The Path

During the Second World War, the subsoil of Naples was modified to accommodate the population during the bombings.

About 40.000 people populated the basement of the city, waiting for the conflict to end to allow them to come back to real life.

But the destruction caused by the war presented a shocking scenario to the population who abandoned the protective womb of their hometown: the ferocious bombings had destroyed a large part of the city.

Even in the painful and tiring reconstruction of Naples, his empty belly played its part: the lack of transport was solved by throwing the debris into the ancient wells.

The pieces of tuff into which the city was reduced were thrown back into it, right from where, over the centuries, they had come out.

The substrate continued to be used as a landfill and until the eighties, its history was buried in garbage.

Only thanks to the activity of some volunteers who decided to clean up the foundations of the city, today Naples can offer a stunning journey that, through time and history,offers tourists an incomparable journey.

The Underground Naples War Museum collects and preserves documents relating to the Second World War, including materials, objects and documents relating to the period from June 1940 to September 1943.

At the end of the visit ok Underground Naples, visitors will be taken to the rooms dedicated to the War Museum.

The passage through the Museum represents for visitors a one of a kind, immersive and exciting experience, a leap into the past.

Since March 2008, the War Museum of Naples has been engaged in the collection and conservation of documents relating to the Second World War.

It is possible to see the exhibition of materials, objects and documents relating to the period from June 1940 to September 1943.

In 1940, the first air raids by the British took place, which could have been justified as a reaction to the German barbarism of the violent bombings by the Luftwaffe (the German air force).

From well-accredited historical sources it seems that the first night bombing on non-military targets was carried out by the British in May 1940 on the wonderful city of Freiburg.

Subsequently, the raids continued throughout 1940 on the North (industrial) and on ports or military installations (Naples), then there was a period of calm until the summer of 1942.

In March 1943, a still partly mysterious episode was the explosion of the Caterina Costa, a 8,060-ton merchant ship.

The ship was moored in the port at the place called Ponte della Maddalena and was completing a load of petrol, weapons and ammunition for the troops in Bizerte in North Africa.

On the afternoon of March 28, 1943, something or someone started a fire that soon reached the cargo bays and became an apocalyptic explosion: the ship broke into a thousand pieces, the explosion threw all around burning debris that caused collapses and devastation, parts of the ship reached Vomero hill, Piazza Garibaldi, Piazza Carlo III, the Carmine and, even further away, even Bagnoli.

It was sudden and violent, many were the victims: 600 dead and over 3000 injured.

Tragic and terrifying, the air raids resumed after the occupation of the Italian “possessions” in Africa: no longer able to counter them, the attacks were devastating on southern cities, first by the RAF (Royal Air Force) then by the U.S.A.F. (United States Air Force) to destroy the German defense lines, also in anticipation of an allied landing in Salerno.

On 4 August 1943, Naples was hit from high altitudes with fire bombs which caused the almost total destruction of the beautiful fourteenth-century church of Santa Chiara.

The city suffered 43 hours of bombing with over 20,000 dead and 80% of the buildings destroyed.

History of the Four Days of Naples
by Franco Capuano
(News taken from “Cronistoria del 25 Aprile 1945” – Feltrinelli, Milan)

Naples was a destroyed, emptied, deserted but indomitable city.

In fact, the round-up of about 18,000 men by the Germans to send them to work camps, the eviction of the entire coastal strip, the systematic destruction of various industrial installations led to the insurrection of the city.

The incredible disposition of the Italian High Command to the few remaining garrisons: “Try to procrastinate, do not irritate the Germans and do right with the English who are about to arrive”.

Despite the existing disorder, many soldiers, officers and soldiers, together with civilians resisted the German troops, forcing them into a real guerrilla war.

Throughout the city, from Via S. Brigida to Palazzo Salerno, to the Victory tunnel and to Via Foria, from Porta Capuana to Umberto in via Duomo, men, women, soldier boys and sailors gave proof of heroism in so many episodes of audacity.

The spark of the revolt had ignited the minds, Professor Adolfo Omodeo on 1 September 1943 at the inauguration of the academic year, addressed to the listeners: “Students, in this bitter moment, the University opens its arms to you, your teachers they are from the generation of the Carso and Piave ”.

On 13 September the infamous proclamation of the German Command signed by Col. Scholl was published, the state of siege was in force from the same date: curfew from 20.00 to 06.00, threats of serious retaliation on the population in case of attack on German forces, even unarmed, immediate shooting of anyone found in possession of weapons.

The anger of the Germans for the failure of the call to compulsory service was expressed by the ordinance posted in the city on September 26, Col. Scholl himself shouted sabotage by threatening executions and immediate deportation for the non-compliant, in fact, on 4 sections of the city they responded on appeal only 150 people, while according to the marital status they should have been over 30,000.

On September 27 the roundup began, a real manhunt: the roads were blocked and all the men, regardless of age, were forcibly loaded onto trucks to be deported.

A brother of my father was also rounded up: he was 12 years old. But when he arrived in Piazza Carlo III, like a good Neapolitan, distracting the soldier on guard, he jumped from the truck and ran away in the adjacent alleys.

By now for the Neapolitans there were no more alternatives to escape deportation, they had to fight on the 28th in the early hours of dawn: the first fights began. The news that a sailor had been shot dead with a revolver, while he was drinking from a drinking fountain triggered the spring of the insurrection;

some very young people attacked a van stationed in Piazza Medaglie d’oro, setting it on fire and making the occupants prisoners.

Thus, without organization and strategy, the people rose up, in a single blaze with the awareness of logistical inferiority but with the certainty of victory, because everything was dictated by the will of the people.

So in those days officers of the Royal Army reappeared who joined the struggle with exponents of anti-fascist parties and again with them artists, writers, poets.

In those four hectic days Naples offered one hundred and sixty-eight of its best children as a holocaust, including nineteen unidentified as well as an unknown number of wounded.

At dawn on October 1, 1943, the German troops left the city, afflicted and disheartened but with the angry intention of retaliation; when the allies arrived they found a city prostrate with suffering but proudly free.

Gold medal in memory:

Gennaro Capuozzo (12 years), Filippo Illuminati (13 years), Pasquale Formisano (17 years) and Mario Meneghini (18 years). Silver medals in memory of Giuseppe Maenza, Giacomo Lettieri; silver medals to the leaders of the revolt Antonino Tarsia, Stefano Fadda, Ezio Murolo, Giuseppe Sances; bronze medal to Maddalena Cerasuolo, Domenico Scognamiglio and Ciro Vasaturo.