[This article comes from a good friend, Larry Ray, former and longtime resident of Naples and hard-core "Napoletanophile," especially whatever pertains to the mysterious "other city"--the caverns, tunnels, hypogea, quarries, and bat-caves that lurk beneath the city, just waiting to swallow you whole. He also has in this Around Naples Encyclopedia a page devoted to Remembering Naples. Additionally, he maintains his own website and is the English-language translator for the articles that appear on the site of Napoli Underground , which you are cordially invited to visit. The site is the work of scholarly spelunkers and sundry mole-people who, yea, even as we speak, are shedding new light on dark places.]
beneath via Nicolardi--the Big Money Pit
by Larry Ray
Only in Naples, Italy, could a story this fantastic actually be possible. The story came to our attention when we noticed that our web site's database was getting an unusually high number of hits regarding a huge underground tuff quarry (C0456) up on the Capodimonte hill above the city. We soon learned that State TV channel. Telegiornale 3. had run a somewhat fantastic story about a proposed plan to fill the 5,000+ Square meter cavity, some 38 meters below ground, with mega-tons of concrete to "shore up" the cavity--at a proposed cost of 8 million Euros, or 10 million US dollars.
a brief history of the ancient underground quarry
and the reason for all the attention today. Tuff
(from the Italian "tufo") is a "type of rock
consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected
from vents during a volcanic eruption." The
entire Naples area is a geothermal region with
deep veins of the tuff sandstone, called "yellow
tuff." It is an ideal building material and
a large percentage of the lovely castles, villas
and other ancient buildings in Naples were built
from it. The tuff is reached through an access and
removal shaft called the occhio di monte, or "eye of the
mountain". Through this shaft, gigantic blocks of
tuff were quarried and pulled up. The resulting
void was a bottle shaped cavity with sloping
shoulders which provided ample reinforcement to
prevent future cave-ins. The large access and
removal shaft was later covered over with planks
of wood, then layered with crushed tuff and soil.
Out of sight and out of mind.
huge quarried caverns honeycomb Naples and
its surrounding area and have been interconnected
with tunnels, galleries and diversion channels
from the ancient Greek aqueducts and later
aqueducts serving the city. In short the entire
city has huge caverns beneath it such the one seen
in the above photo. So why, after centuries, have
some suggested filling in the one near via
Nicolardi on the hills above the city?
week, an annual series of civil defense earthquake
drills have been conducted. The most recent
devastating 1980 earthquake is still very clear in
everyone's minds. It caused severe structural
damage and the displacement of tens of thousands
of victims whose homes were uninhabitable after
the quake. Temporary emergency housing was
improvised all over the city in large open areas
where small dwellings were devised, including
those from modular steel shipping containers. One
of the temporary settlement areas was, as you may
have already guessed, in an open area off via
Nicolardi--and one of the heavy steel dwellings
was placed over the ancient boarded up "eye of the
mountain" shaft. Fortunately no one was at home
when the modular home's weight was enough to send
it tumbling through the rotted boards and fill
material. It fell more than 38 meters, almost 125
feet, into the cavern below.
webmaster, and senior speleologist, Fulvio Salvi,
more than 25 years ago was then a junior
speleologist working on the staff of the City of
Naples' "Department of the Underground". It
was generally known that a quarry existed up on
Capodimonte but it had never been explored. So
after the cave-in, Fulvio, athletic and eager, was
the first soul in several centuries to enter the
huge cavern. He descended slowly down a slender
steel cable...and descended... and
descended...into the pitch black void. He began to
spin, like an ice skater, faster and faster as he
descended to 100 feet, and still no bottom. He was
slowly able to check his rotation, and set foot on
the crumbled bottom at around 38 to 40 meters,
was later joined by the most knowledgeable expert
of the "sottosuolo"
(subsoil), engineer, Clemente Esposito, who helped
photograph, and who directed measurement, survey
and mapping of the huge quarry. A temporary steel
cage climbing shaft was later inserted to allow
easier access for subsequent exploration and
fast forward to the present: Civil Defense
officials, conferring with today's department of
the underground, somehow recall the incident of
1980 with the temporary container shelter falling
into the quarry, and discuss "fixing a potential
problem." It may not be unlike so many huge
projects we are all familiar with in our own
countries, like grand bridges to nowhere being
built, or inexplicable million dollar government
structures being erected. You get the idea.
what has to be asked is: "With an entire city
built over these quarries that have been down
there for centuries, what justification is there
to spend ten million dollars pumping
concrete into a 187,000 square foot void? Just to
be "on the safe side?" Would the government want
to fill all of them at 10 million dollars a pop?
There have been numerous cave-ins on a regular
basis all over Naples year after year, and they
just get covered over and repaired. And the cave
in up on Capodimonte is not over a roadway or
populated area--the cave in of the old shaft
opening was, in fact, out in that open area which
was used as a temporary housing area 26 years ago.
It has been suggested that pumping ten million dollars worth of concrete into an almost bottomless pit just to "be safe" would be just like attempting to drain the Bay of Naples to prevent the possibility of a tsunami destroying the area.
Related articles, see:
The Big Money Pit
(January 25, 2010)
by Larry Ray
plans to pour 6.5 Million Euros into a huge hole in
the ground in Naples.
Have you ever wondered what happened to some big incredible news story that was getting all the attention then seemingly disappeared completely? Well, one of the ones that we hoped had gone away has popped up again in an obscure web news service. And it is as incredible now as it was four years ago. It involves politics and a seeming lack of understanding of geology or the gigantic man made tuff quarries some 30 meters below Naples.
Millions of Euros are about to be spent to dump a cement slurry through a hole in the ground into a gigantic void some 40 meters or about 130 feet below the surface. It is all being done in the name of public safety. Head engineer in charge, Goffredo Lombardi, talked only about the blocking off of streets and re-routing traffic for an undetermined period. No mention was made of engineering studies that might have been undertaken for the project or if a system of reinforced piling was considered or of any scientific justification for the massively expensive project.
Lombardi says some 60,000 cubic meters or 2,118,880 cubic feet inside a series of cathedral-shaped caverns in the hills above the city will be filled with an ill-defined mixture of something "similar to the strength and characteristics of tuff sandstone." Our rough figures show the survey made by dean of Naples Urban Speleology, Clemente Esposito, and NUg webmaster, Fulvio Salvi, in the 1980's found there are easily some 150,000 cubic meters in the cavern complex, more than twice Mr. Lombardi's quoted figure. Most importantly, however, there is no more demonstrable danger from this huge ancient tuff quarry than from hundreds upon of hundreds of other huge cavities which run all beneath Naples and surrounding area. But now 6.5 million euros or 9.4 million US dollars has seemingly quietly been appropriated after a four year wait and you can be certain it will all be spent.
With no real governmental transparency in Italy and politics today that even Machiavelli might have questioned all we can do at this point is watch all those millions be poured down a large political hole in the ground.