It’s easy to imagine underground Naples being dense with mystery – as a catacomb of hidden legends, a maze of superstitions, a hypogeum of ancient traditions and myths. But it also is a great book of memories.
For the longest time, a silent life carried on in the depths of Campania’s capital city, parallel to the events that happened above surface – a life that some say may have started even five or six millennia BC, probably stemming from the cultural tradition of burying the dead and venerating them.
In the 3rd century BC, Greek settlers started delving underground to extract the tufa they needed to build their aboveground metropolis, ‘Neapolis’ (meaning “new city”). Later, the Romans descended into these urban crypts to build the aqueducts that would provide water to their cistern, ‘Piscina mirabilis’ – a testimony to their advanced engineering skills.
Underground life never dwindled in Naples. Some even sought refuge below the surface: to no avail during the 1656 plague – as the terrible disease soon spread in every hiding place – and fortunately with more success during the Second World War, when the underground chambers served as anti-raid shelters.
Most of this invisible world – which some estimate extends over two million square meters – remains unexplored.
But the small part that is accessible is definitely worth a visit.