For the traveler who isn’t afraid to get “lost in life” visiting a catacomb might just be the perfect thing for you. Catacombs are man-made subterranean passageways often used for religious and burial purposes. Historically, many catacombs are located under cities and have been popularized by folk stories and urban legends that suggest they have become smugglers' hideouts, meeting places for cults and hotspots for ghost hangouts.
The first place to be called catacomb was the system of underground tombs of the Appian Way in Rome, where it was believed the bodies of the Christian apostles Peter and Paul were buried.
One of the most famous catacombs is in Palermo Sicily, southern Italy and houses over 8,000 bodies that line the walls.
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo started in the 16th century when the Capuchin monastery outgrew its original cemetery and needed a place to bury fellow friars. However, in the centuries to follow, being buried in the catacombs was a symbol of social status and became very popular amongst people. The catacomb’s hundreds of miles of tunnels and halls are divided into categories: Women, Men, Children, Virgins, Monks, Priests, and Professionals. The bodies are preserved with a combination of formalin, glycerin, alcohol, salicylic acid, and zinc salts to give them an almost life-like look that closely resembles their appearance on the day that they passed.
The monastery's catacomb survived off of donations from the deceased’s living family. When payments stopped coming in, that person was taken off of their place on the wall and was put on a “shelf” until the family began payments again. The catacombs were officially closed in 1880 but were still visited by tourists.
Legend – a category of folklore - has it that if one goes into a catatomb without a tour guide, the chances of coming back out are slim to none. It’s very easy to get lost amongst the halls of bones and the hundreds of miles of spirits telling the past.