CAVING IN ITALY
Italy has been an important centre of European caving or spelunking (speleologia) for over a century, and the sport has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent decades. There are over 10,000 documented caves in Italy, in areas as diverse as Veneto Region, Friuli Venezia Region, Sardinia Region and Tuscany Region,perhaps the greatest number are to be found in Umbria Region.
The Umbria Region was one of the original focal points for caving and hosts, Monte Cucco, one of the deepest cave systems in the world, and the ‘Avenue of the Great Wells’ – a series of large underground wells regarded by caving enthusiasts as Italy’s most spectacular geological feature. Further north, a popular alpine system is Pioggia Bella, which has seven entrances along its 6km (4mi) length.
Those taking part in caving expeditions range from trained members of the various caving organisations, to those wishing to experience a guided weekend adventure in the geological underworld of fossils, rivers and unusual creatures, including bats and cave fish.
It’s important to have the appropriate training, equipment and conditioning, and to be accompanied by an experienced guide to explore this dark and silent world (best avoided by those who suffer from claustrophobia).
Even an ‘easy’ cave system requires you to scramble over rocks, bend double (possibly for hours) in low passages and squeeze your body through narrow openings. In more difficult caves you may need to use rock-climbing skills and rope systems to cross underground lakes or even to swim under water. Newcomers can attend an introductory weekend, which are arranged in the easier caves, with all equipment provided.