You Can Now Visit Mussolini’s Underground Bunker in Rome

The dictator constructed the shelters below his family’s residence after Italy entered World War II

Underground bunker
Located nearly 20 feet underground, this unfinished bunker is protected by 13-foot-thick concrete walls. Ufficio Stampa Zètema Progetto Cultura

In June 1940, Italian troops invaded the French Alps, marking the country’s entry into World War II. Behind the scenes, crews began building underground shelters to protect the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his family.

Now, 84 years later, the bunkers beneath Villa Torlonia, Mussolini’s home in Rome, have reopened to the public. Visitors can book 50-minute guided tours of the subterranean complex, which features an immersive multimedia exhibition.

This is not the first time members of the public have been allowed to visit the shelters. They opened for two years beginning in 2006, and occasional tours were offered in the years that followed, reports CNN’s Julia Buckley.

Old door that says porta anti-gas
Crews installed gas-tight doors in the air raid shelter in the basement of Casino Nobile. Ufficio Stampa Zètema Progetto Cultura

Mussolini lived at Villa Torlonia from 1929 to 1943. The villa was also home to his wife, Rachele, and the couple’s children, Edda, Vittorio, Bruno, Romano and Anna Maria, according to Forbes’ Jim Dobson. 

When Italy entered the war, crews built three underground structures to protect Mussolini and his family from aerial bombings. They began work on the first one in 1940, when they repurposed an old wine cellar situated underneath a small lake on the property.

The following year, they built an air raid shelter in the basement of Casino Nobile, one of the villa’s buildings. They reinforced the walls with four-foot-thick concrete, installed an air purification and exchange system and added gas-tight doors.

Finally, in late 1942, they began building an armored bunker nearly 20 feet underground in front of Casino Nobile. It was shaped like a cross and protected by a 13-foot-thick layer of concrete—but it was never finished. By the time Mussolini was arrested on July 25, 1943, workers hadn’t yet installed watertight doors, bathrooms or a ventilation system.

Large stately building with columns
Mussolini lived at Villa Torlonia in Rome with his family between 1929 and 1943. Ufficio Stampa Zètema Progetto Cultura

The city of Rome purchased the property in 1977 and opened it to the public in 1978. Today, it’s a museum and a park.

On the tours, visitors can walk inside the air raid shelter and bunker beneath Casino Nobile, though the repurposed wine cellar remains off-limits. As they wander through the two structures, they’ll see images projected on the walls and hear sounds meant to transport them back in time.

The exhibition begins with Mussolini’s life at Villa Torlonia, where he hosted parties, ceremonies, tennis matches and other events. Next, visitors will learn about Italy’s entry into the war and what hiding out in a bunker during a bombing would have been like.

Exhibition of underground bunker
The exhibition uses projected images and audio to transport visitors back in time to World War II. Ufficio Stampa Zètema Progetto Cultura

Rome suffered 51 Allied bombings between July 1943 and May 1944. The exhibition recalls these raids, with a particular focus on those that occurred in the city’s San Lorenzo neighborhood, which killed more than 3,000 people.

A series of projections also shows the “double perspective of those who bomb and do not perceive the effects from above, and those who suffer the consequences from below,” according to the tour website, via Google Translate.

At the end of the tour, visitors climb down a steep staircase into the unfinished bunker, where curators have added sounds and ground vibrations to simulate the experience of an air raid.

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