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Bourbon Tunnel

The Bourbon Tunnel, or Galleria Borbonica, is one of the most evocative and mysterious places in the underground Naples. It is a secret tunnel that connects the Royal Palace to Piazza Vittoria, spanning a length of about 500 meters. Its purpose was to ensure a safe escape route for King Ferdinand II in case of danger, as occurred during the revolutionary uprisings of 1848.

History of the Bourbon Tunnel

The project for the Bourbon Tunnel was conceived by King Ferdinand II in 1853, after witnessing the popular uprising that had toppled his predecessor, Charles Albert. The king feared that rebels might attack the Royal Palace, capturing or killing him. For this reason, he ordered the construction of an underground gallery that would connect the palace to Piazza Vittoria, near the sea and barracks.

The construction of the Bourbon Tunnel of Naples took about ten years and involved over 300 workers. Its was hand-dug with small hammers and saws, following a geometric structure composed of three levels: the upper level was intended for the king’s escape, the middle level for his family and servants, and the lower level for his carriage and horses.

The Bourbon Tunnel was inaugurated in 1863 during the king’s visit to Naples. The king entered the gallery with his carriage and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd. However, as soon as he emerged from the tunnel, he faced a scene of chaos: the rebellion had been defeated by the Bourbon forces, and the palace was under siege by the rebels.

Curiosities

The Bourbon Tunnel is not only a historical site but also a place rich in curiosities and anecdotes. Here are some of the most interesting ones:

  • The tunnel has a rectangular shape with two 90-degree turns: one at the entrance to Piazza Vittoria and one at the exit to Piazza San Francesco in Naples.
  • The tunnel has two main doors: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both doors are adorned with sculptures depicting biblical scenes.
  • The tunnel has two staircases: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both staircases are decorated with frescoes depicting mythological scenes.
  • The tunnel has two chapels: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both chapels are adorned with paintings depicting patron saints.
  • The tunnel has two fountains: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both fountains are decorated with statues depicting angels.
  • The tunnel has two chandeliers: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both chandeliers are adorned with astronomical clocks.
  • The tunnel has two telephones: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both telephones are decorated with wristwatches.
  • The tunnel has two secret doors: one in Piazza Vittoria and one in Piazza San Francesco in Naples. Both secret doors are adorned with antique locks.

What to see in the Bourbon Tunnel

The Bourbon Tunnel is a place that deserves to be visited, both for its historical significance and its artistic beauty. Among the things not to be missed are:

  • The king’s carriage. This is the carriage that King Ferdinand II used to move through the tunnel. It is a wooden carriage, painted in red and gold, with four wheels and two seats. It is preserved in a niche, protected by an iron grate.
  • The armory. This is a room that housed weapons and ammunition for the king and his soldiers. Here, you can see rifles, pistols, bayonets, grenades, bombs, and mines. Some of these were used during World War II when the tunnel served as an air raid shelter.
  • The medical unit. This is a room that served as an infirmary for the wounded and the sick. Here, you can see beds, stretchers, bandages, syringes, medicines, and surgical tools. Some of these were used during the cholera epidemic that struck Naples in 1884 when the tunnel was used as a hospital.
  • The motorcycle collection. This is a collection of vintage motorcycles that belonged to famous personalities or were used in films and documentaries. Among the most notable are a Vespa, a Lambretta, a Harley Davidson, and a Triumph.

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