This week we descend below the streets of major cities to explore the remnants of past civilizations in Cities of the Underworld.

Mount Vesuvius, a volcano near the Bay of Naples in Italy, is hundreds of thousands of years old and has erupted more than 50 times. Its most famous eruption took place in 79 A.D., when the volcano buried the ancient Roman city of Pompeii under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. Two thousand people died, and the city was abandoned for almost as many years. When a group of explorers rediscovered the site in 1748, they were surprised to find that–underneath a thick layer of dust and debris–Pompeii was mostly intact. The buildings, artifacts and skeletons left behind in the buried city have taught us a great deal about everyday life in the ancient world. Nearby Naples narrowly escaped meeting the same fate as its neighboring city, Pompeii. The wind saved Naples that day. For centuries, Neapolitans have carved out a parallel world underground. Entire neighborhoods line the underworld, time capsules of ancient life—with banks, bakeries and homes preserved below. Step back almost 2,000 years to discover the world hidden beneath this volcano. We’re peeling back the layers of time in Beneath Vesuvius.

For centuries, Sicily was ruled by a long line of foreign invaders. The residents of this island, formed groups to protect themselves from the often-hostile occupying forces, as well as from other regional groups of Sicilians. These groups, which later became known as clans or families, developed their own system for justice and retribution, carrying out their actions in secret. By the 19th century, small private armies known as “mafie” took advantage of the frequently violent, chaotic conditions in Sicily and extorted protection money from landowners. From this history, the Sicilian Mafia emerged as a collection of criminal clans or families. Trace the mafia’s roots back to a vigilante secret society that created an underground network where they would hold trials, execute the accused and keep bone-crypts in Real Mafia Underground.

Here’s a look at a few more episodes from Cities of the Underworld:

  • Berlin was the battlefield of the 20th century, and today, sealed up and forgotten beneath its streets are the remainders of a dark past. Explore the lost remnants in Hitler’s Underground Lair.
  • From the whispers of hidden tunnels beneath Boston’s North End to the incredible water world still intact under Philadelphia, the legendary secret society of Freemasons has left behind the blueprints to America’s rise. Get the story in Freemason Underground.
  • Deep within the former Soviet Union lays a classified subterranean world of Cold War secrets. In Secret Soviet Bases venture behind the Iron Curtain to see how the Soviets really prepared for a nuclear war.

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