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.
The 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.
The 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.
The 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.