You probably didn’t know that there are some 33 thousand caves in Italy. Some are long and deep and go for miles, while most are small and as yet unexplored. These natural caves are suggestively atmospheric places, witnesses to ancient geological epochs which offer us a glimpse of planet Earth as it was millennia ago.
To accompany you on this journey to the centre of the Earth, we’ve chosen the 5 most beautiful caves in Italy, open to the public and ready to visit, where you can walk among wonderful subterranean sculptures modelled by nature herself.
Become a speleologist and study the stalactites (top) and stalagmites (bottom), which look like sculpted columns and give the underground pools the feeling of gothic dungeons. Immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere of these places and let yourself be astounded by the mysterious ancestral beauty.
1. Bossea Caves
The Grotte di Bossea, in the municipality of Frabosa Soprana, in the province of Cuneo, were one of the first speleological tourism destinations in the country, opened to the public in 1874 and declared a natural reserve in 2011.
Inside these caves you will find a breath-taking sight: dizzying heights, cliffs, imposing stalactites, ponds and waterfalls. The fairytale landscape unfolds in a journey of about three kilometres, there and back, that will take you to the depths of the earth.
During the visit you will also have the opportunity to get to know the Ursus Speleo, the bear of this prehistoric cave. Don't worry: only the skeleton remains.
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2. Grotta Gigante
The Giant Cave is located in the heart of Karst (Carso), not far from the centre of Trieste. The cave is 65 metres (215 ft) wide and 280 metres (920 ft) long with a huge vaulted dome ceiling. As well as numerous stalactites and stalagmites, the Gigante Cave is famous for the high concentrations of calcite that cover all its walls and has been included in the Guinness Book of World Records as "the tourist cave with the largest room in the world".
The route through the cave takes you into an enormous space where you can admire impressive stalactites and stalagmites, reddish due to iron oxides, and the impressive Colonna Ruggero rock formation, standing twelve metres, or 40 feet, high.
If you don't suffer from vertigo, there’s an overhang where you can get an impressive view of this magnificent cavity and its wonders, from a height of 95 metres, over 300 feet.
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3. Toirano Caves
In the interior of Borghetto Santo Spirito, in the province of Savona, are the famous Grotti di Toirano, a collection of more than 150 natural caves of great geological interest thanks to their wide variety of rock formations, the presence of prehistoric settlements and the largest cemetery of cave bears in Europe.
On the way through, you are surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites, formed drop by drop by water, and you’ll be able to observe the remains of ancient settlements, such as the traces of hands and feet found in the ‘Hall of Mysteries’.
The cave of La Bàsura (or the Cave of the Witch) holds numerous remains of Ursus Spelaeus, the cave bear, which used it as a refuge for hibernation and there is some evidence of the presence of prehistoric men from the upper Palaeolithic period too.
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4. Cave of the Wind
In Lucca, in the territory of Garfagnana, is the Grotta del Vento, carved from the force of the strong whipping wind incessantly against the limestone rocks, giving life to spectacular natural sculptures. It is one of the most important tourist caves in Europe.
There are 3 different tours of the cave you can go on. The first one will accompany you between numerous stalactites and stalagmites of different colours that are still growing. The second is a 75-metre descent to the deepest part of the cave, crossing a small underground stream. The third includes the first two routes and includes a visit to a perfectly vertical 90-metre well and a canyon.
If you’re doubtful that something as gentle as a breeze could excavate caves of this magnitude, just wait until you’re standing at the mouth of the cave and you’ll see for yourself.
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5. Castellana Caves
In the province of Bari, a stone’s throw from Putignano, are the Grotte di Castellana, beautiful karstic caves that descend to 120 metres (400 ft) deep and extend along over 3.3 kilometres, 2 miles.
Thanks to a path that goes all the way along, you can appreciate the geological peculiarities of these caves and the work of nature that has shaped these rocks over the millennia, creating a spectacular environment. The trip ends in the splendid Grotta Bianca, the white cave, so called because of the dazzling colour of its alabaster.
During the summer, the cave acts as a stage for a multimedia representation evocative of Dante's Inferno, and when you go you’ll see exactly why.
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