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Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo
Capuchin Catacombs

Capuchin Catacombs

Down in the cold, dry basement of the Capuchin Monastery, on the outskirts of Palermo, Italy, are the remains of 8,000 people. When the monastery outgrew its original cemetery in 1599, catacombs were excavated beneath the building. In addition to friars interred here, well-known locals chose the crypts as their final resting place. The catacombs are open to the public; iron grills prevent visitors from touching or posing with those laid to rest here. 960 1280

Reuters  

Catacombs of Paris

Catacombs of Paris

A series of manholes and ladders lead visitors to the creepy catacombs of Paris. In 1786, the cemeteries of Paris churches were filled to overflowing. The government saw a solution in long-abandoned stone quarries in and around the capital. The resulting catacombs eventually became the final resting place of some 6 million people. Following a vandalism incident, the catacombs were closed to the public in September 2009, but reopened a few months later. 960 1280

Dave Shea, flickr  

Brno Ossuary

Brno Ossuary

The Brno Ossuary in the Czech Republic is estimated to hold the remains of more than 50,000 people, making it the second-largest site of its kind in Europe (behind the Paris Catacombs). The ossuary was established in the 17th century, partially under the Church of St. James. The ossuary was later forgotten, until its rediscovery in 2001. It has been open to public tours since June 2012. 960 1280

Kirk, Wikimedia Commons  

Monastery of San Francisco

Monastery of San Francisco

Below the monastery of San Francisco, in the historic center of Lima, Peru, creepy catacombs are filled with skulls and bones. The catacombs were established following the monastery’s construction (in 1774), and remained in use until 1808, when a city cemetery was founded outside of Lima. The catacombs were soon forgotten, until their discovery in 1943. An estimated 70,000 individuals’ remains fill the catacombs' narrow hallways and deep holes. 960 1280

Ray_from_LA, flickr  

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Light peeks through the darkness at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Following its consecration in 1147 A.D., the cathedral's grounds gave way to cemeteries – a result of the high honor that believers placed on being buried near a church. Interments began in 1735 and continued until 1783, when a new law forbade most burials within the city. Today, the cathedral’s catacombs house the remains of more than 11,000 persons. 960 1280

Neil Girling, flickr  

St. Paul’s Catacombs

St. Paul’s Catacombs

St. Paul’s Catacombs, outside of Mdina, Malta, are a series of underground galleries and tombs that date from the fourth to the ninth centuries A.D. Intriguingly, the 24 catacombs, which cradle the tombs of more than 1,000 dead, show evidence of pagan, Jewish and Christian burials side-by-side, with no clear divisions. The excavation of the catacombs began in the late 1800s, under the guidance of a Maltese archaeologist and author. The site is now managed by a national agency, with 2 catacombs open to the public. 960 1280

Ian Lloyd, flickr   

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa

The Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa (“Mound of Shards”) are a series of tombs in Alexandria, Egypt, that reach a depth of 100 feet. In the 2nd century A.D., they were built for a wealthy family … then forgotten until 1900, when a donkey fell into the access shaft. Human and animal remains have since been found, along with 3 sarcophagi. The catacombs’ name derives from visitors who used to visit the tombs and bring food in terra cotta jars to eat while there. They didn’t wish to bring the containers back home from this place of death, so they would break them … leaving shards behind. 960 1280

thecrawfordsphotos, flickr  

Sedlec Ossuary

Sedlec Ossuary

The Sedlec Ossuary is a small chapel in the Czech Republic that happens to have a whole lot of skeletons -- between 40,000 and 70,000, in fact. Some bones are arranged to form decorations in the chapel, including this chandelier of bones. The ghoulish designs are the handiwork of a 19th-century woodcarver who had been hired by an aristocratic family to arrange the bones, which had been interred in the ossuary since 1511. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Hallstatt Bone House

Hallstatt Bone House

Some visitors find the Bone House in Hallstatt, Austria, unexpectedly beautiful. We just find it creepy. The small chapel is home to a ghoulish display of 1,200 skulls. It came about in the 12th century, when the neighboring cemetery became filled to capacity. Cremation was forbidden, so bodies would be buried for about 15 years, then exhumed and placed in the chapel. Here, skulls are painted with a floral crown – a practice that began around 1720, in a gesture akin to placing flowers on a grave. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Skull Chapel

Skull Chapel

The Skull Chapel in Czerma, Poland, was built in 1776 by a local priest. The chapel serves as the mass grave for nearly 25,000 people who died during the Thirty Years War, 3 Silesian Wars (between Prussia and Austria), as well as from cholera outbreaks and hunger. The priest led the effort to collect the remains and put them in the chapel. The walls and basement are filled with skulls and bones; the remains of those who built the chapel are placed in the center of the church and on the altar. 960 1280

Merlin, Wikimedia Commons  

Capela dos Ossos

Capela dos Ossos

The Capela dos Ossos, or Chapel of Bones, in Évora, Portugal, gets its name from the human skulls and bones that cover its interior walls. The chapel was built in the 1500s by a Franciscan monk, who wanted his fellow monks to meditate hard on life’s transient nature. That message is driven home by some 5,000 skeletons, collected from nearby churches, as well as the words by the chapel’s entrance: “We, the bones that are here, await yours.” 960 1280

ceg, flickr  

Skull Tower

Skull Tower

In the early 1800s, Serbian rebels stood up to the Ottoman Empire. The Skull Tower was later built using the skulls of Serbs killed during a battle in 1809. In all, 952 skulls were collected and mounted on a tower as a warning to whoever opposed the empire. The tower stood in the open air until liberation of the area in southern Serbia in 1878. By then, much of the tower had eroded. In 1892, donations from all over Serbia led to the construction of a chapel, built around 58 skulls that still remained. 960 1280

Magalie L'Abbe, flickr  

Colosseum
Colosseum

Colosseum

Journey to Italy's capital city of Rome for the Roman Empire’s greatest achievement: the Colosseum. The elliptical amphitheater was the largest ever built by the empire, 2,000 years ago. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

The Dolomites

The Dolomites

Northeastern Italy is home to beautiful mountain ranges. The Dolomites encompass 18 mountain peaks (nearly 11,000 feet at their highest), across 78,000 acres. The area is a popular draw for skiing in the winter, and mountain climbing, hiking and paragliding (among other activities) during warmer months. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Venice and Its Lagoons

Venice and Its Lagoons

A total of 118 islands comprise the city of Venice. Each island is separated by canals and connected by bridges. A lagoon-turned-outdoor-masterpiece, Venice is topped by a diverse architectural style: mainly, Gothic combined with Byzantine and Arab influences. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa

Piazza del Duomo, Pisa

Look to the right -- that’s the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s one of 4 structures in Tuscany heralded as a masterpiece of medieval architecture. Explore each within Piazza del Duomo (“Cathedral Square”), a large, walled area at the center of the Tuscan city of Pisa. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre

Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre

The cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata were destroyed when Vesuvius erupted on Aug. 24, 79 A.D. The remains of these cities, which lay buried beneath a thick layer of volcanic ash, stone and mud for nearly 2,000 years, were excavated in mid-1700s -- providing a poignant snapshot of an August day frozen in time. Pictured here are the ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

The town of Assisi in central Italy cradles one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy: Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. Built in the 1200s, the basilica is the mother church of the Franciscan Order. 960 1280

Dennis Jarvis, flickr  

Valcamonica Rock Drawings

Valcamonica Rock Drawings

Explore prehistoric art in Italy’s Lombardy region. Drawn over the course of 8,000 years in an era preceding the Iron Age, the prehistoric rock engravings chronicle more than 140,000 figures and symbols, illustrating themes from war to magic. 960 1280

Luca Giarelli, Wikimedia Commons   

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

Not only is the Amalfi Coast an exclusive VIP destination for celebrities like George Clooney, it’s also a natural treasure famed for its natural diversity: from terraced vineyards and orchards to upland pastures. 960 1280

Zestbienbeautouza, flickr  

Su Nuraxi di Barumini

Su Nuraxi di Barumini

Roughly 2,000 years B.C., a people called the Nuragic civilization lived on the island of Sardinia. Here, they built nuraghi (tower-fortresses). Today, these defensive structures -- of which 7,000 still stand -- represent the most complete example of prehistoric architecture. 960 1280

Getty Images  

Sassi and Rupestrian Churches of Matera

Sassi and Rupestrian Churches of Matera

In southern Italy, the region of Matera has been inhabited by humans since the Palaeolithic age. The area’s most impressive feature is “sassi” -- houses carved out of the region’s soft volcanic rocky hills. The area is also famous for its large number of churches, also carved out of the stone. 960 1280

Tango7174, flickr  

Historic Center of Florence

Historic Center of Florence

The birth of the Renaissance occurred in Florence. Today, the city’s historic center retains this rich cultural heritage, with sites such as Uffizi Gallery (one of the oldest art museums in the Western world) and Pitti Palace (a lavish estate owned by a Florentine banker in the 1400s). 960 1280

Thinkstock   

Aquileia Patriarchal Basilica

Aquileia Patriarchal Basilica

One of the wealthiest cities of the early Roman Empire was the Northern Italian city of Aquileia -- until it was destroyed by Attila the Hun in the 5th century. Much of this vanquished city still remains unexcavated -- making it one of the richest archaeological troves of its kind. Here’s a look at the Cathedral of Aquileia, a flat-roofed basilica built in 1031 and again, in 1379. 960 1280

Giovanni Dall'Orto, Wikimedia Commons  

Villa d'Este

Villa d'Este

Renaissance architecture flourished from the 15th to the early 17th centuries -- and Villa d’Este, in the town of Tivoli, near Rome, is a prime example of it. The villa is surrounded on 3 sides by a courtyard, and its gardens are enlivened by fountains, pools and water troughs. 960 1280

M. Maselli, flickr  

Villa Romana del Casale

Villa Romana del Casale

To view the richest, most extraordinary collection of mosaics from the ancient Roman world, head to southern Italy. Built in the 4th century, Villa Romana del Casale showcases a vibrant collection of images: among them, young women playing sports and hunters with dogs. 960 1280

Jerzy Strzelecki, Wikimedia Commons  

Aeolian Islands

Aeolian Islands

It took 260,000 years of volcanic activity for the Aeolian Islands to meld into their present shape. That rich natural history explains why geologists have studied this volcanic archipelago for the past 2 centuries. Located north of Sicily, the islands are also a popular tourist attraction during the summer. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Inside the church and Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, visitors can see one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. The mural was painted between 1495 and 1497, and is located in the refectory of the convent, in Milan. 960 1280

Latinboy, Wikimedia Commons   

Botanical Garden, Padua

Botanical Garden, Padua

The world’s oldest botanical garden is located in the northern Italian city of Padua. Created in 1545, Orto Botanico still retains its original layout (a circular central plot), and showcases 6,000 types of plants, from aquatic to alpine varieties. 960 1280

Semolo75, Wikimedia Commons  

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