Naples – By Annarita Tranfici

Everyone probably knows that Italy is a country full of works of art, with many beautiful cities and breath-taking landscapes. One of these amazing places is the town of Naples, in the south of the peninsula, which is famous especially for its tasty food and its friendly people.

Naples is a coastal city full of history and traditions, and whoever comes to visit it, faces a long list of confusingly tempting options and often doesn’t have the time to enjoy all its beauties.

If you are planning your trip to Naples and want to discover a place full of mystery and references to the past history of this wonderful city, I suggest that you consider booking a tour to what is known as “Napoli Sotterranea.”
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In this article, I’ll do a short overview of the path you’ll go through when you step into this recommended place: Be prepared to begin a voyage into the city underground and listen to its unusual legends that I’ll be telling you about. It is evident that I won’t be able to describe everything you’ll see during your 1 hour and half visit, but I’ll do my best to show some of the striking surroundings you’ll most probably pass by. I hope to give a boost to your curiosity and incite you to book your flight to Naples as soon as possible!

Enjoy your virtual tour at “Napoli Sotterranea!”

The visit covers only one kilometer of the 400 kilometers which contains the Greek-Roman aqueduct (dating from the 4th century B.C). The caves you’ll visit were first made by Greeks in the IV century B.C. and were full of “tufo”, which is a building material they used to make houses, temples and other buildings of the town which were known by the name of “Neapolis”. The caves were transformed and shaped through the years by this population to be used as an aqueduct; in the time of Augustus, the Roman people enlarged this system and created 400 kilometers of channels and cisterns used to irrigate a very large area of the region, beginning near the city of Avellino and finishing to the very famed cities of Pompeii, Ercolano, and Bacoli.

During your real tour, you’ll have the chance to explore many of the aqueduct’s cisterns that have seen the light in the very last years thanks to the work of the association’s operators and volunteers.

One of these is the so-called “Simulation Tank”.


The photo above shows an ancient tank (storage chamber) with the materials and the tools used by the Greeks to make houses, temples and other kinds of buildings in the city of “Neapolis”. For simulation’s sake, the guide will help you see with your own eyes how the ancient Greeks used to work inside the mines and which tools they used. I can’t (and don’t want!) to say much more because I’d like the most interesting details to be revealed during your tour.

The aqueduct has seen many changes, in particular during the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1885 it was closed by the Italian Kingdom because of a great cholera epidemic which contaminated the water the year before, due to the permeable nature of the Tufo rock.

Less than one century after, in 1942, Naples needed bomb shelters because of the frequent air raids during the war. During this period the caves were re-opened and important modifications were made. In fact, some stairs were constructed to get inside the underground, some of the wells were closed with the use of huge columns that filled them from the underground to the surface (in order to avoid the possible bombing of the refuge) and the walking floor was leveled.


In the photo you can see goods, toys and various things that were left behind by the people who lived in the caves during the World War II.

If you have a look at the photo posted above, you can recognize some particular objects: two little cars, a sewing machine, the springs of a bed and so on. Well, all this stuff belonged to Neapolitan population who found asylum in the caves during World War II. They were mainly people that had lost their houses and needed a place to hide themselves; they were too afraid to go back to the surface and preferred to stay in the underground even if it was for weeks. Unfortunately, since the temperature was a constant 15° Celsius and the humidity level was 70%, many of them died from pulmonary diseases.

It is estimated that the number of people who lived in the underground in that particular historical period was around 1000. The evidence of their presence is given also from some writings found on the walls of this cistern, which say “Don’t cry mom” or “Help”.


In the photo you can see another cistern of the Roman aqueduct where war equipments were found: helmets, gas masks, and guns. There’s also a tank… Well, obviously it has not stepped down the stairs. The operators who work in “Napoli Sotterranea” have decided to build the prototype of a tank to recreate the atmosphere of the war and help visitors to imagine how life in the underground could be during those times.


In the photo you can see a part of Santa Patrizia’s cistern, which was adapted as a private deposit and storage for the nuns since the closing of the aqueduct until 1952. In fact, you can see some porcelain tins where nuns used to keep wine, oil, spices, and other products of their territory.

Santa Patrizia, exactly like the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro, makes the miracle of liquefying blood. However, there’s a great difference; San Gennaro’s blood liquefies three times a year: 19th of September, the date when the Saint was beheaded, 16th of December, the anniversary of a terrible eruption of the volcano Vesuvius, which, according to a popular belief, was stopped through the intercession of the saint and lastly, the first Sunday of May, in memory of the translation of mortal remains from Pozzuoli to the catacombs of Capodimonte. As for Santa Patrizia, her miracle happens once a week, every Tuesday in the church of San Gregorio Armeno and these ceremonies are especially attended by women who suffer from sterility problems because there’s another popular belief which says that the Saint can help them overcome these problems and have children. The nuns used to store the wine they produced in this cistern; it was used during masses or given as gift to common people. It was known by the name of Saint Patricia’s Blood. The tradition of this kind of wine is old and it is made with Vesuvius grapes and grown in the Tufo caves (this is why it is called “Tufello”).

Well, well, well… Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you know that you could have the chance to see one in the narrow tunnels of “Napoli Sotterranea”? Yes, you got it right! You could make the acquaintance of a small nice creature known in Naples as “munaciello”. He is a guy dressed like a monk that steals money and valuable objects from some houses and gives gifts to other people. But, do you know where this tradition came from? It came from people who were regular goers of the cisterns I’ve just talked about and their name is “pozzari”. They went down by the wells using the “grappiate” (steps that let the more experienced workers work the stone up to 20 meters in height) and had the task to clean the wells’ water; they did it superficially and with rudimentary tools.


In the photo you can see a typical picture of the “munaciello.”

They were were very thin and not so tall, so they had no problems moving in the most narrow places. They wore light clothing and a kind of hood to protect themselves from the humidity and that’s why they looked like little monks and the legend began.

So, overall:
Did you like this virtual tour?
Did it satisfy you?
Are you in the mood for an exciting trip to Italy?

If the answer is yes, take the time to book your amazing tour! A kind and experienced guide will support you during all your visits and he/she will be very glad to tell you all the secrets tied to this special and recommended place.


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