A World War II air raid shelter built by the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini is being opened to the public for the first time.
The converted wine cellar, 10ft beneath of what was his private villa in Rome, included a series of bunkers that were built under the Italian capital to provide shelter for bureaucrats and party leaders, Reuters reports.
The 180ft-long bunker has a double set of steel, gas-proof doors, and an air filtering system that could provide oxygen for 15 people for 3-6 hours. Inside the shelter were gas masks and helmets tucked in cubbyholes at the end of a corridor
The entrance is located in the garden about 400 feet away from Mussolini’s former living quarters and had three different escape routes: by the theatre, in a shaft by the tennis court and underneath a pond.
The bunker has been reopened to mark the 70th anniversary of Rome’s liberation from fascism. Bought by the city of Rome in 1977 it was made into a museum but the buildings and grounds were in a poor state so restoration work began in the 1990s. Groups such as the website Bunker di Roma campaigned the city to make it a tourist site.
The bunkers have not been entered since the end of the war, according to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Mussolini ordered its construction in 1940, but the bunkers weren’t much use. By the time Allied bombings hit the Italian capital Mussolini had been toppled by his own private council on Sept. 8, 1943.
Mussolini was leader of the Italian fascist movement from 1923 to 1943.