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main index        ©Jeff Matthews        entry Nov 2015

Monte Soratte 
from bunker to German High Command to museum



Monte Soratte is a mountain ridge (pictured) in the province of Rome, 45 km (28 miles) north of the city of Rome. It is a narrow, isolated limestone ridge 5.5 km (3.4 mi) long with six peaks, the highest of which is 691 m (2267 feet) above sea level. It is the only notable ridge in the Tiber Valley. In the late 1930s, war was looming and Mussolini decided to build a bunker/stronghold at Monte Soratte, near the town of Sant'Oreste, for high-ranking members of the government and Italian military in case of air-raids against Rome. Construction started in the autumn of 1937 under the guise of building a munitions factory. The work was finished and equipped in 4½ years.
The dimensions were impressive: 4 km of tunnels spread over three levels; total volume, 65,000 cubic meters; and 315 meters deep in some sections.



The site functioned as an Italian military installation in World War II until September 8, 1943, when Italy brokered a separate peace and officially surrendered to the Allies. At that point, Italy's former ally, Germany, became its enemy and launched Operation Achse, the disarming of Italian armed forces, part of which involved taking over the Monte Soratte facility, which they did; German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring then moved his headquarters from Frascati to this impenetrable bunker in Monte Soratte. The site became the German High Command for Southern Europe and served as such from Sept. 13, 1943 to June 3, 1944, during which time it successfully withstood allied air raids. This command post was the point from which Kesselring directed the German defenses against the Allied advance up the boot of Italy after the invasion at Salerno in late September, 1943
the infamous approach up the Liri valley on the way to Monte Cassino and Rome. When the Germans withdrew to the north in June of 1944, they unsuccessfully tried to “blow” the bunker. Damage was minimal.


Post-war

Between 1952 and 1962, the Italian army again utilized the bunker as a powder magazines. In 1963 the Soratte bunker was equipped to house high government officials to insure the survival of the nation in the case of an atomic bombing of Rome. That work went on until 1972. Further work was projected into the 1980s. The site was abandoned in 1989. The nearest local community, Sant'Oreste, is sponsoring (with European funding) the conversion of the entire Soratte bunker complex into a museum. It is currently available for limited visits by groups.
photo, top right: Croberto68, Wikipedia



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