A typical visit to the Villa Torlonia in Rome involves a picnic and a stroll along pine and palm tree-dotted grounds. Starting this weekend, tourists can explore the secret hiding grounds beneath their feet that Il Duce built for himself.
Built in the early 20th century, the Villa Torlonia housed Benito Mussolini and his wife and children from 1925 to 1943. In 1940, one year into World War II, the Italian dictator had an old wine cellar at his Neo-Classical estate turned into an air-raid shelter.
Since a trip from the mansion to the former wine cellar involved a brief sprint outside, Mussolini also ordered construction of a separate bunker, connecting to an underground kitchen that sealed itself off with anti-gas, double-steel doors.
A third bunker, 20 feet underground, was still being built at the time of the dictator's removal from office and subsequent arrest in 1943. It was never completed. Mussolini was killed three years later after attempting to flee the country.
Another unfinished Mussolini bunker was discovered in 2011 underneath the Palazzo Venezia in central Rome. During the war, the fascist dictator said publicly that he'd wait on his balcony for any bombs to strike rather than seek refuge underground. Speaking last weekend from one of the Villa Torlonia bunkers, historian Laura Lombardi, told the Telegraph, "In fact, we know that when there was an airstrike in Albania, at the very first sound of a bomb he went to seek shelter in a bunker!"
Visitors can take a look inside the now city-owned bunkers starting on October 31. From last weekend's media tour, here's a look inside: