Abruzzo’s L’Aquila province is full of interesting destinations that make for a truly unique experience. One of the area’s many natural wonders is the Stiffe Caves (Grotte di Stiffe) in Stiffe (San Demetrio Ne’ Vestini).
About the Grotte di Stiffe
The limestone caves were formed by an underground river (Rio Gamberale) and are actually one of the few examples in Italy of a “resurgence” cave (where a river re-emerges above ground). Stalactites and stalagmites were formed from the dripping water and also carved out beautiful pools, canyons, and waterfalls.
Archaeological evidence dates to the Neolithic Period. Only a very small section of the cave is open to the public and not even geologists have been able to explore the entire area yet. Amazingly, the site has only been open to the public since 1991. A qualified, expert guide will accompany you on your 1-hour long tour during which you will see the Sala del Silenzio, the Sala della Cascata, and the Sala delle Concrezioni, the Lago Nero, and the “last waterfall”.
The Various Parts of the Tour
The Hall of Silence has been appropriately named because in this section of the cave the river dries up for part of the year eliminating the roaring sound present in the other parts of the cave. Soon to be heard again in the next room, the Hall of the Waterfall, which is a 30-meter high area overcome with a 20-meter pounding waterfall, quiet in the summer but impressive in the winter when the river floods.
From here, visitors enter the Hall of Concretions: a quiet area with massive stalactites in the most unique shapes. Next is the Black Lake with its dark water and interesting formations where stalagmites and stalactites have joined in union.
Some will find the last part of the visit the most spectacular and savage- the Last Waterfall. The sheer power of the 25-meter fall makes it impossible to hear even the person right next to you. This much smaller room has only been open to the public since 2007.
Planning Your Visit
This is actually a wonderful place for families and children will really enjoy the adventure. The tour is available in Italian only but sometimes, the guide will be able to fill in the English-speaking guests with the major details. You can also buy a guide and do your research beforehand.
A reservation is mandatory! The temperature in the cave is a constant 10 to 11 degrees Celsius all year and the floors can be slippery so dress accordingly. Please consult the official website before your visit.
In the Area
The only way to visit this area of Abruzzo is by car. Not far away from the Stiffe Caves are the lovely villages of Bominaco and also Rocca Calascio. The Caves are technically located within the Sirente-Velino Regional Park but the Gran Sasso National Park and Majella National Park are very close as well.