Discovering the underground world of Lecce.

Even though I’ve lived here for 10 years now, I keep learning, new and interesting things about this amazing place I call home.

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Secret underground walkways.

I’ve heard about secret passageways under cities, connecting one castle from one town to another castle in another town. Just in case the royals who were living there at the time were under siege and they needed to escape undetected.

However, I didn’t know about the Idume river that runs below the city of Lecce. It’s crystal clear waters conglomerates with the Acquatina springs that traverse below the city for 7km.

The first suggestions of this natural, now hidden gem, was by the Roman Philosopher, Pliny. Although it’s not certain that he was referring precisely to this river. The actual, first documented reference to this secret underground world can be dated to the seventeenth century, when Ascanio Grandi mentioned it in his poem.

The underground river of Lecce.

Throughout the city there are many incredible, beautifully carved baroque buildings and one of the most important is Palazzo Adorno, which is built right above the river.

Many people who meander the streets above the secret underground river, have no idea what lies beneath their feet. The cool, water gently flowing through the city below.

It is believed that many families used to wash themselves in the artificially built pools, while the Adorni family had the opportunity to use the crystal clear waters of the river as a swimming pool.

It has also been advocated that some Jewish inhabitants used the river to purify themselves and carry out their sacred rituals. Evidence of this can be seen by the inscriptions on the walls of the basement. You can also see large tanks or storage rooms in which food items were placed to keep them fresh.

Underground rooms used to keep food fresh.

Outside the city, the waters of the deep aquifer meet those of the superficial aquifer, rising through natural cavities to form springs that feed the Idume basin.

If you’re intrigued to find out more about this underground world, you can contact Tour Event Italia to arrange a visit. Special thanks goes to them for allowing me to share this amazing hidden gem.

Photographs are courtesy of geologist Stefano Margiotta.