It is known that the first fortifications on Pula area were built by the Histri and Romans. After the decision to make Pula main Austrian naval port in the first half of the 19th century, the construction of the infrastructure, roads, residential areas, shipyards, houses, fortifications and other buildings for defense purposes has begun. There is a lot of civilians, soldiers and other Austrian-Hungarian experts in Pula at the time. Just before the start of World War I, but also during the war, the building of the tunnels and shelters for the protection of the civilians and the military forces has begun. Subterranean defense system was made of a large number of tunnels, shelters, galleries and passages. It is assumed that still today there is around 10 kilometers of tunnels and galleries that can accept around 50000 people. Even though this system is not fully explored, there are stories about the connection between each of the seven hills of Pula.
Zerostrasse and Pula underground tunnels
The most significant tunnel is underneath Kaštel hill and the Venetian fortress of the same name, and in 2011 it was renovated and opened for public exhibitions, and is now called Zerostrasse. One entrance is by the Twin gates and Archeological museum. The other is on the rise near Kandler Street. Large underground gallery is right beneath the fortification, with four corridors leading from it: rise towards Franciscan monastery, ex-gallery Nemeš near taxi station, Technical school (Cvevčić rise) and Twin gate. Besides the tunnels there are many smaller rooms, which were supposedly used as shelters for the civilians during the bombing of Pula. There are also “dry toilets” in which the people defecated in the metal buckets, which they have emptied during the breaks between the bombings. The tunnel connects the center of the town and is 400 meters long with hallways 3-6 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. The temperature in the tunnel varies between 14-18°C, and there are special ventilation channels for the air circulation. Besides this magnificent construction, inside Zerostrasse you can sightsee the collection on Austrian navy.
After World War I, Italian government has upgraded and broadened the tunnels. After World War II, Yugoslavian National Army (JNA) took over the tunnels, and turned them into atomic shelters in case of biological attack. Besides Zerostrasse, there are many other tunnels in Pula area that are numerated and categorized as shelters. It is assumed that the tunnels can receive up to 50000 people, which is around the number of residents that live in the town today.
Currently, speleological research is being conducted on the tunnels to help assess them so they can be renovated for tourism.
RECOMMENDED TOURS & EXCURSIONS Best tours & things to do in Pula hand-picked by insiders
The underground galleries Zerostrasse, Carrarina 3 Pula
April – September: 8 – 21h
October – March: 9 – 17h
Adults: 15,00 kn
Children and students: 5,00 kn
Photo credits: Bojan Širola