|Italian towns hide some of the most mysterious sites|
Hill towns in central Italian are like icebergs: beneath the bell towers, rooftops and cobble stone streets there are often several other layers, including subterranean passageways and sacred places dating from Etruscan and Roman times.
Some are easy to visit, like the dark, underground crypt of San Francesco church in Vetralla where an ancient rite, known as the sepolchri, takes place every Easter time. You can read more about it here.
|sepolchri in the crypt of San Francesco,Vetralla|
|only a broken tower remains of the Castello DiVico|
The gardens surrounding the remains of DiVico castle on the southern side of Vetralla have not been touched since the bombings by Allied forces in January 1944.
|abandoned gateway to the former gardens|
Older people of the town remember the secret passageways that connected the center of town to the countryside. During the bombings, families escaped through them to the safety of grottos that can still be seen nearby.
|mounds of earth hide the scars of the war|
In Vignanello, volunteer speologists have opened and cleaned a series of ancient drainage passages, dating from Etruscan times, located beneath the town's streets and the Duomo. During guided visits one can walk through these tunnels and see where the town nobility were buried . Check out the video of the connutti for a first hand look.
Perugia recently opened an underground tour which includes a walk on Roman roads and a visit to a WWII bomb shelter.
Underground Orvieto is a fascinating tour for those who have already admired the majestic Duomo and historic center.
|Read more on their website Orvieto Underground|
The city of Orte-the ancient Hortae-is perched on a tufa outcrop overlooking the Tiber valley. Intimately connected to the town by underground passages is a spectacular nympheum and many grottos excavated in the tufa rock.
|Nympheum of Orte|
The arched rooms were used as bomb shelters during World War II and, during earlier centuries, as a place to breed pigeons.
|pigeon breeding room|
You will find more information about these and other mysterious sites in central Italy in
"Etruria-travel, history and itineraries in Central Italy" .
Cocciopesto is the latest addition to the subterranean passageways of Orte and new itineraries are discovered in Italy each year.
Do you have a favorite underground place to share with other readers?
Many thanks to Luca Riccardi of Orte for his photos.