Umbria Presents Underground Treasures

The subterranean treasures include ancient Roman catacombs, Renaissance towers and Etruscan tombs.

The subterranean treasures include ancient Roman catacombs, Renaissance towers and Etruscan tombs.

Dozens of places revealing thousands of years of history lie under Umbria’s streets, squares and cathedrals. And now they will finally be open to the public, thanks to a project entitled “Umbria underground: archaeology and architecture take center stage.” The exhibit features 16 hypogea and over 40 underground monuments that are open to tourists, as well as a website in a variety of languages, with the aim being to create special tour itineraries based on specific themes.

The subterranean treasures that will be on display include ancient Roman cisterns, catacombs, Medieval aqueducts, Renaissance towers, Etruscan tombs, all hidden in silence, holding the history and charm of a unique land.

“All the peoples who have crossed the Italian peninsula have passed through Umbria, making their deep marks, which we have brought back to light,” said Regional Tourism Councilor Fabrizio Bracco. “We were the crossroads of civilization due to the geographic factors. We have to be particularly attentive to this job of rediscovering our national and European role as a tourist attraction in the name of culture.”

Massa Martana Mayor Maria Pia Bruscolotti

Massa Martana Mayor Maria Pia Bruscolotti

Maria Pia Bruscolotti, Mayor of the Umbrian town Massa Martana, was also enthusiastic.

“It’s a hugely original project, capable of promoting something different, and no less beautiful or interesting for that,” Bruscolotti said. “In our city there are the Umbria’s unique Christian catacombs, which are guarded and protected by Pontifical Commission.”

The census of underground sites presented features 40 monuments that tourists can visit, supported by a detailed photographic campaign and the creation of an archive of hidden treasures, inserted into a website,, which will be completed within months.

“Cultural tourism is one of Umbria’s strong points,” said Antonella Tiranti, director of the regional Tourism Service. “This project enables us to put online and valorize the region’s treasures, including several lesser-known ones under the Umbria brand.”

After this initial census phase, focusing not just on cultural factors but also on usability, the aim is to transform everything into an integrated tourism offering that brings together emotions, experiences and discoveries. “It’s like the telling of a story that becomes a permanent attraction and also features less-famous places,” Tiranti said.

The second phase of the project will see the number of places and initiatives involved extended, with a series of proposals open to all. The starting point is agro-food and artisan excellence to build a varied series of proposals, including tourism accessible to the disabled. This is viewed as an innovative way to present Umbria, with the awareness that the project can only work using the web and cooperation between institutions and sector professionals.

Once the first phase is over, officials will begin promoting the project in various key markets, such as Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and other parts of northern Europe.

Fabrizio Ardito moderated a debate about the initiative. “Umbria is the first region that scientifically addressed underground sites and artificial caves, over 40 years ago,” Ardito said, stressing the role of the public bodies sensitive to the issue. “The hypogea surveyed up to now, and more are sure to be added in the coming months, are in Amelia, Assisi, Castel Viscardo, Cesi, Città della Pieve, Città di Castello, Gubbio, Massa Martana, Narni, Norcia, Orvieto, Panicale, Perugia, Spoleto, Terni and Todi. They show that underground heritage can be visited and it is widespread throughout the region, and they will make is possible to compose at will different itineraries devoted to Umbria’s mysterious heart.”

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