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LA STAMPA (Italy)

Worldcrunch

ROME- Workers restoring Rome's historic Palazzo Venezia have discovered what they are calling Benito Mussolini’s 12th and most secret bunker, reports La Stampa.

There are no records or mentions of this bunker, which was abandoned and left incomplete. City superintendent Anna Imponente and architect Carlo Serafini made the discovery after they had seen a one-meter by one-meter wooden trap-door while inspecting work on restoring the caverns of the 15th century building.

After they opened the door and walked along the short passage with flashlights, they came into a square that was divided by partitions into nine spaces. “When we saw the concrete, it was all clear,” says Serafini. "It’s the twelfth bunker of Rome -- Benito Mussolini’s last bunker."

The discovery was made in 2011, but has only been revealed now. La Stampa reports that the bunker is clearly unfinished -- there are holes in the wall meant for a sewer system and electric wiring, and flooring had not yet been installed.

On July 13 1943 the Commander of the Royal Air Force (RAF) asked permission from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to eliminate Il Duce. The plan was to simultaneously bomb Palazzo Venezia (where his office was, and where he made his famous balcony speeches...see below) and Villa Torlonia (his state residence). But the plan was never green-lighted as Foreign Minister Anthony Eden doubted whether Mussolini could be killed, and feared the collateral damage on civilians and the Eternal City since Palazzo Venezia is in the heart of Rome.

Indeed Mussolini may have had the means to survive such an attack. “The structure is solid and would probably hold up, although it depends on the firepower,” says Serafini.

The architect notes that the bunker is more than 15 meters below ground, well-insulated and free of humidity. "The walls rest on the foundations of an old tower, and are almost two meters thick in some places," he explained. "It would have probably only been designed for Mussolini himself and one other person; more than likely his mistress, Claretta Petacci.”

There are two escape routes from the bunker -- one goes directly to the gardens of San Marco (the church adjoining Palazzo Venezia) and the other, which is entirely a hypothesis, goes to the Altare della Patria (Monument to King Victor Emmanuel II) where there is another bunker.

The bunker will become open to the public this autumn. Superintendent Imponente says that new lighting systems will be put in and an interactive touchscreen for tourists and an air siren to simulate a bombing raid. Otherwise, everything else will remain as it was found, La Stampa reports.

The video is an exclusive tour of the bunker with Carlo Serafini (in Italian).

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