Tunneling meets history. History meets tunnels

Naples underground hides an ancient city. During the Greek and Roman periods a labyrinth of tunnels, tanks and cavities was built, providing impressive examples of underground works. In addition to this extraordinarily rich past, today Naples is still heavily involved in this area with recently constructed and ongoing works and of course with several future scenarios to be implemented in the coming years.

Line 1 experience

The archaeological explorations that for the last years have been accompanying the building work on the Naples Metro stations are proving a very encouraging experience, both for the way in which the work is being conducted and for the perspectives ahead.

An important excavation, still in progress, is in the area of Piazza Municipio. By great good fortune it is being done at the same time as the two other explorations nearby, in Castel Nuovo and the Istituto Navale.

Together they are filling in our previously limited knowledge of the topography of this area situated outside the Greek and Roman city, of great interest because in ancient times it lay between the settlement of Partenope-Palaepolis, on the spur of Pizzofalcone, and Neapolis. Other excavations taking place on the sites of the new stations Duomo and Università have only been under way for a few months, but hold great promise. In the former, a stretch of the southern defensive wall of Neapolis has come to light, with evidence that can be dated to phases from Greek times to the Middle Ages.

The architect Gae Aulenti decided to make the Museo station into a "gateway" for the museum, setting up in the station concourse two of the most famous images from our collections: a large scale reproduction of the Farnese Hercules and the colossal Carafa head. The station will thus become a prestigious entrance hall far the museum: the citizens of Naples will reclaim part of their heritage, and they will also be encouraged to take fuller advantage of the National Museum in their midst. The Municipio station, connecting Lines 1 and 6 to the touristic harbor and facing the City Hall, is the best example to present the nature of the works in depth, as the discovery of archaeological relics in the main shaft during the works provides a good example of the relationship between underground construction works and archaeological research.

A great archaeological excavation inside a great public work

The focus of the work is the Piazza Municipio, the site of the main metro station for the new Metro Line 1 that runs through the heart of the city. Dominated by the great Castel Nuovo, and with a view of the always teeming coastline, the crowded piazza is an unlikely place for archaeological excavation. Starting at the modern street level, through the Naples' extraordinary history, into an enormous hole dug for the Metropolitan’s tracks a short distance from the castle. Here archaeologists have located the port of Roman Neapolis (Naples' ancient name).

In the thick layers of mud under the Roman port, they located traces of the very first harbor dredging, dating to sometime close to 326 BC At this time Neapolis became a kind of naval partner with Rome.

The excavations have also added much to the knowledge of the later city of Naples, including new evidence Byzantine, Normans and Angevins, Islamic wares at several sites, testament to the enduring importance of the city as a trading port. More than 3 million artifacts have been found in the Metro excavations; many of the larger remains have been left in situ for future metro passengers to see in the museum-like spaces of the stations, and some of the smaller artifacts will go back to the sites when work is completed. In the future, tens of t thousands of Neapolitans who take the metro every day will see their city's history as never before.

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