Bologna Underground City
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Beneath the bustling streets and historic buildings of Bologna lies a hidden world—an intricate labyrinth of tunnels that stretch out in all directions below the city. These subterranean passages have served a multitude of purposes throughout history, each one tailored to meet the evolving needs of the community above.
The earliest known use of these tunnels dates back to Roman times, when they were primarily employed as water reservoirs. Bologna’s waterways have a rich history, and their significance only grew as the city expanded. By the time the Middle Ages rolled around, the tunnels were increasingly adapted to support the burgeoning economy of Bologna. They acted as conduits for water, vital for both everyday life and various industries, and also served as secret passages for people to move discreetly beneath the city.
But the tunnels were not just static remnants of a bygone era; they continued to evolve. During the Renaissance, an ambitious project was undertaken to modernize and expand the waterways. Engineers and architects of the period transformed them into a fully functional port system, effectively connecting Bologna to the Adriatic Sea. This upgrade marked a significant milestone in the city’s history, opening up new avenues for trade and communication.
The underground world of Bologna also took on a more somber role during times of conflict. Some sections of the tunnels were converted into air raid shelters, providing a safe haven for residents during bombings and other attacks.
Today, the tunnels stand as a testament to the ingenuity and adaptability of the people of Bologna. Over the centuries, these subterranean passages have been reservoirs, secret corridors, commercial ports, and sanctuaries in times of war. Each layer of their history adds a new dimension to our understanding of the city above, offering a tangible link to the diverse chapters of Bologna’s past.
Foto: Massimo Brunelli
Images of the Underground Tunnels of Bologna
Aposa stream – Access from Via Rizzoli
Bagni di Mario, a large underground water reservoir built in 1563 by Tommaso Laureti to supply Neptune Fontain.
Del Guasto – Air raid shelter (War World II)
In collaboration with Associazione Amici delle Acque
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