You may or may not know that I am Italian, and I come from a fairly small city called Caserta, which is famous for its beautiful Royal Palace, and conveniently located about twenty minutes’ drive from Naples, and less than two hours from Rome. Sometimes you travel the world without really exploring your hometown, also due to the fact that we all think we can do that whenever we want, so we tend to prioritise other places. Anyway, a few years ago, I started to be a tourist in my own region, and I am glad I did! Naples is certainly one of my favourite places to go to whenever I am back home (I am living in London at the moment!), and one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s a beautiful city which is not only the place where the famous pizza was created, but also a place you shouldn’t miss if you are interested in beautiful architecture, art, history, theatre, and if you love being by the sea and surrounded by very friendly people. If you have extra time in Naples, after seeing all the main sights, make sure you also visit the underground city. Last Easter I visited the Bourbon Tunnel, which is one of the most fascinating underground routes of Naples.
A few history facts
The Bourbon Tunnel is part of the old Carmignano Aqueduct system, and it was conceived by King Ferdinand II in the 19th century as an escape route from the Royal Palace to Piazza Vittoria, after the riots of 1848, but also as a military passage for the troops stationed in Via Morelli. The construction was halted after the fall of the Bourbon dynasty, and the tunnel was then used as an air-raid shelter and a military hospital during the Second World War. After the war, the tunnel was used for storage of confiscated vehicles, so you will be able to see rusty vintage cars, vans and discarded motorbikes from the 1950s, but also old water tanks, remains of beds and children’s toys, and the broken fragments of a fascist monument to Aurelio Padovani, which once stood in Piazza Santa Maria degli Angeli. Walking along the tunnel and listening to the talented guide made me realise how hard it must have been for the over 10000 Neapolitans who lived there for months, but never lost hope, as proved by some of the heart-warming messages left on the walls. Noi vivi (We are alive) particularly caught my attention, as it’s hard to think you could stay positive in that kind of situation! It was overall a great experience, and I highly recommend it.
On my visit I took the Standard Tour (adult entry fee is 10 Euros), which lasts about 75 minutes and takes you through the narrow tunnels where you will be able to see, among other things, items from the Second World War, rusty vehicles and fragments of a fascist monument, but if you feel more adventurous, there are three more tours you can choose from:
Via delle Memorie (adult entry fee is 10 Euros): This tour starts from the surface, and moves to the basement of Palazzo Serra di Cassano, the ancient carpenter’s rooms, where you will be able to see objects from the Second World War, and then move towards the underground caves, which were turned into cisterns.
Adventure Tour (adult entry fee is 15 Euros): On this tour you will not only walk through the narrow tunnels, but you will also explore the waters by raft.
Speleo Tour (adult entry fee is 30 Euros): Out of the four tours, this is the most adventurous one, during which you will be able to explore the narrow tunnels until you reach water tanks from the 15th century still full of water, and also use a zip-line suspended on water.
Some of the tours require advanced booking.
How to get there
You can get to the tunnel from three different places:
Vico del Grottone 4
Via Domenico Morelli 61 (entrance is through the “Parcheggio Morelli” – a multi-storey car park)
Via Monte di Dio 14
Since I was already near “Piazza Plebiscito”, I started my tour from Vico del Grottone, which is five minutes’ walk from the square. You take the little alley by the Gambrinus Café, leaving the square to your right and the Royal Palace behind you, and walk up the street until you find the sign for the Bourbon Tunnel (second street to the left).
If you enter the tunnel from Vico del Grottone, you will finish your tour in Via Morelli, which is really close to Via Chiaia, so you could also explore that area if you still feel like walking.
For up-to-date opening hours click here
All the tours they offer sound interesting, so I might try the other ones too at some point. In the meantime, if you do visit the Bourbon Tunnel, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did, and please let me know what you think of it! Happy travelling!!!