- Working hours: The tunnel is temporarily closed until further notice
- Tickets: free entrance
How many times have you visited a military facility as a tourist? Not very often is our guess. Well, Rijeka offers a rare opportunity to do exactly that. And it will lead you underground in the process. The first military tunnel opened exclusively for tourist visits is waiting for you in the very centre of the city.
The decision to build the tunnel arose from the fact that the city sprung up at the crossroads of several historical states, which is why it also became an area of particular military significance. The frequent shifting of borders led to the construction of fortifications. Most of them were built in the years leading up to World War II, during the construction of the so-called Alpine Wall (Vallo Alpino), which was supposed to protect the border between the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The construction of subterranean strongholds, military warehouses, passages and bunkers began in 1931 in order to make the city less susceptible to cannon fire.
The entrance to the tunnel is located next to the Cathedral of St. Vitus and it stretches below the Old Town to the Dolac Primary School. The 330-m long tunnel, which was dug into bedrock from 1939 to 1942 by the Italian military in order to protect civilians from aerial bombings, descends to a depth of 10 m in several places. It is 4 m wide and 2.5 m high on average. The main tunnel bore branches off in two directions, one leading towards the old city hall building and the other to the Cathedral of St. Vitus.
In several places along the tunnel, you can still see the original “Riservato all U.N.P.A.” (“Reserved for the Anti-aircraft Corps“) signs. At the time, the Dolac Primary School was the headquarters of the Corps. The tunnel proved its merit during the endgame of the war in 1944 and 1945, when Rijeka was attacked in waves by the Allied air forces. It also served its purpose during the Croatian War of Independence when it was used as a shelter by a portion of the population on two separate occasions.
The tunnel is supplied with light fittings and is covered with sand in its entire length in order to facilitate walking. The interior temperature of the tunnel is 15 degrees. The tunnel has been repurposed to better fit the needs of the times, which means that it is no longer a military facility, but yet another site on the tourist map of the city.
Visiting the tunnel may not bring out the soldier in you, but it will give you a small taste of wartime adrenaline, the kind that urges you to seek shelter when the occasion arises.