Forgotten Underground WWII Shelter Discovered in Naples Thanks To Veteran!

Residents of the small neighborhood of Monte di Dio in Naples, Italy, were unaware of what was located below their feet. However, thanks to a handwritten letter by a man who served WWII, the secret’s been let out. Naples is a busy city, but the citizens did not realize what lay beneath their feet.

The surviving veteran was 90 years old when he sent his vast recollections of escaping the bombs pelting the city to a geologist named Gianluca Minin. Minin received the note and was instantly intrigued by what it had to say. The veteran described“incredible stairways and huge chambers” that no one else remembered. This was a mystery that Mini had to solve.

Atlas Obscura reported on the unearthing of 700 metric tons of rubble removed before a “hidden world” approximately the size of a baseball field came into view.  An 115-step staircase connected a multi-level network of underground tunnels.The structure would once have been a cistern; what would have held large amounts of water back in the 17th century was used to shelter people centuries later during WWII.

Naples was heavily bombed in 1943 and 1944, as the Germans put up heavy resistance in the area.. The Allies responded to the German defense of the region with a fierce bombing campaign.

Minin reported to the London Times that Naples was home to thousands of similar cisterns. The soft volcanic rock made it easy to carve them out. Many cisterns were filled up with earth with the advent of plumbing, or else were inundated with rubble from bombings during the war. But this one happened to be perfectly preserved.

Minin has discovered other underground man-made structures as well. Back in 2004 he found the “Bourbon Tunnel” in Naples, which is described as the city’s “most fascinating underground route.” It was originally built to provide an escape route from the palace in the 1850’s.

However, it also ended up serving as a WWII shelter location. This was a common occurrence and the authorities often turned underground facilities into air raid shelters. Based on items discovered within, it seemed apparent that German soldiers had spent some time using the shelter as well. WWII-era vehicles, old bathrooms, toys and swastikas were some examples of what was uncovered.

The shelter was like a time-capsule and it gives us an insight into everyday experiences during the greatest war in human history. There is no information available on what the authorities plan to do with the bunker.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE