Verona Underground Museum
Verona's tourist guides will take you to the Scavi Scaligeri, an extraordinary underground museum, to discover the hidden and most evocative underground city.
AT THE MOMENT THE SCAVI SCALIGERI EXHIBITION AREA IS CLOSED FOR RESTORATION.
Verona, for the quantity of Roman remains, is second only to Rome. As often happens in the Italian historical centers, a many of these finds, if we exclude the great monuments such as the Arena, Roman Gates, the Gavi Arch, are nevertheless underground, from 2 to 3 meters (6-10ft) below the current road level. This is due to the stratification of debris, rubble, new buildings, etc., over a period of about two millennia, a process that recent studies have shown continues even today. The Adige river, with its floods has contributed to the build up of large quantities of mud, sand and gravel, along with the rubble of earthquakes, fires, or the devastations that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. Each of these event was followed with constancy and patience by the reconstructions, so that the remains of the past have been buried under meters of soil. So it happens that today, hundreds of years after they were built, remains of constructions from the imperial and early medieval period, mosaics, walls, towers, re-emerge under the asphalt of the streets of Verona, under its Renaissance and Baroque palaces. Under the central Palazzo Maffei were found the remains of the Capitolium (Roman main temple), under the houses of Piazzetta Tirabosco emerged the walls of the Curia (Roman town hall) and the Basilica (Roman court house), under Via Cavour hundreds of meters of the Via Postumia Roman Road stone surface were found. In nineteenth century was brought to light the Roman Theatre, and then the remains of domus, tombstones, boundary stones, inscriptions, partly still in their original position, partly exhibited in the Maffeian Epigraphic Museum, partly in the Archaeological Museum. But the most unique and evocative place where you can admire the ancient Verona as it remained buried underground is certainly the exhibition space of the Scavi Scaligeri (Scala family Excavations). This museum, unique in its kind, is located under the whole extension of the Palazzo del Capitano and partly Palazzo della Ragione, few meters below the street level.
Few decades ago, following a campaign of excavations in the space where today the museum is located, an extraordinary quantity of finds were brought to light which, placed side by side and on top of each other, cover a period of time of almost a millennium, from Roman Imperial age to the splendor of the Scala Family government. Given the quantity of finds, it was decided to keep everything in its original location, repaving the square in order to create an underground exhibition space. With a careful and unique restoration and with the use of completely new engineering solutions, the Scavi Scaligeri are now an absolutely unique place where in a fascinating labyrinthine underground path you pass seamlessly from the refined Roman mosaics of patrician domus, to a series of Longobard tombs, Roman city roads with its stone surface and the below sewer, the foundation, cellars and tunnels of the Scala family palaces that were built at the end of the thirteenth century on top of the Roman remains and in some cases integrating them into the wall structures. Two huge circular skylights open right in the middle of the above square to give light and allow to admire from above two of the most important finds. On one side there is an almost intact mosaic of a Roman domus. On the other side, a thick Longobard tomb made up of various materials, rough-hewn stones and spolia material.
A journey through time
The guided itinerary inside the Scavi Scaligeri becomes a real journey through time, where just in a few meters you can cross centuries, passing from the opulence of the Romans to the devastation that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, transforming that refinement into rubble. The population of the city, from the twenty thousand units that it is estimated lived in Verona in the first century A.D., decimated by wars, diseases and hardships, or fled to the safest mountains, was reduced to a few thousand, causing a progressive ruralisation of the city. During the excavations, traces of the fires that devastated the city several times over the centuries emerged, as well as signs that where the political and social heart of the Roman city had been, in the early Middle Ages there were vineyards and orchards. Finally, with the base of a rough tower and a hall with apsidiole, after centuries when practically no masonry building had been risen in Verona, there are the signs of a slow recovery around the year 1000, gradually progressing to the splendor of the Scala family rule in 1300s.