Yesterday we were guests of the Borbonica Sotterranea Association, the group that is handling the restoration and preservation of the network of caves and tunnels beneath Mt. Echia. It is the not the first time that we have benefited from the friendship and willingness of those who conduct tours of these underground spaces; we were also there on the occasion of the opening of the Bourbon Tunnel. This time we were invited to take a tour by raft.
Yes...that's right...a raft! Indeed, for about a month now there has been a new tour added to the itinerary; the "Percorso Avventura" [Adventure Trail] is available to those who want to try something a little bit different from the traditional underground tour. Gianluca Minin, Enzo de Luzio and all the young people who have worked so hard to make these spaces known to the public came up with the idea of outfitting a raft to navigate the abandoned tunnel left over from the old excavations for the LTR (Rapid Tram Line), one of the many unfinished projects in the decade spanning the 1980s and 90s in Naples. The original plan was to link the San Paolo stadium in Fuorigrotta with the main train station at Piazza Garibaldi. Constant flooding of the construction site could not be stopped even by the use of powerful water removal equipment; that and a series of other mishaps led to the large "mole," the earth-boring machine that had already dug the tunnel between Fuorigrotta and Mergellina, getting swamped in mud. Work was abandoned and left in its unfinished state. That is how that tunnel that leads from the Bourbon Tunnel to pass beneath Mt. Echia to a point beneath the Piazza del Plebiscito wound up with a permanent body of water in it.
Today, thanks to these modern "Charons," you can experience an adventure that has something of the Hero's Journey about it along the underground river, the Styx. The actual crossing puts the finishing touch on an interesting exploration of the shafts and cisterns of the old Carmignano aqueduct, concluding with a docking in what was to have been, according to the original plans, the "Plebiscito Station" beneath the square of the same name.
Maybe my imagination has got the better of me in my description, but I can assure you that the few hours spent with friends from Borbonica Sotterranea took me back pleasantly to the days when those spaces were our favorite training ground for urban speleology. Thus my sincere advice to you is to book the "Percorso Avventura." You will not be disappointed, and you will be one of the few "underground navigators" who has earned that title by rowing!
Go to this link for booking details.
Some photos from the excursion are here.
Here is a description English offered by Jeff Matthews in his Around Naples Encyclopedia.
Translation by Jeff Matthews