After moving to Italy, Naples quickly became one of our favourite cities to explore, and we often find ourselves here. While the bustling streets offer many activities for every kind of visitor, there is another world of wonders beneath the surface. It’s filled with history, mystery and unforgettable experiences, including the captivating Galleria Borbonica Tunnels.
The Galleria Borbonica tunnels are one of the many subterranean attractions in Naples and one of our top recommended things to do. They are a fascinating labyrinth of underground passages, galleries and chambers that take you through different periods in time. These hidden gems offer a unique glimpse into the city’s rich history and an unforgettable adventure for anyone looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience.
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History of the Bourbon Tunnel
The Bourbon tunnels were constructed by the royal architect Errico Alvino in 1853 for the King of Naples, Ferdinand II of Bourbon. The tunnels were designed for military purposes and as a potential escape route for the king should the occasion call for it.
The plan was to connect the Royal Palace of Naples to Via Morelli by excavating underneath the hill of Pizzofalcone. The tunnels were interconnected with existing aqueducts, including the old Carmignano aqueduct (1627–1629).
Alvino had grand plans for the tunnels, including a two-lane tunnel with entrances by Via della Pace (Via Morelli today) and behind the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola in Piazza Carolina. However, two years into the construction, the project stopped when the Bourbons found themselves removed from power. The tunnel was left unfinished, just a few meters short of its original plan.
During World War II, the tunnel served as a bomb shelter for the people of Naples. It’s estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 Neapolitans found refuge here from the bombardments. After the war, the tunnels were used to store repossessed cars, many of which are still here today.
However, the Bourbon tunnels were eventually abandoned until the early 2000s when local entrepreneurs recognized their potential as a tourist attraction. Today, these tunnels offer visitors a unique opportunity to explore the past and experience a different side of Naples.
Exploring the Galleria Borbonica Bourbon Tunnel in Naples
Exploring the Borbonica Bourbon tunnel was both fascinating and creepy at the same time. On the one hand, you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer size of these passages. You can even see the marks left by the chisels and picks of those who dug here all those centuries ago. Knowing that they lacked the sophisticated excavation tools we have today makes this an impressive feat of engineering.
But on the other hand, it’s strange to be in a place where thousands gathered while the war raged above. Life went on in the tunnels. Kids were born, played and grew up in this strange place. You can see what was once a nursery where women gave birth and abandoned toys, shoes and everyday objects left for prosperity.
In a few areas, you can see stalls, some with small toilets still in them. While they were a great addition, their design wasn’t ideal. The caves were carved out of tuff, a rock made of volcanic ash that’s very sturdy and absorbent. Theoretically, the tuff would absorb any human excrement, eliminating the need for sewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t anticipate how many people ended up here and for how long. Needless to say, those toilets often overflowed, creating a very unpleasant (to say the least) place to be.
Then there are the abandoned vehicles and motorcycles from another time. Repossessed and left abandoned under layers of dust and grime. In case you were wondering, back in the 1970s, they were driven inside through an entryway that eventually became the Morelli parking garage.
The tunnels and cisterns all represent different periods. They are like snapshots in time, almost like layers of a Neapolitan cake that’s been set aside and forgotten. The Bourbon Tunnel is a must-see excursion if you’re looking for a unique way to learn about Naples and one of our favourite attractions.
You can only explore the tunnels with a guided tour, so check the Galleria Borbonica website for times and availability.
- Tours in English are available at 10 am, 12 noon, 3 pm and 5 pm. Admission is €11 for the standard route.
- We did the standard one, which was about 90 minutes.
- Via Domenico Morelli, 61 c/o Morelli Parking
Should you walk the Bourbon Tunnel in Naples Italy?
In short, the answer is a resounding yes. Naples has many different things that make it a great tourist destination, with another layer of its history to discover underneath. So, next time you visit Naples, venture underground for a more unique experience. We think you’ll love it.