From Robin Hood to the Illuminati, to the Knight Templars : Conspiracy theories are always fascinating.
The famous "Grotta dei Beati Paoli" is an underground cave near the church of Santa Maria di Gesù, called S. Maruzza, where, as the story goes, the sect of the black hoods established its court. It was linked to several other underground tunnels being part of the compound of early Christian catacombs, still existing near the ancient Porta D'Ossuna. Do not attempt to find these places, it will be impossible to make your way through the labyrinths of Il Capo, besides, it is not the safest place to wander around without an experienced guide.
Whether or not the Beati Paoli really existed, we do know one thing as fact. That is, the existence of various underground tunnels and mysterious places, as large as the entire city of Palermo, have been built in the form of a huge qanat system constructed during the Arab period (827-1072). Many of the qanats are now mapped and some can be even visited today!
A walking tour of the Beati Paoli secret places is available each Sunday at 9:45am starting from Palermo's Cattedral. I am not sure if this tour is available in English, but considering the minimum cost of 6 euros, it might be worth checking it out! Booking is essential. Call Cooperativa Cagliostro tel.091 583218 - 091 334277
Underground Palermo - The Cooperativa Solidarietà, in collaboration with the local section of Club Alpino Italiano, organises guided visits to the qanats, or underground water channels of Palermo. The Qanat is an ancient piping system used for the draining and the transport of drinking water. It is an engineering technique introduced into Europe by the Arabs. You can tour both the Qanat Gesuitico alto (Fondo Micciulla) and the Qanat Gesuitico basso (Vignicella). Both offer amazing, recently discovered, paths though channels and underground tunnels. They can be contacted on +39 0916520067 or +39 091580433 or here. A walking tour of the Beati Paoli places is also available.
For those who feel inspired by our story, why not to indulge your palate at Ristorante Beati Paoli. Although not part of the alleged Beati Paoli underground tunnels, this restaurant is entirely inspired by this mysterious brotherhood. Inside, the dark stone walls create a faintly rustic atmosphere, but outdoor seating is also available most of the year.
A good article on the Beati Paoli can be found here.