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The Ardeatine Caves

In Rome, Joe Gartman uncovers a dark chapter of 20th-century wartime history

FAST CULTURE

Less than two kilometres south of Rome’s Porta San Sebastiano, near the Via Appia Antica, are the Catacombs of St Callixtus, where half a million early Christians, sixteen popes, and dozens of early martyrs were buried long ago. Every year, thousands of people visit the site, and then continue on to the Catacombs of St Sebastian or those of Domitilla. A few may stop briefly at another burial ground nearby, on Via Ardeatina, just a hundred metres from the southwest gate of the St Callixtus complex. There, a forbidding wrought-iron barrier allows entry, through two wicket-gates and past a guardhouse, to a small piazza. On the visitor’s left, next to a low mound topped by an enormous horizontal slab of concrete, is a monumental sculptural group of three bound men. Ahead, a stone wall forms the face of another mound; the wall holds some concrete plaques and perhaps a floral wreath or two. An opening in the wall leads to the mound’s interior, where, on the right, is a small, dark chapel; ahead, another wroughtiron barrier guards a deep, rocky cavern. Close by, a plaque bears the words Grotta dell’Eccidio – The Cave of the Massacre.

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About Italia!

Whether you’re planning an imminent adventure or settling down for some armchair travel, we’ve plenty of travel inspiration this month. Come with us on a weekend in Milan, exploring the familiar and the unexpected, and on a visit to Franciacorta near Lake Iseo, where vineyards are producing champagne method wines to rival the very best. We also take an in-depth look at life in Le Marche, a captivating region of central Italy that really is rather a hidden secret.