Italian Dictator Mussolini’s Secret Bunker Unearthed
Hidden beneath the Palazzo Venezia, Benito Mussolini’s World War II bunker
From 1922 to 1943, when Allied troops took Sicily nearing the end of World War II and his power began to wane, Benito Mussolini ruled Italy as its fascist dictator. As Italy suffered defeats throughout the war and as the Allied forces pushed ever closer, Mussolini became increasingly paranoid, says The Telegraph, fearing that the Royal Air Force, “was planning to launch an audacious raid on his headquarters in an attempt to kill him and knock Italy out of the war.”
His fears were well founded – the RAF had indeed drawn up a plan to launch a bombing raid on the palazzo, as well as his private residence in Rome, Villa Torlonia, using the 617 Squadron of Dambusters fame.
In response to the encroaching forces, Mussolini set about constructing a series of fortified bunkers. One such bunker, buried beneath Mussolini’s headquarters in Rome, was discovered recently during maintenance. The bunker will soon be opened to the public.
The bunker was discovered three years ago when engineers carrying out structural work on the foundations of Palazzo Venezia noticed a small wooden trap door.
It opened out to a narrow flight of brick stairs which in turn led to the bunker, divided into nine rooms by thick concrete walls.
The structure was so deep that it had exposed some Roman remains, which are still visible today.
This is not the first of Mussolini’s bunkers discovered, says Yahoo! News, but rather the twelfth. The building it is buried beneath, the Palazzo Venezie, “currently houses a national museum and has been a historically significant structure for centuries, having been used by high ranking members of the Roman Catholic Church and other important figures over the years.”
The bunker was first discovered in 2011, says La Stampa, “but has only been revealed now.”
If you’ve brushed up on your Italian (or if you don’t mind not knowing what’s going on), here’s a tour of the relic bunker.
More from Smithsonian.com:
The Glory That Is Rome
Team Hollywood’s Secret Weapons System