As you’re facing San Paolo Maggiore in Piazza San Gaetono you will see the entrance to Napoli Sotteranea just to the left of the church. In 2011 I paid €9 for a ninety minute tour of the ancient underground city.
Napoli Sotteranea, 68 Piazza San Gaetono, Tel. 081 296 944, www.napolisotterranea.org
In the hot season it’s probably an idea to wear an extra layer as it can get cold down there, although it didn’t bother this Norwegian too much in May.
The local volcanic rock Tufo is very easy to cut and build with so generations of builders hollowed out the earth underneath to build the city above. My guide told me that later concrete constructions have been known to collapse into the cavities below!
The original Greek aqueduct, later improved by the Romans, ran all the way from Mount Vesuvius and at 200km was the longest and oldest ever built in antiquity.
It was still working up until 1844 when it was closed as a result of a cholera epidemic. Unfortunately the porous nature of Tufo allowed the disease to enter the water supply.
You can still see water flowing into some of the ancient cisterns on the tour.
Some of these galleries were later enlarged to be air raid shelters in WWII.
The stairwell in this picture leads up to a convent several floors above.
Our guide Roberto also took us to see the remains of the Roman theatre, some of which were only rediscovered quite recently in the basements of nearby houses which were still being used on an everyday basis.
The archaeologists pieced together the original layout by asking local residents if they could chip away the plaster on their walls and excavate their floors. Imagine your house having walls and foundations that are over two thousand years old!
This is the wall of the Roman theatre where the mad Emperor Nero used to perform.
In the pictures you can see the entrances both inside and outside a ‘basso’, the name for these typical Neapolitan ground floor abodes.
Some people had trap doors under their beds that led to a whole city below!
I recommend the Sotteranea as an interesting and exciting experience. There was one claustrophobic moment squeezing through a long narrow tunnel but it wasn’t that bad and there’s an alternative route should you want to avoid that situation.