"Monuments in May 2007" features visits to Naples "Parallel City"



Modern day generations in Naples, Italy mostly know little or nothing about the rich, mysterious history still alive today beneath the streets of their city. Ornate Greek hypogea dating back 2,500 years that were carved into the soft yellow tuff sandstone, and intricate underground aqueducts also dating from that period and later Roman aqueducts, tunnels, corridors, snake beneath the city. But even more mysterious and awe inspiring are the gigantic caverns left from underground mining of the tuff which was used to construct palaces, villas and buildings, many of which are still in use today. In WWII these cavities were used for air raid shelters which housed thousands upon thousands of citizens as allied bombing leveled huge areas of the city above.

Now, flash forward to today and the annual citywide "Monuments in May" festival that throws open the doors to museums, galleries, palaces, ornate churches, and now the marvels of the "sottosuolo" or underground. Below is a photo tour with captions so you can take a quick visit to the places selected for guided tours this May. So come on along, let's have a look.


This is the 'old school yard', urban Naples style, the Giovanni Bovio elementary school to be exact, and beneath the school is a mind blowing example of the excavated tuff sandstone, seen below, leaving huge caverns which were converted for use as air raid shelters in WWII. Students from the school serve as tour guides and members of the Southern Speleological Society will also be on hand for each guided tour.




Students from the "Liceo Artistico,"  another school, will also act as tour guides through the underground tunnel and cavity complex beneath the ancient convent and Church of the Holiest Apostles. The photos below show a well shaft that has had a circular stairwell cut around it as an entryway to the caverns below when Mussolini had it converted to an air raid shelter during WWII. The elaborate rooms and passageways are all excavated some 40 to 60 meters below ground, carved "in negative" from solid yellow tuff sandstone.







The Naples "Museum of the Sottosuolo," is a work of love by engineer, Clemente Esposito, the dean of Naples urban speleology. Tours are conducted through this series of cavernous rooms, parts of ancient aqueducts and Esposito's meticulous recreation of Greek hypogea, burial chambers, and other examples of what is to be found beneath the city. The museum contains collections of artifacts found during Esposito's half century exploration of the "Parallel City" as seen in the photos below.





Finally, below is a photo of Clemente Esposito taken during a recent mapping and survey of an ancient circular Roman water reservoir which held diverted water from the aqueducts.


Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Larry Ray

by Napoli Underground