Cimitero delle Fontanelle

Fontanelle Cemetery - Cava delle Fontanelle - Camposanto delle Fontanelle

Useful Information

Location: Via delle Fontanelle 80, Napoli.
(40.858823, 14.238818)
Open: All year daily 10-17.
Last entry 30 min before closing.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCatacomb
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: Ar=5,000 m².
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed without flash
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Antonio Piedimonte (2003): Il cimitero delle Fontanelle. Il culto delle anime del Purgatorio e il sottosuolo di Napoli, Napoli: Electa 2003, ISBN 88-510-0131-6.
Giovanni Liccardo (2000): Guida insolita ai misteri, ai segreti, alle legende e alle curiosità di Napoli sotterranea, Rome: Newton & Compton. pp. 195–96. ISBN 88-8289-405-3.
Eleonora Puntillo (1994): Grotte e Caverne di Napoli, Rome: Newton tascabile. pp. 36–37. ISBN 88-7983-645-5.
Vincenzo Regina (1994): Napoli antica, Rome: Newton & Compton. p. 31. ISBN 88-7983-647-1.
Address: Cimitero delle Fontanelle, Insolitaguida Napoli, Tel: +39-338-965-2288. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1656 first used to store bones.
1810 cemetery enlarged by the architect Carlo Praus.
1836/37 used to bury the dead of a cholera epidemic.
1872 remains disinterred and catalogued by Father Gaetano Barbati.
1954 Viaggio in Italia filmed here, directed by Roberto Rosselini, with Ingrid Bergman.
1969 cemetery closed by Cardinal Corrado Ursi to stop the cult of devotion to the skulls.
2002 beginning of renovation and stabilization of the chambers.
2010 opened to the public.
13-SEP-2017 closed for security reasons due to rockfall.
2020 site closed for renovation
2024 the site reopened and is now managed by the La Paranza association.


Cimitero delle Fontanelle, Napoli, Italy. Public Domain.

The Cimitero delle Fontanelle is an ossuary which was used to store bones. It is located in the northwestern part of Naples. The huge trapezoid caverns are a result of tufa quarrying. Probably they were dug in Roman times or later, the tufa was used for concrete, stones for building houses and pavements and much more is quite likely. The result were three huge, 10 m to 12 m high chambers called navate followed by several hundred meter long passages. The quarry has a total area of 5,000 m², the remains of about 40,000 people are preserved here, at least that's the visible part. It was named Cava delle Fontanelle (Cavern of the Springs) after the numerous springs in the Rione Sanità.

Until the 16th century, the inhabitants of Naples were buried in churches. But at some point, the growth of the city and various plagues made this quite difficult, there was simply not enough space. As a result, the bones of the dead were relocated to make space for new burials. This was done quietly during the night. In 1656 the passages were for the first time officially used to bury 250,000 anonymous corpses, victims of the great plague of that year. Some 1,500 people died daily. Then it was used to bury many people from the poor parts of the city unofficially. It was used several times during several catastrophes like three earthquakes, five volcanic eruptions, three uprisings, three epidemics, and three famines. It is estimated that a total of 300,000 people is actually buried here, most of them under the floor, most likely in the same neat rows as the bones above the floor. One catastrophe actually hit the cemetery, during a flood the human remains were washed out into the streets and caused a grisly sight.

In 1804 the Décret Impérial sur les sépultures was signed by Napoleon. Also known as Edict of Saint-Cloud, it made burials inside cities illegal. And as Naples was under French rule at that time, it also applied to the city. The cemetery became an official resting place for the indigent dead. This ended after the cholera epidemic of 1837.

The unconventional burial place became known to Father Gaetano Barbati who had the remains disinterred and catalogued in 1872. This caused a spontaneous cult of devotion to the remains of these unnamed dead. Devotees paid visits to the skulls and cleaned them. Some even adopted them, and they were given back their names, which were revealed to their caretakers in dreams. They talked to them, brought flowers and built a small church, Maria Santissima del Carmine, at the entrance of the cemetery. The whole cult was rather weird, and finally in 1969 Cardinal Corrado Ursi decided to close the cemetery.

The unique architecture of the place made it a location in various movies. The most famous is probably Viaggio in Italia from 1954 directed by Roberto Rosselini, with Ingrid Bergman. The place became a historical site, was restored and finally opened to the public. Rather exceptional is the fact that there is no entrance fee. Only scammers are selling tickets to the place, so please do not buy them. Only the guided tours cost money and are highly recommended. You best book them on the official website.

However, the ancient quarry with the soft tuff has the danger of falling rocks, although the rock is in general quite stable, there might be some loose rocks. To increase safety, the site was closed in 2020 and the cooperative La Paranza invested a lot of work and money. They were supported by the parish priest of the parish Maria SS. del Carmine alle Fontanelle don Gigi Calemme and the chaplain don Giuseppe Rinaldi, and also by the City of Naples, which has made a total of €200,000 available for safety measures. The hydrogeological security was improved, the walls, ceilings and installations stabilized, a video surveillance system installed, LED light installed, and fllor made accessible for people with disabilities. After several years of work, the site now was reopened in 2004. According to newspaper articles, this might result in the introduction of fees, estimated between €7 and €10. The fee is intended to finance the continual maintenance of the site. If this actually happened is unclear, the official website still states that there is no entrance fee, and the online booking for the guided tour is defunct [2024]. La Paranza aka Catacombe di Napoli offers tours every Sun at 9 starting from the Basilica del Buon Consiglio, Via Capodimonte, 13. It's a 1.5 km hike to the cemetery, so we are actually not sure if the tours start there, or if this is just the ticket office. Their website is not helpful either, unfortunately. Email us with an update if you visit the site, please!