“This is a big thing. Here we go?”
“They are yours!”.
It all started like this.
In the environment of explorers there has been rumors for years of the existence of secret and underground military bases, now abandoned and inaccessible. Our searches intensify until we get confirmation that these bunkers exist and someone has set foot there.
It’s midsummer, the heat wraps everything, ready to go. The alarm clock is almost dawn. Our meeting includes a coffee at the bar and a briefing to summarize the day’s program.
The road is still long and even winding. We leave the cars in an old concrete square near the entrance to the base.
The temperature under the sun is deadly and we start to dress heavily because once inside it will be cold. Photographic equipment including LEDs and torches is added to boots, overalls, masks with inserted filters and a caving helmet. The base extends for kilometers in and under a mountain and it is totally surrounded by darkness. No air intake, no window, no light source. In a nutshell: claustrophobia.
You imagine a very complicated process. Once inside, after crawling in the peat for meters, we arrive inside a tunnel of which we do not see the end. We walk. We walk. We still walk. The air seems breathable but we keep the masks that weigh down our steps.
Finally an armored door appears on our left, it is open and totally rusty. The exploration of the bunker begins. From an almost illegible map we understand that the structure is divided into blocks: A, B, C, D and E. The geometry of the base seems simple, on the map.
The first blocks do not offer us big surprises. The lower floors are often the storage of moldy furniture. The bathrooms are in poor condition and the upper floors are destroyed and empty.
When everything seems lost, the twist, the Jolly that is worth the whole game: the control room. In front of us, behind the protective plastics, we find a huge wall to which a geographic map of the Mediterranean and a table marking the military bases in Italy, Greece and Turkey are affixed.
A decadent staircase leads to the height of the large map, certainly to move the “placeholders”.
Five hours have passed. We document the rest and go away.
The return to the access point is more tiring, it seems to last twice as long. Once out in the open air, the feeling is that of fainting.
Secret military bases have been abandoned since 1995 and they have been looted. The refuge is fallout and would serve as a military shelter in the event of the outbreak of the Cold War. One of the most important tasks of this base was to intercept messages that passed throughout Europe.
Now the entrance is walled and sealed. Secret military bases are now inviolable. The institutions bounce off the blame and the only certainty is that these abandoned bunkers are one of the most serious ecological problems in the whole of Italy.
We drink a lot before getting back to driving to go home.
We are proven by this exploration. The feeling of rottenness and humidity will go away after a long time. For a moment in one of those corridors, I tried to stay still and turn off my led. Silence and darkness. In a word: claustrophobia.
At home, with the dust mask in my hand. I put it in the closet, maybe one day it will be useful again.
I start to disinfect anything that has touched the ground.
Photos by Matteo M., Valerio F. and Marco M.