The Bourbon Tunnel: history below the surface

Galleria Borbonica, Napoli

An underground tunnel runs under Monte di Dio in Naples: the Bourbon Tunnel, a dusty passage full of lost items, car and motorcycle carcasses, the remains of old electrical systems and statues.

It is just a small section of a huge maze that unravels under Naples, connecting to the structure of a 1600s’ aqueduct.

Measuring barely over 500 meters (from Vico del Grottone to the east to Via Domenico Morelli to the west), it was designed by architect Errico Alvino for Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who inaugurated it in 1855.

The king wanted to make sure he would have an escape route to the coast (on the western end of the tunnel) in case of riots, and also to provide the army a quick route from the barracks near Chiaia to the Royal Palace – currently in Piazza del Plebiscito, on the eastern end of the tunnel. The result was a small masterpiece of civil engineering.

The Tunnel was used by thousands of Neapolitans as a bomb shelter for weeks in 1943, and later became a judicial deposit (as well as an illegal dump and car parking).

A visit here now exposes the evocative traces of that underground life, scattered along an extraordinary path.

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December 20, 2016

The Bourbon Tunnel: history below the surface

Vico del Grottone, 4 - near Piazza Plebiscito
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