The Naples Underground is a side of the city hiding 2400 years of history – and you can explore it! See history from Greco-Roman times in a unique way.
Leaving Zion was harder this time than in the past. Perhaps it was because we were only there a couple of days or maybe it was because we aren’t planning on visiting again for a few years. However we were eager to move on to our next adventure so we said our goodbyes and headed to the airport.
We left St. George at 9 AM Sunday morning destined to arrive in Naples 26 hours later. As we pulled in to Las Vegas, Jeannie threw up (a lot) all over her carseat right before we got to the airport. We used a pressure washer at a car wash to get it clean, and turned in a damp child seat to the the airline! Luckily, there was some good, healthy food at the airport, which ended up being our last good meal until our pizza when we arrived in Naples.
Arriving in Naples
Our sponsor met us at the airport with 3 Neapolitan pizzas and a ride to our home for the foreseeable future. We were warned about the driving here in Naples but I just had to laugh when we all got in the van and our sponsor stopped traffic by turning around in the middle of the road in front of a police officer – it just wasn’t a big deal.
Where we are staying is about 30 minutes from the airport. We have set up our temporary housing and begun the process of making Bella Napoli our home.
Moving in the military is inevitable, and moving from country to country has its challenges. We need to get a new car, new phones and find a home. Then there is the process of learning about the new country and what we should expect. It’s all rather exciting! We have had the worst case of jet lag, but that hasn’t dulled our enthusiasm.
I used to not believe in jetlag. I’ve always been able to adjust to the time change during travel and the kids always do a really good job, too, but this time has been rough for all of us. Maybe it’s because we stopped in the United States for a couple of days, just enough to start to get adjusted to the time there, and then we moved on to yet another time zone.
Really Expensive Olive Oil
Matt had a great time getting swindled at a local market. He asked for good bread, mozzarella, olive oil and tomatoes – and was given 90 dollars worth! He said the grocer kept handing him delicious food to try, and then packaged up a huge sack of tomatoes, a few kilos of pecorino, two massive sourdough loaves and a big bottle of olive oil.
Matt kindly refused the five-gallon jug of wine and 10-liter can of olive oil, but the portly shop owner was so jolly that Matt ended up paying for everything else. I was not happy…until I tried to olive oil. It was delicious and buttery, and you can eat a ton over the sourdough without feeling guilty.
So we bought some expensive olive oil, and learned that we’ll have to put our foot down so we don’t get taken to the cleaners!
After being at work for a day Matt had Independence Day off. We couldn’t bear the thought of just hanging out on base, so we took the bus into Napoli. We had a list of highly-recommended pizza places and chose to eat at one and explore the area around it.
Our taxi driver pointed out Mimì di la Ferrovia, a restaurant, as we wound our way through the historic district. He said it was a great restaurant serving authentic Neapolitan food – we would take his advice and eat there later in the week! He dropped us off with instructions to the pizzeria, and off we went.
Bella Napoli. There is beauty everywhere you look. Founded by the Greeks ~3,000 years ago, the city can literally be examined layer by layer to look at the centuries of inhabitation, and new layers are still accumulating today.
You may have heard that Napoli is rough, or that trash is an issue. What we see when we look around, though, are people – people living, surviving, and thriving. Civilized humans have been here for so long, and you can see it in the ancient ruins or you can see it in the refuse piles. Focus on the wrong things, though, and you’ll miss the wonders all around you.
Gino e Totò Sorbillo, the pizzeria we chose, had a long line out front when we showed up. The line went super fast, and we enjoyed some delicious pizza margherita before boxing some up to take home.
Saturday – Naples Underground
Our original plan was to go into Rome, but we were all still feeling pretty jetlagged so we decided to take another day to explore Naples.
Our goal was to familiarize ourselves with public transportation. From the Naples Support Site, we took the free shuttle bus to the Capodichino base next to the Naples airport. From there, our plan was to catch a bus. Luckily, a nice lady was waiting for the same bus and told us that it was running very late; otherwise, I probably would have given up and caught a taxi. Eventually, along came a little bus.
We followed the lady and when there was no way for us to pay, she shrugged her shoulders and told us to just sit down – so we did. Nobody said anything and at several of the other stops, people got on without swiping a card or giving money to anybody. Matt asked a few people some questions in Italian and everyone was friendly and willing to help.
We rode the bus to the end of the route and got off with everyone else. We explored random roads, passing by antique stores and old churches and moped repair shops, but heading in the direction of a coffee shop to get the kids a snack. After the snack it was already time for lunch!
It was only then that we realized we were near the historic district where we had explored on Thursday! We decided to head to Mimì alla Ferrovia while enjoying views of the urban sprawl built literally over the top of the old city.
Mimì is a traditional Neapolitan restaurant – indeed, they even refer to themselves as a Parthenopean restaurant, referring to the original Greek city first founded here! The food was delicious, featuring plenty of fresh seafood, vegetables and cheeses.
Greco-Roman Naples Underground
After lunch, we grabbed some gelato before heading underground. Jeannie had chosen raspberry in advance, but was so tired that we had to enjoy it for her!
Around 2,400 years ago, the Greek colonists expanded cavities in the volcanic rock to create underground aqueducts and wells. They worked so well that they gave water to the city for the next 2,300 years – until the late 1800’s! Today, we can tour the underground with “Napoli Sotterranea,” the Naples Underground group.
The cool underground air was a nice relief from the hot and humid summer up top. The kids had a great time down in the tunnels. Their favorite part was when they held their own candles as we squeezed through the tightest passages!
Interesting points: the Greeks covered the porous tufa rocks with a waterproof plaster, and the water was brilliantly controlled to create high or low pressure flows by adjusting the width of the aqueducts or cisterns. Also – the abandoned system was used as a bomb shelter during WWII. We cannot recommend the tour enough.
Bonus: Ancient Roman Theater – Inside a House!
After the main Naples Underground tour, we were taken to a normal-seeming house that hid an amazing secret: it was built inside and over an ancient theater! Also, just around the corner was a carpentry shop built underneath the ancient theater’s top seats. It used to be a passageway just like under a football stadium, and after being hidden for centuries we can see the exposed Roman construction, just like Roman citizens did 1900 years ago. The Emperor Nero performed in this very theater!
I was really excited for a relaxing movie/nap on Sunday. When we got to church, though, we met an awesome family that speaks Portuguese, too! The wife is from Brazil, and their teenage daughters were an instant hit with Royce and Jeannie. They invited us to their home for dinner after church, so we spent the rest of the day chatting and playing with new friends. They live in town, and it was nice to see how absolutely beautiful homes in town can be. It was a much-needed break from the hotel life we feel we already have wonderful new friends.
Ready and Excited
We feel so lucky to be here. We have loved the city already, and the people (on and off base) have been welcoming and kind. The next three years are going to be amazing – we will be sure to take full advantage. Any suggestions for where we should visit? Where is your favorite place in Italy?
Plan your trip:
We highly recommend walking the streets of Naples above and below the ground. The Naples Underground was rich in history and absolutely incredible. It was also refreshing on a hot summer day.