Naples Underground

There is something like a negative film of Naples that is fascinating and surprising: it is made of its numerous, rich of history and stories from ancient times to nowadays subterranean spaces.

Greek walls, roman cisterns, crypts, catacombs telling about architectural and engineering skills, devotions and superstitions, air-raid shelters that saved many lives during World War II.

It does not matter if you are in the monumental centre or in the old cities: you can find evidencies of this kind in many corners of Naples:  S. Gaetano Square, S. Anna di Palazzo Street, Domenico Morelli Street

There is anyway a less known place, since recently restored and reopened to the public: S. Luciella Street Complex, where there is a skull still keeping his/her ears!!! (actually a bones calcification getting this unusual shape!) and, not that far, the so called “church of the skulls” (Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco) along Tribunali Street.

Beyond the real skulls you can see (and touch…) in the subterranean area of this Church, you can “enjoy” the decorative cast iron ones outside the Church: you cannot not to stroke the most worn “capuzzella” (“little head” in Neapolitan dialect).

In this way, you can experience not only how rich Naples underground is, but a still strongly felt devotion: that of the “ragged souls” or souls of Purgatory.

In the end, a place that is in most Neapolitans’ hearts (although often closed to the public because of structural issues): the Fontanelle Cemetery, in Sanità district, a very rich district in crypts and catacombs.

This Cemetery is the largest and most fascinating ossuary in Naples, whose bones have been collected through many centuries in natural tuff stone caves: about 40.000 bones… but you can make sure that, beyond its function, you are not going to leave this place with an idea of something macabre, but with a deep sensation of peace and serenity.



cimitero delle fontanelle a napoli foto di Dominik Matus Wikimedia Commons

Fontanelle Cemetery

Sanità district
Via Fontanelle, 80


Chiesa del Purgatorio ad Arco

Old Town
Via dei Tribunali, 39


Santa Luciella Street Complex

Old Town
Vico Santa Luciella, 5