Ipogeo de Beaumont Bellacicco

Museo Spartano


Useful Information

Location: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II Nr. 39, Borgo Antico, Taranto.
(40.474561, 17.230193)
Open: All year Sun 11, reservation is mandatory.
[2024]
Fee: free.
[2024]
Classification: SubterraneaRock Mine SubterraneaCellar SubterraneaCistern SubterraneaUnderground Museum SubterraneaHypogeum
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: Ar=800 m².
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:
Address: Ipogeo de Beaumont Bellacicco, Centro culturale Filonide, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II Nr. 39, Borgo Antico, Taranto, Tel: +39-3388515579. E-mail:
Reservation: WhatsApp: +39-330438646.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

8th century BC) city founded by the Spartans and quarries used for building stones.
17th century Palazzo de Beaumont Bonelli built.
2002 restoration of the Ipogeo di palazzo de Beaumont Bonelli by the Centro culturale Filonide.
2004 opened to the public.

Description

The Ipogeo de Beaumont Bellacicco (Hypogeum Bellacicco) is an underground cellar which was opened to the public. There are numerous such underground sites in the city Taranto, but this was actually the first which was opened in 2004. It is also called Museo Spartano (Spartan Museum), or in full Museo spartano - Ipogeo Bellacicco (MISpa). The Bellacicco family seems quite rich, and they own several historic buildings in the city. In 2002, they started to restore some of them, and finally they founded the non-profit association Centro culturale Filonide in 2004. This organisation offers underground tours and is responsible for a lot of cultural work. They are funded by the family, not by the public. Founding members are several members of the family, all of them medical doctors.

The city of Taranto was founded by the Greek during the Bronze Age. They founded numerous cities in southern Italy, Sicily, Turkey, and on Malta. With the rise of the Roman Empire, those cities were taken over, and finally Greece became a part of the Roman Empire. Nevertheless, there are spectacular Greek ruins on Sicily which rival those in Greece. Many underground structures in Taranto were a result of the quarrying by Greek settlers, who needed rocks for erecting buildings. The underground quarries were used for numerous purposes over the millennia and massively altered.

The name Spartan Museum is a result of the legend how the city was founded by the Greek city Sparta in 706 BC. The city was named Τάρας (Taras) and was a so-called Apoikia, a colony of a Greek City State. During the bloody First Messenian War, the city was in need of more soldiers, but only citizens of Sparta could become soldiers. So they decreed unions between unmarried Spartan women and perioeci, free men which were not citizens of Sparta. Such measures are later often revised, and in this case the decrees were nullified, and the sons named Partheniae were forced to leave.

Phalanthus, the Parthenian leader, went to Delphi to consult the oracle and received the puzzling answer that he should found a city where rain fell from a clear sky. After all attempts to find a suitable place to found a colony had failed, he became despondent and was convinced that the oracle had told him something impossible. He was comforted by his wife, who put his head in her lap and became sad herself. When Phalanthus felt her tears splash onto his forehead, he finally realized the meaning of the oracle. His wife's name meant "clear sky", so he knew they were in the right place. A natural harbour was nearby, and he decided this must be the new home for the exiles.

Taras was founded in 707 BC by some Spartans, who were the sons of free women and enslaved fathers, born during the Messenian War.

Heracles founded the city during the 8th century.

The son of the Greek sea god Poseidon and the local nymph Satyrion was named Taras. He founded the city, and that's the reason why Taras riding a dolphin is the symbol of the city until today.

So there are numerous different legends, but most have the Spartan origin in common. That's the reason why the museum was named Spartan Museum. However, it is not only an archaeological museum, it is also an art museum showing numerous old and recent artworks.

But back to the place where it is located, a former limestone quarry of the Greek which was later used as cellar. At the deepest point, there is access to the karst aquifer. They call it underground river, actually the water flows to a submarine spring. The lowest part of the cellar is a sort of cistern, which is located 20 m below the street level and 2 m below the sea level. The two natural. The cellar has four rooms between 5 m and 8 m high, and about 800 m² in size. It has three levels, the lowest is 16 m below the road and 4 m below sea level. The fact that it is not flooded by seawater is because it is not connected to the sea by a crack and limestone is actually waterproof.

The site is located in the quarter named Borgo Antico (Ancient Village), and is an island located at the entrance to the lake Mare Piccolo. The city was built at a huge natural harbour, which is formed by this lake which has the form of a huge digit eight. There are two connections to the Mediterranean Sea and between those two entrances lies the island. It is obviously of great strategic importance, as an island it had a natural protection, which was increased by errecting fortifications. And it was able to control all traffic in and out of the huge harbour behind. The hypogeum is located in the part of the island which was called zona del fogge (area of the quarries). It seems the quarries were concentrated here because of the quality of the stone.

The Borgo Antico is quite narrow, and most roads are not wide enough for cars. The site is located at the coast, and there is a two-lane road in front of the entrance, but only a quite narrow pedestrian lane on the opposite side of the road. There are rather small car parks at both ends of the island, from the one at the Castello Aragenese on the eastern end it's a 400 m walk, from the other one it's a 750 m walk. The tours are offered only once per week on Sunday morning, and the number of participants is limited. So it is essential to make a reservation. As the site was fully financed by the Bellacicco family, there is no fee.