Air-raid shelters

World War II air-raid shelters in Piazza V. Emanuele

For the presence on its territory of the large reservoirs of the Italo-American Petroleum Company and the military headquarters of the 4th Fuel Depot with the adjoining military area of Cervina,

Monopoli became the target of air raids by British fighter-bombers in the early months of World War II, which saw fascist Italy allied with the Germans.

At the beginning of the conflict, the city was equipped with a small underground air-raid shelter on the uphill side of the War Memorial, near a large cistern for public use.

On 15 November 1940 from 3 a.m. to 3.20 a.m., 13 bombs were dropped with hundreds of incendiary fragments; there was damage in the countryside but no repercussions on the population.

On 16 November 1940, from 7.30 p.m. to 9.10 p.m., eight bombs exploded and a few dozen unexploded, causing considerable damage to city buildings, in particular to the Rendella Theatre.

Municipal secretary Clemente Cancelli dies, run over by a wall while in the offices in Via Polignani.

After the two bombings, there was an urgent need to provide the city with adequate anti-aircraft protection (AAP).

It was not until 15 December 1942 that the mayor Clemente Meo Evoli entrusted Angelo Brescia, chief engineer of the municipality, with the drafting of the project with the provision of an underground tunnel and tubular shelters in the basement of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.

The work is contracted out to the company Domenico Marasciulo.

On 3 March 1943, the tubular shelters were abandoned, opting for the construction of a second tunnel. The final works consist of two tunnels, each approximately 200 metres long, arranged diagonally, built in calcarenitic material at a depth of 8 metres from the level of the square.

Two existing cisterns are connected; n. 4 ventilation shafts, two of which also function as emergency exits with iron rung ladders driven into the rock, a latrine with associated absorption shaft, a hammer diversion, several tunnels to connect the arms to the ventilation shafts.

The final cost of the work, from the planned LIT 734,000, rose to LIT 838,357, including, however, the electrical installation.

The shelters, which could accommodate around 4,200 people, were used by the population for a few months, although they were inaugurated with the blessing of Bishop Gustavo Bianchi after 8 September 1943, when southern Italy was already under the control of the Allies, the Americans and the British.

The acceptance took place on 6 April 1948 during the administration headed by Mayor Onofrio Manghisi.

The shelters remained closed and unused for sixty years. Following the interest of IPSIAM professors Martino Cazzorla and Raffaele Santo, an inspection was carried out on 15 December 2009 at 4.30 a.m. to view the state of the underground shelters.

On 4 November 2010, at 6.30 a.m., the Puglia Grotte Group of the Federazione Speleologica Pu gliese carried out the surveying operations, which ended with the drawing up of a plan, accompanied by extensive photographic documentation.

The idea of restoring and enhancing the value of the shelters could prove to be a useful operation for the preservation of the city's historical memory with possible important repercussions in the field of cultural tourism.

Public opening hours:
Saturday 5 pm - 9 pm
Sunday 5 pm - 9 pm

Thanks to Professor Carbonara S. for the historical references.

CREDITS: Comune di Monopoli.

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