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Translated Jeff Matthews

These are structures meant to protect from aerial bombardment. In the First and Second World Wars, as well as the period between the wars, air-raid shelterswere built in Italy primarily for civilian use and were cataloged as follows (Breda Maria Antonietta, Padovan Gianluca, Milano: Rifugi Antiaerei. Scudi degli Inermi contro l’Annientamento, Lo Scarabeo editor, Milan 2012):

- ancient structures, partly or completely underground, used as air-raid shelters;
- local basement spaces, partly or completely underground, reenforced and used as air-raid shelters;
- shelters dug beneath arcades, halls, or close to buildings;
- shelters dug in the earth, called “semi-buried shelters”;
- shelters dug in the earth, called “anti-shrapnel trenches”;
- shelters dug in road, train, and pedestrian tunnels expressly to serve as air-raid shelters;
- shelters within buildings, possibly in reenforced concrete;
- shelters in cement and/or reenforced concrete, completely or partially underground;
- special above-ground shelters;
- individual shelters.

(Further, see: Breda Maria Antonietta, Padovan Gianluca. Como 1915-1945: protezione dei Civili e rifugi antiaerei, Lo Scarabeo editor, Milan 2014).

Various shelters were designed to resist both conventional as well as chemical bombardment. Generally they are furnished with anti-shrapnel and anti-blast walls, anti-gas doors, armoured anti-blast doors, ventilation systems, emergency exits, etc. Most of them are in basements or are partially buried, with ceilings that have simply been reenforced or shored up: essentially they are not so much meant to withstand a hit from a bomb as to protect from the collapse of buildings above them. There are also a number of quarries, mines and other underground structures that may serve as shelters even if they have not been specially outfitted to do so.

In Italian, shelters are called ricoveri instead of rifugi because “recover” sounded less alarming than “refuge” to the ears of the civilian population.


Padovan Gianluca (ed. ), Archaeology of the Subsoil. Lectures and studies of artificial cavities. British Archaeological Reports, International Series 1416, Oxford 2005.

Basilico Roberto et alii, Italian Cadastre of Artificial Cavities. Part 1. (Including introductory comments and a classification), B.A.R. International Series 1599, Oxford 2007.

Gianluca Padovan (Associazione S.C.A.M. – Federazione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali)

Como 1915-1945: protezione dei Civili e rifugi antiaerei

Click on images to enlarge

1989  esplorazione e studio del rifugio antiaereo di via  Luini a Milano (ph. Ass.ne SCAM)

Breda M.A., Padovan G., Milano Rifugi Antiaerei

Indicazione di rifugio antiaereo a Milano (ph. G.  Padovan)

Radacich M., Il ricovero antiaereo denominato Kleine  Berlin

Rassu M., Cantine, Caverne, Bunkers

Rifugio antiaereo a Dalmine (ph. G. Padovan)

Rifugio antiaereo di Piazza degli Aranci a Massa (ph. G.  Padovan)

Stazione Centrale di Milano, tratto di rifugio antiaereo  (ph. G. Padovan)

Elenco dei ricoveri antiaerei della città di Napoli aggiornato al 30 aprile 1943 anno XXI E.F. (fonte Napoli Underground)

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