(Dipartimento di Architettura, Università degli studi di Firenze, Italy)

Keywords: Cultural Heritage, Intangible Heritage, Caves, Legends, Documentation

The legends and the myths from the popular culture are a quite common elements everywhere in the world. But when they come to be combined to remains and ancient buildings, often there is some kind of special mix. This mix brings the imagination beyond the works and the ventures of paladins and architects; it brings the imagination in the underground.
So it may happen to hear stories about tunnels, caves, hidden rooms where fabulous treasures are hidden. The size and the possibility to see the place is simply secondary. Most of the time, if no one is able to find those places is considered the demonstration of how it is difficult to discover them.
There are many meaningful examples of these phenomena: from places seen, but only partially explored, to places that have lost the consistence of the myth and are then recognized in their real function, to the places only existing in the collective imagination.
The research structure proposed here will present an approach to this subject, linking together strategies for documentation, digital survey solutions, and techniques for cataloguing the intangible elements from the popular culture. It will propose some important and clear samples like the “Buca di San Rocco” (a cave crossing the rock where a fortress was raised) in Sasso Pisano, Tuscany; the Cryptoporticus of the Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli (where the legend places the rooms for Hadrian’s expiation); the mysterious tunnel in San Marco Argentano in Calabria, imagined as crossing the land from the local castle to a nearby monastery. These samples (and others) will allow to structure a proposal for documenting and interpreting the reasons of this specific fascination, creating not a simple catalogue of strange places and mysteries, but a tool for interpreting the relationship between suggestion and strength of the architectural and archaeological remains in the popular culture.