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Going Underground

Sunday 12th June 2022


Temperatures soaring again in Naples so we decided that going underground would be a good option - and not just to use the metro (more info on Línea 2 later). Luckily Naples is well-served in this regard - having catacombs (burial grounds for the deceased) and an attempt at a whole underground city to explore.

We first went to the Catacombs of San Gaudioso to learn about how corpses were lowered into the catacombs from the church above where a man awaited to “drain” the bodies. They did this by piercing them numerous times with sticks and then they were left to desiccate. It’s hard to imagine what that must have been like (for the worker) in the dark, and the smell. It will come as no surprise that the “recruits” were criminals paying their debt to society.

Once dried out (about 9 months later if memory serves me right) then the bones were laid on shelves, or in marble sarcophagi if they were rich. Most of the bones have now been removed to other osseries in the city.

For some (again the richer citizens) the skulls were displayed by being crammed into holes in the walls with paintings to represent the body - showing their occupation. The backs of the skulls are still there but the bones of the face and jaw were removed at some stage.

Released into the heat again (it should be noted that us hardy Scots didn’t need jackets underground but many find it chilly) we headed for the Funiculare Monsanto to take a trip up to Castel Sant’Elmo with a commanding view of the cit, the bay and Vesuvius. There was a nice cool breeze up there which was pleasant

After lunch we took ourselves to the Galleria Borbónica. This was an incredible project (=crazy idea) of King Ferdinand I of Bourbon who fancied the idea of an underground tunnel - on a very grand scale through which he would be able to escape from angry mobs.

The project was never completed due to the fall of the Bourbon dynasty but a fair amount was excavated and so the tunnels served as bomb shelters for the citizens of Naples during WWII. As many as 5000 would hurry down the 90 very steep steps to reach the main chamber - where they were provided with very rudimentary toilets and a safe space to wait until the raids were over. (It should noted that the toilet facilities in another area of the tunnel accessed from a more affluent area of the city were slightly more salubrious.


Subsequently it has been used as a dumping ground - including a number of cars and bikes!

We had a nice dinner on our last night and got ready for our trip back to London.

On balance I think we preferred Rome to Naples - the latter is just a little bit too crazy! We eventually realised that the two lines of the metro are run by different companies - hence our confusing over Línea 2 as it’s run by the main railway company Trenitalia.


Onwards to London!


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