Naples is an incredible place: you can not walk too long without tripping over a piece of history.
This also happens when you put your foot out of the Gran Caffè Gambrinus. In fact, a few steps from Piazza Plebiscito, in Vico del Grottone 4, there is the second entrance to the immense heritage that is the Bourbon gallery (the first entrance is located in Domenico Morelli square, from the parking lot of the same name).
In just a few minutes, you can pass from the liberty style to the most incredible and unimaginable vintage, passing through underground viaducts, water ducts, abandoned vehicles and much more.
This is a constantly evolving site, as many volunteers are still participating in excavation and recovery operations and there is still much to be discovered. But what is it, exactly? What should be expected from a visit to that place kept underground?
The Bourbon gallery is one of the many stories of Naples told … from the underground. It is located exactly under the hill of Pizzofalcone, just near the Royal Palace. And to all this, of course, there is a reason.
The tunnel was, in fact, commissioned, in 1853, by Ferdinand II of Bourbon to Enrico Alvino (already known for the assignments of Chiaia and S. Ferdinando square
), so as to join the Royal Palace with Piazza Vittoria, which was close to the sea and at the barracks. The idea was not entirely new: there had already been an attempt in 1850 by the architect Antonio Niccolini, but it was not successful.
The decree with which he gave life to this commitment, however, concealed the main reason why all this happened: the underground viaduct was to serve as an escape route for the royal family in case of need; after all, the movements of 1848 were very close, on a temporal level, and therefore we understand what caused this concern. In short, the real purpose was military, to quickly connect with the barracks of Chiaia.
The original project included two tunnels, in both directions, the first one, which led to Chiaia, would be called “Queen street “, and the second, in the opposite direction, “Queen street”.
It took about 3 years of continuous effort to complete the work, which however did not have the desired result because the difficulties encountered along the way were many: from the branches of an aqueduct of the eighteenth century that had to withstand ingenious hydraulic work to avoid raise the water to some shops, some ancient environments, until you get to a large tank that supplied the city of Naples and the quarries of Carafa.
With some ideas and accomplishments that have been conceived and implemented gradually, the works ended in 1855, but never arrived at the Royal palace and therefore left a conduit that did not have any exits; even the idea of opening shops along the way was abandoned.
During the Second World War, however, these places found a new type of use, because they provided shelter for many Neapolitan citizens (we speak from 5 thousand to 10 thousand), who were left homeless because of the bombing. Further openings were made specifically to make the transit easier and more accessible, and in addition the tunnels were equipped with an electrical system and toilets, arranging everything a bit ‘good even covering the walls of white lime.
But it was not the only time the Gallery changed its intended use.
In the post-war period, in the 70’s, it was used as a Municipal Judicial Deposit to store the findings from the rubble of the bombing, massing, at the same time, all that was recovered from collapses, evictions and seizures, such as motorcycles and cars, also arriving, unfortunately, to unauthorized discharges.
In more recent times, in 2007, a further walled passage was also discovered that led to another area that had been adapted to a war shelter and which in the past had been used by the famous “pozzari” to take care of the aqueduct maintenance. And it is precisely the place where, today, the second entrance is located, near Piazza Plebiscito, a stone’s throw from the Gambrinus!