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1/10/2012

Subterranean Italy, a world to be explored

Italy has numerous subterranean sites of cultural interest, many of which are open to the public: catacombs, crypts, dungeons, and waterworks, a trove of treasures from all historical eras, studied by urban archaeologists and speleologists, can be found underneath Italy’s cities

Museum of the Naples Underground
Museum of the Naples Underground

It is often said that Italy is an outdoor museum, but there are treasures to be found below the ground as well. Apart from the wonders of caves, there is much to discover underground, including archaeological digs, catacombs, crypts, and dungeons.
 
Underground archaeology is a discipline – or better yet, a multidisciplinary science – that surveys and studies man-made underground structures, classified into seven types on the basis of their use: quarries, waterworks, places of worship, burial sites, civil sites, military sites, and unidentified. 
 
Numerous and varied underground sites of cultural interest have been turned into museums. Thanks to targeted archaeological digs and public works projects, sites from the past have been brought to light throughout Italy, many of which have been preserved and turned into museums: from Trento’s Underground Archaeological Space (S.A.S Spazio Archeologico Sotterraneo) to the Pistoia Underground Museum and the underground chambers of Palazzo Valentini in Rome, examples are countless.
 
Associations, research groups, institutes, urban speleologists, and companies that organize guided visits to underground sites are active in all of Italy’s main cities, and in many smaller ones as well. There are also conferences and courses discussing sites that are not open to the public, and many websites dedicated to these issues.




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