Roman underground: The city’s quarry becomes a bike tour attraction

Guides have recently started taking small groups of visitors on bike tours of the Great Quarry of Rome, just outside the ancient city walls.

The 22 mile labyrinth is well suited for two-wheelers – the tunnels are lined with dirt which forms a relatively flat surface to negotiate on a bicycle.

Why we wrote this

Even the most popular tourist sites can still hold secrets. In the case of Rome, an underground bike tour offers a new perspective on the Eternal City and its history.

The origins of the quarry can be found in the Romans’ quest for a highly prized building material. The region is rich in pozzolana, a volcanic rock that the Romans pulverized and mixed with lime to create an ancient type of concrete. It was used in the construction of large buildings like the temple of the Pantheon.

The bicycle routes, which can include as many as 40 cyclists, pass through tunnels that are normally black. If a tour guide asks his group to turn off all bicycle lights and cell phones, it is total darkness; not a single shape or shadow can be distinguished.

“It’s a pretty unusual experience, even for Rome,” says Luigi Plos, a guide. “This is the only underground bike tour in Rome.”

Rome

In a country region outside the ancient walls of Rome, amid lush green fields and hedges reminiscent of JRR Tolkien’s The Shire, a hollow, mossy lane topped with alders leads to a metal gate.

Beyond lies one of Rome’s greatest but least-known wonders: a labyrinth of tunnels carved into solid rock by the Romans 2,000 years ago. And this underground kingdom can now be explored by bicycle.

Guides have recently started taking small groups of visitors on bike tours of Rome’s Great Quarry, which is home to 22 miles of winding underground passages.

Why we wrote this

Even the most popular tourist sites can still hold secrets. In the case of Rome, an underground bike tour offers a new perspective on the Eternal City and its history.

The labyrinth is well suited to two-wheelers – the tunnels are lined with dirt which forms a relatively flat surface to be negotiated by bicycle. A mountain bike is ideal, but even a city bike will do.

“It’s a pretty unusual experience, even for Rome,” says Luigi Plos, guide with Sotterranei di Roma (Rome’s Underground Places), a group of speleologists and historians specializing in exploring the city’s underground places. “This is the only underground bike tour in Rome.”

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