Cities of the Underground: Naples & Rome

By August 14, 2011Winemakers

Underground Naples

In June and July, I visited Naples and later Rome and had the opportunity to visit something that always fascinated me and my son: underground cities. The History Channel has a series called just that: Underground cities of the world, and I had the opportunity to visit two of them this Summer. In Naples, right in the heart of Spaccanapoli, there is Napoli Sotterranea. The exact address if you should ever be in Naples (and I do highly recommend the visit) is Piazza San Gaetano 68. I signed up for the Italian speaking tour since I found you get more details with a native speaker who isn’t translating. It was a delight to explore these crevices dating from the Greco-Roman times and used up to the 2nd World War as refuges. I recall the guide saying something to the effect that if you’re claustrophobic, you may want to skip the next portion of the tour. I heard correctly because several people who had started through the crevice no wider than 12 inches had to return and everyone behind them had to exit to let them out. We each had candles and as we sidestepped through 300 feet of subterranean crevices, we could not see in front or in back of us. I must have breathed too much on the candle because at one point my flame went out. I was last in line but luckily the person in front noticed and came back to relight my candle. The tour is not for the faint of heart but what a glimpse into the bowels of Naples. Encouraged by this adventure, I went on a subterranean tour of Rome. This one wasn’t as dangerous as Naples but just as exhilarating. We visited two grottos in the Trastevere section and the one that made the biggest impression on both me and my son was the Basilica Sotterranea di San Crisogono. A priest had to give us the keys to enter the stone stairwell and once in the underground, we saw where the Christians worshipped out of sight from the pagan Romans. Not your everyday sightseeing stops but I am encouraged to see underground cities on future tours.

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