Guided tours of the historic tunnel beneath via San Giovanni a Carbonara again this year?
Though it is not yet official, our underground sources tell us that lighting is being installed in sections of the historic Bolla Aqueduct beneath via San Giovanni a Carbonara suggesting that guided tours for the public may be offered during Naples’ “Monuments in May” city celebration.
Last year on from the 5th to the 29th of may, several hundred people were taken on free guided tours of sections of the famed Bolla aqueduct that was built by the Greeks almost 2,500 years ago. The section of the ancient tunneled waterway is of importance because it ran beneath the ancient fortified wall that surrounded and protected Naples. It was impenetrable. The aqueduct was used on two occasions, however, to sneak in armed troops who then opened the nearby gate from the inside allowing conquering troops to enter and overpower the defenders of the city within the walls. The story reads like a “Mission Impossible” movie script.
The first sneak attack took place in 537 AD in medieval Byzantine Naples. The barbarian Goths held the heavily fortified impregnable walled city, but Roman emperor Justinian wanted Naples at all costs. He sent his top general Belisarius to capture the city. Belisarius planned to block the aqueduct, exclaiming, “We will make these Neapolitans die of thirst!” But an advance guard reconnoitering the aqueduct discovered light shining in from a well shaft, and quietly investigating, discovered that the access shaft opened right into a garrison inside the walled city next to the Santa Sophia gate. The general’s equivalent of today’s advance force Marines burst from the well shaft, took the garrison, threw open the gates and Belisarius’ troops quickly changed history.
A second underground sneak attack took place again in June, 1442 by troops of Alfonso I d'Aragona, commanded by Diomede Carafa. He had read of Belisarius’ underground attack nine centuries earlier, and made use of the same underground route to capture the Santa Sophia gate. Carafa used an elite squad of sailors, familiar with ropes and knots to prepare a well shaft for climbing. This time the advance shock troops climbed rope ladders up a well shaft which opened into a tailor’s shop next to the Santa Sofia gate where they quietly mustered then suddenly stormed the gate opening it allowing their troops to rush in.
In modern times, the same stretch of large underground ancient Greek tunneling, as well as other large reservoirs, were used for air raid shelters in WWII. Mussolini had well shafts enlarged and stairways then led down to improvised shelters more than 40 meters below the city.
When the official announcement of anticipated tours during the 2006 “Monuments in May” is announced we will let you know.
For more news and fascinating information, visit Napoli Underground
Translation - Larry Ray