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Translated Jeff Matthews

From Latin, subterraneus, meaning 'underground', souterrain refers to a complex or any parts of a building that are below the level of the ground floor or below the level of the surrounding terrain. Souterrains can be used for the storage of wood, coal, weapons, barracks materials and also serve as lodging, air-raid shelters and hospitals in times of need.

The word may refer to underground paths that serve to connect various installations of a defensive structure such as, for example, between a main wall of a castle and the ravelins.

The Castle of Trezzo sull'Adda (Milan) has a large souterrain overlooking the river of the east bank; it was built with thick masonry and windows, and closed by a long and wide niche at the end of the sedimentary rocky mass known as the Ceppo d'Adda, itself most likely the result of erosion of the many pockets of clay and sand. Within the souterrain, one still finds the famous “pit (or well) of blades.”


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)

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Entrance to a deactivated military souterrain (photo, G. Padovan)

Bartoli M. et alii, La città di ghiaccio [The City of Ice]

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