Camerano’s Mysterious Underground

June 8, 2016 / Art & Archaeology
Camerano, Le Marche

Ah, Italy “the land of the endless discoveries.” One never finishes discovering the wonders “above ground” – let alone underground! And sometimes, serendipity leads you to yet another discovery. Gray weather once dulled a visit to our favorite, Adriatic seaside town, Sirolo, in Le Marche, prompting us to head out for some exploration. What wonders we found in the nearby nondescript Adriatic seaside town, Camerano, whose very name is linked to its surprising labyrinthine maze of subterranean grottoes and tunnels, used by its first inhabitants, the Piceni, in the 9th-c. B.C, our guide, Daniele told us.

Camerano,-marchigiano-hilltown-near-the-Adriatic

Deriving from the Latin, camerone means “underground vaulted space”, Daniele told us as we started our tour, aptly called “Le Grotte di Camerano, la memoria del sottosuolo.” (“The Grottoes of Camerano, remembrances of the underground” or literally, “undersoil”). With Daniele and a handful of other adventurers, we spent a fascinating hour exploring about a kilometer of the two kilometers of underground grottoes and tunnels, carved into sandstone. Daniele pointed out to us finely-rounded domes, barrel vaults, carved ribbed vaults converging on a mysterious sun/moon symbol, circular halls, ornate friezes, curious religious symbols and exquisitely – carved columns.

A-medieval-church-with-crypt-in-the-Camerano-underground
Ribbed-vault-with-sun,-moon-in-the-center-fascinate-in-the-Camerano-underground
Ribbed-vault-with-sun-and-the-moon-in-the-center
Medieval-cross-of-the-Knights-of-Malta-in-Camerano-underground

Our meanders in the underground labyrinth took us to a 17th-c. cistern, a medieval prison, a vaulted medieval church complete with apse and crypt, a 17th century private family chapel with black alabaster altar, and a secret initiation grotto for the Freemasons.

Daniele-indicates-the-17th-c-black-alabaster-altar-of-an-underground-family-chapel
Astounding-ribbed-vaults-of-Camerano's-underground-builders
Sandstone-finely-formed-columns,-arches,-pilasters-in-underground-Camerano-
Finely-vaulted-medieval-passageways-in-the-Camerano-underground
The-latest-inscripton---2008---indicates-the-year-the-Underground-opened-to-the-public
Templar-cross

In 1944, all three thousand Cameranesi hid in the sandstone sotterranei – each family occupying a niche in the underground tunnels – for eighteen days as the British and Germans battled above. The most recent use of the Camerano underground? Not quite: Daniele told us that the largest vaulted room of the underground had been used as a discoteque some years ago! “But the local teens were very respectful of this ancient space, leaving no signs.”

2000-Cameranesi-hid-here,-each-family-housed-in-a-niche,-during-1944

Since 2008, le Grotte di Camerano have been opened for guided visits, disco now closed. The labyrinthine grottoes and tunnels are silent now except for the subdued voices of guides with small groups of fascinated visitors.

Some-ambiences-remain-incomplete
A-young-visitor-pauses-in-the-apse-of-the-medieval-underground-church

Two-kilometers-of-tunnels-run-under-Camerano

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

24 Responses to “Camerano’s Mysterious Underground”

  1. Judy Bozza

    Amazing and yet not surprising. Unfortunately structures built today don’t last long at all,

    Reply
  2. Ann Krapf

    Anne,
    As soon as I see an article from you, I know to expect a detailed lesson in history and culture of Italy along with detailed pictures!. You never disappoint.

    Reply
  3. Melissa

    Beautiful pictures and inspired writing! I hope to get to tour with Anne in the future.

    Reply
  4. Mac MacGregor

    Thanks, Anne. Another place to visit on our must do” list in Italy.

    Reply
  5. david fleming

    What a find!! Historical significance, particularly WW II, can’t be overstated!

    Reply
  6. Louise Black

    Another treasure! I should probably do one of your tours!

    Reply
  7. Janet Eidem

    This is jaw dropping. The space is amazing and it is so filled with a history of the times through which it has survived. Thanks Anne!

    Reply
  8. Andy Glantz

    Annie — yet another great place to visit. Sign us up for our next tour of your amazing corner of the world.

    Reply
  9. Torre Newman

    Enjoyed the article and the pictures. I am somewhat familiar with the area and glad to learn more about it. Italy– always fascinating.

    Reply
  10. Amelia McNeely

    Hi Anne,
    I did make it to Sirolo which is lovely but my host didn’t know about Camerano. At first I thought you meant Camerino. That’s another lovely little town with a university. Enjoyed my time with you!!!!!

    Reply
  11. Linda

    Wonderful to think that their ancestors prepared a safe haven for these townspeople during WW II.

    Reply
  12. Rosemary Johnson

    A great place to take shelter from the enemy–glad to hear that the disco crowd treated it with respect, too. Thank you for sharing yet another Italian treasure!

    Reply
  13. Marianna Raccuglia

    Thank you so much for giving your faithful readers such a fascinating and interesting article
    with wonderful photos – amazing!

    Reply
  14. James Wells

    Another site to add to my Italy to-do list! Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  15. Mary Cappiello

    This is an amazing find! You are an extraordinary explorer! Thank you for sharing this wonder with us! I think very few travelers know about this place, but it’s truly unique, I’m sure.

    Reply
  16. Joseph Paglino

    Anne, another great article, especially the close up photos. The fact that the disco music did not crack or crumble the walls is testament to the tunnels strength. I would imagine it is the perfect place to tour on a hot day in the summer, where one can enjoy the cool air and soak up the history. Grazie.

    Reply
  17. Sandra Spector

    Reminds me of our wonderful underground visit with you years ago. Fabuloso

    Reply

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