Castelcivita Caves are one of the biggest speleological sites of Italy.
They are also called “Grotte del Diavolo” or “Spartaco” or“principe
di Piemonte”. The caves develop along one single branch at whose sides
there are other caves and galleries.
The caves are divided in two parts, separated by a level called “Salto”. Going through the steps of Salto, the visitors can admire a beautiful scenario made of eccentric calcareous forms that end in a “lake” called “Lago terminale”.
At the entrance of the caves there are some interesting archaeological finds, such as stone tools, that testify the presence of human beings in the caves.
Stalactites and stalagmites accompany the visitors that walk in the cave.
The caves Grotte di Pertosa (or Grotte dell’Angelo because of a small
sacred shrine dedicated Saint Michael the Archangel) are maybe 35 millions
years old. They are the most important in Southern Italy, the only ones crossed
by a subterranean river, Tanagro or Negro.
The caves are made of charming tunnels and caverns that end in natural “halls”.
The climate and the humidity rate didn’t ruin the wood remains of prehistoric structures.
Greeks and Romans chose these caves for their rituals and the sacred ceremonies. Plinius the Old mentioned this place in his works. Christians took refuge in the caves to escape from persecutions and they were used as a refuge also during the Second World War.
Leandro Alberti, a Dominican friar of XVI century, talked for the first time, in an explicit way, of the existence of these caves. They were then explored by P. Carucci and G. Patroni, between XIX and XX centuries. Today spelaeologists continue to study the caves trying to find new and wonderful elements and halls.
Tourists can visit the caves. The tour begins with a small but charming boat passage on the subterranean river. Different courses are possible. The shortest one (called of Grotta fossile) doesn’t include a visit to Sala delle Meraviglie.
The second itinerary, called of Grotta Attiva, passes through Ramo dei Pipistrelli.
On 1st July 2003 there was the inauguration of a new course, from grotta Fossile to grotta Attiva: it doesn’t stop at the spring, but crosses it, there is also a visit to the area at the back of the fall.
There are two other courses open only to specialized personnel and to spelaelogists.
The most charming hall is Sala delle Spugne. Sala dei Pipistrelli is really beautiful, too. It was called “dei Pipistrelli”, (of bats) because in the past there were thousands of these animals. On the rocks there is still the sign of their excrements. The bats left this cave because of the presence of men. The guano was removed by Montecatini, today Montedison: this factory used it to produce fertilisers and cosmetics. The small cave below the Sala delle Spugne was chosen by the famous film director Dario Argento, for his movie “Il Fantasma dell’Opera”. The set of the film is still there and can be visited.
People who want to take part to the spelaeological excursions receive proper equipment, for example a safety helmet, rubber boots, etc.