On October 13th and 14th the Italian National Trust, FAI, is inviting the public inside castles, villas, palaces, theatres, monasteries, underground reservoirs, gardens, workshops, old power plants, lighthouses, dams, a boat and even a train as part of its Giornate FAI ('FAI Days').
The event takes place twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn, and is designed to draw locals and tourists alike off the beaten path and towards some of Italy's lesser-known treasures.
Many of the sites are ones that people will have admired from outside and longed to peek into, but others are gems that you may have walked past without even noticing – such as the street art that lines the walls by Ravenna's docks, terraces built by the Saracens in Tricarico, Matera, or the old signal room in Rome's central station.
Altogether there are more than 650 sites in 250 locations across Italy to choose from. You'll find a full list of sites and opening times on FAI's website. Some sites are reserved for members of FAI only (details of how to join here). Entry in all cases is free, but visitors are encouraged to make a voluntary donation of at least €3.
Here are just a few of the highlights:
An Art Deco barber's shop in Genoa
Peek inside this 10-metre-square salon, which has been shaving sailors since 1908. Haircut optional.
The old air force headquarters in Rome
Photo: Stefano Cremisini/FAI
Completed in 1931, the Palazzo dell'Aeronautica is an imposing example of Fascist architecture.
A writer's villa on Lake Lugano
Photo: Valerio Di Bussolo/FAI
Novelist Antonio Fogazzaro set some of his most famous work in the lakeside town of Valsolda, where he kept this dreamy summer retreat.
A historic prison in Savona
Photo: Davide Perata/FAI
The prison of Sant'Agostino held prisoners from Napoleonic times right up to 2016. Visitors can tour the cells that once held famed anti-Fascists, including the one where former Italian president Sandro Pertini was held in solitary confinement (entry to Pertini's cell is reserved for FAI members only).
An electricity company's headquarters in Milan
Palazzo Edison has housed the offices of Europe's oldest energy company since 1923. Look out for details including old maps and its impressive coloured glass.
A secret garden in Naples
The hidden garden of Babuk conceals another secret: a system of underground quarries used to excavate stone to build the city's palaces.
The Presidential Train at Termini station, Rome
Photo: Stefano Cremisini/FAI
Yes, the president has a train. It's made up of carriages recovered from what was once the Royal Train of Italy's monarchs, built in the 1920s. This one's only for FAI members, we're afraid, but anyone can visit the old signal room or the hidden wing of Rome's central station.
Cheese-rolling in L'Aquila
FAI doesn't just organize openings, it also puts on cultural events – such as this special edition of the "gioco del cacio", a game that sees participants compete to see who can roll a circular cheese the furthest. Watch seasoned rollers and give it a go yourself.