Visit Naples Italy Napoli sotterranea Underground Naples Forty meters below the characteristic and lively streets of the Historic Center of Naples, you find a different world, unexplored, isolated by time, but deeply connected with the world above. It’s the heart of Naples, and the place from which the city was born. To visit it is to travel to the past, a world 2400 years old. Naples is built layer over layer out of the compacted volcanic ash and rock that Italians call tufo. Porous and easily manipulated, it was used by the Greeks, starting around 470 B.C., as they built their Neapolis; the name means “New City” and emerged over time as Napoli — or, in English, Naples. Later the Romans used the tufo quarries for an extensive system of underground aqueducts. Early Christians dug caves to worship and bury their dead. Neapolitans of various centuries used the cavities as dumping grounds. Only the cholera epidemic of the mid-1880s shut down this underground city, but in World War II it was in use again, as shelter from the heavy bombing that decimated the city. In the underground of Naples lies a labyrinth of tunnels and cavities that form a real city which is the negative of the city on surface. Most of Naples has a honeycombed underground, and slipping into it is as easy as descending a flight of stairs or turning a corner. Guided tours help travelers explore, and in a few places, where the excavations are parts of museums or churches, you can wander on your own. The underground of Naples fascinates and impresses for the grandeur of the cavities, and therefore for the spaces, and for the maze of tunnels that cross each other for several miles below the streets and the buildings. Wandering on, through the interconnected passageways below the bustling Neapolitan streets, you can see aqueducts that had been used for 23 centuries and then descended 121 steps deeper to the air-raid shelters. In 1941, almost 250 miles of tunnels and waterways under Naples were cleared of water and refuse, most wells were sealed, and stairways were built and electricity installed. The Neapolitans who waited in the shelters as bombs pounded overhead left markers of their tense days and weeks there: drawings on walls of bombs and planes, the word “aiuto” (help). You can see toy cars and beds, a sewing machine and a radio that were later found in the shelters. Then you can grip lighted candles and navigate a chilly long, low and narrow passageway where water once flowed, to reach Greek and Roman cisterns.