Villa Torlonia Bunker (image via CRSA-Sotterranei di Roma)
During World War II, Italy’s Fascist Prime Minister Benito Mussolini insisted that he would “wait for the bombs on his balcony,” never fleeing or seeking refuge underground. Turns out that was all spin, as he is now known to have built several concrete-walled, gas-resistant air-raid shelters beneath Villa Torlonia, his former home. And for the first time ever, Rome’s Department of Culture has opened up all three bunkers to the public for tours.
The bunker’s ”Casino Nobile” (image via CRSA-Sotterranei di Roma)
The first bunker was constructed in the early 1940s in what had been the wine cellar of the Torlonia noble family who lived in the palatial home before Mussolini. There was no official record of the bunker, which was discovered in 2011 while work was being done on the palazzo’s foundations. The bunker is 180 feet long and consists of nine rooms, with telephones, blast doors, and a ventilation system. Mussolini would go on to build another bunker and begin construction on a third before he was arrested in 1943. The latter two were briefly open to the public in 2006, but had to be closed due to a radon leak.
Safety gear in the bunker (image via CRSA-Sotterranei di Roma)
Starting on Halloween 2014, all three are open to the public. If you’re in Italy or heading there, you can book a tour through the Sotterranei di Roma here.
The bunker’s cantina (image via CRSA-Sotterranei di Roma)