Nobody likes a visit to
the car pound. It probably is one of my least favourite places to be on
earth, but you wouldn’t have a hard time convincing me to pay a visit to this
particular car pound, hidden 150ft below a piazza in the city of Naples, sealed
off after WWII and forgotten about for more than 60 years.
The place is filled with vintage cars, motorcycles and
scooters dating back to the 40s and 50s, but the walls and tunnels they’re
entombed in look ancient. And they almost are. Built in 1853 by Ferdinand II of
Bourbon, the multilevel subterranean network was conceived as a sort of
emergency escape route for the unpopular monarch who feared revolution.
The vast underground tunnels would serve as a passageway large enough for his
troops and horses to escape the palace and make it to the military
barracks. The revolution never came, at least not before Ferdinand’s death
in 1859, and the network was never completed.
the 1930s, the overcrowded city decided to make use of the space again,
this time as a vehicle impound lot for confiscated and even contraband
vehicles– this is Naples after all, a city notoriously ruled by the
maffia and capital of contraband.
were sealed off sometime in the early 1950s, with a full parking lot of
vehicles still inside.
It wasn’t until the new millenium that this underground
world would be accidentally re-discovered on a routine geologist excursion
in 2005, checking the conditions and safety levels of the quarries
that lie beneath a bustling neighbourhood in the heart of the city.
Along with the cars, trash heaps and strange creatures of
the underworld, they also found WWII relics and a discarded fascist monument
that had been made for Aurelio Padovani, an early leader of the movement.
A team of Neapolitan geologists began a monumental
excavation project in the Bourbon Gallery, but it would take them another seven
years and an unlikely tip from a 90 year-old WWII survivor to discover that the
network was also the location of significant bomb shelter.
The excavations found remains of an infirmary, showers,
mattresses, stoves and all manner of objects needed to survive down there as
the city above was being destroyed by war. Naples was the most bombed Italian
city during World War two, with an estimated 380 air strikes that killed almost
After the tunnels were cleared of trash and rubble,
the Galleria Borbonica opened as an
underground museum offering unique tours of the tunnels.
The tours range in
difficulty, from a standard visit to something more adventurous…
A standard tour will take you down into old cisterns
of the Bolla and Carmignano aqueducts, which were also used as air
raid shelters during the Second War World. The adventurous tour
goes down into another cistern still full of water and through an old
metro gallery where you’ll embark on a raft and sail under the city.
The “cavers” tour involves crawling along the ground
through the aqueduct tunnels to reach the most beautiful cisterns full of
water. As a bonus, you’ll also get to see the private bomb shelter of the ex
Neapolitan President during the war and finish the tour by flying over a
cistern harnessed to a zip-line.
Here are some more photographs.
Clancy's comment: Amazing, eh? Imagine what was hidden by the Nazis after world War 11? Stay tuned, folks.