungle 😉

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