The beginning of tunnelling industrial experience started between 1860 and 1870, with the Frejus rail tunnel, which is a 13.7km-long tunnel through the European Alps, and it is an important link between Rome and Paris, via Turin and Chambéry. As the president of Italian Tunnelling Society (SIG) Andrea Pigorini wrote in the book The Italian Art of Tunnelling 2019, the Frejus railway tunnel was a kind of training gym for the players involved in tunnelling construction.

“The geological, hydrogeological and geotechnical constrains associates with an intensive urbanisation have often been factors in the choice of underground solutions for Italian infrastructures,” said Pigorini.

One example of this was the Bourbon Tunnel, which was ordered by Ferdinand II in 1853 to provide an escape route from the Royal Palace. A WTC technical visit to the tunnel showed how these cave structure served during WWII as an air raid shelter and military hospital, providing aid and protection to some 10,000 Neapolitans. After the war, the tunnel was used an impound lot until the 1970s. Cars, motorbikes and other tools can still be found underground. The Bourbon tunnel gave visitors a clear picture of smart use of underground space, which was one of the main subjects of the conference.

As the organising committee president of WTC Renato Casale said during the press conference, “More people are set to move to urban areas over the next decades, so we need to explore [the] underground.” WTC 2019 also focused attention on sustainable infrastructures to face what climate changes are bringing to our places such as heavy rains, fl oods, earthquakes and tornados.

Lorenzo Orsenigo, general manger at ICMQ, a certifi cation body for the construction sector in Italy, introduced the Envision protocol, which is a rating system to calculate the sustainability of large works, relying on fi ve categories: quality of life, leadership, resource allocation, natural world, climate and risk.

Building a greater awareness of sustainable infrastructure is the only chance to preserve the environment and to offer a link between past and future generations, preserving the cultural and artistic heritage as an added value.