According to the Greek mythology, the souls of the newly dead arrived to the underground Styx River, bounded the world of alive from the nether world, where the ferryman Charon transferred them to the underworld on his boat.
Yesterday we floated along this underground river… All right, all right, if the Styx River ever existed, it might look like the river in the Grotte dell’Angelo, a cave in the province Campania in Italy, it is 70 km from the city Petrosa. This is one of the very few underground rivers in Italy.
After buying the tickets to the caves – there are three variants of the excursion duration – the whole company of the “newly dead” takes their seats in the big boat, and the ferryman Charon (it is a guide) navigates it along the silent and grim underground river to the underground waterfall. The deep silence on the way to the waterfall from time to time disturbed by splash of drops falling from the roof of the cave and echo their produce. The boat has no paddles; Charon pulls it along the ropes, stretched along the whole route; that’s why there are no the sounds of paddles, just as the paddles themselves.
“Charon” does not speak any language except Italian – apparently, only the Italian tourists reach this place – but there are few English words that he knows, and periodically he addresses to us with short details regarding the age of the cave (it is about 35 million years) and how the stalactites grow downward and the stalagmites are coming from the opposite direction – upward. With a shortage of English words (which happened in 90% of situations) he substituted them with the Italian, but we keep nodding with understanding as we could catch some familiar words and in principle know the subject after visiting the New Athos Cave in Abkhazia.
We are much more interested in photographing. Any kind of photography – whether with flash or without it – is prohibited in Grotte dell’Angelo. But does it ever been an obstacle for us? We turned our cameras into the silent mode and made about two hundred photos, hiding ourselves behind the backs of the Italian tourists, in order to provide you with the evidence of our underground trip.
The water part of the route ends up after visiting the waterfall; your further way runs along the tidy concrete paths, providing an overview of different splits of the cave. That’s where the most interesting things begin. If the stalactites (the downward growths) could not be compared to anything earthly, they seem to belong to another world, then the stalagmites, growing upward for millions of years, have managed to take some really bizarre forms. Here you can find an “Italian medieval town” with an eternal bell tower in the center, and a huge sinewy “dinosaur’s leg”, and a “frozen Arctic lake”, and a “human profile”, and a “medieval castle colonnade” – the images could be limited by your own fantasy only. And the colorful illumination intensifies them.
The ancestors of the modern Italians have used Grotte dell’Angelo for the conduction different religious ceremonies since time immemorial. It’s not hard to understand why they chose this place from the first seconds you see it. It has a kind of mystic, supernatural atmosphere, created by the Mother Nature. Moreover, there is a native ready-to-use “catholic cathedral” in the depth of the cave. It is a huge hall of 24 meters in height with the “flowing down” ceilings and walls – officially it is called The Hall of Wonders. The early Christians used it as a place of refuge. Seems like the great architect Antonio Gaudi visited this place as well and after that started to create his Sagrada Familia in Barcelona using this kind of “flowing” style. Just compare:
The modern Italians did not fail to take this opportunity to use the genius natural decorations in order to organize theatrical performances in Grotte dell’Angelo, for example the Dante’s opera about seven circles of hell. And it is absolutely clear, why exactly this one.
The halls of the cave are conditionally divided into heaven and hell, and there are pictures of different world-known murderers-tyrants in here, whose place is in the hell for sure. There’s no picture of Napoleon here, however, you will find Slobodan Milosevic – not clear why and by whom “sentenced” – hanging right between Hitler and Stalin.
It is rather cold in the cave, about 16 degrees; you should take a warm sweater and probably even a cap – the cave continues to live and form, that’s why the water keeps dropping from the ceilings all the time. You will walk along the wet concrete paths, so don’t’ forget to change your peeps and slippers for a closed footwear.
January-February-November-December: 10.00 – 12.00, 14:00 – 16:00
March: 10:00 – 17:00
September 10:00 – 18:00
October 10:00 – 17: 00
From April to May: 9:00 – 19:00
June – July – August: 10:00 – 19:00
Closed: Mondays from September 1 to March 31
How to get to Grotte dell’Angelo
From the highway A3 “Salerno-Reggio Calabria” exit at Petina (if you come from the North) or exit at Polla (if you come from the South); then go onto the national road S.S.19 following the indications to the “Grotte dell’Angelo Pertosa”.
Up to 16 Euro, depending on the route, age etc.
If Grotte dell’Angelo lighted the fire in you, then in 200 km to the east you can find other famous Italian caves – Grotte Di Castellana, located not far from Putignano.
Grotte Di Castellana
Grotte Di Castellana – is a huge complex of caves with fancy stalactites and stalagmites, similar to the underground fairy world of gnomes. Nobody knew about the existence of these caves for a very long time. The peasants called a deep hole in the earth the gates of hell. Domestic livestock used to fall down in this hole and nothing could help the animals from dying. The rotting bodies stank so much that people were trying to stay away from this place.
The first attempts to investigate the caves belongs to the XVIII century, but only in 1938 a group of speleologists led by Franco Anelli managed to evaluate the real scale of the underground complex. Now there is a sculpture of him erected in the first cave, the one with the deep hole on the surface, and some of the grottoes are open for visiting.
The longest route takes 3 km of a way and goes down to 72 meters. The amazing trip around the underground world runs through the several caves, covered with the crystalline growths, illuminated with a dimmed light, what creates the illusion of monsters, faeries, angels and fantastic beings. The Empty Corridor – a long, narrow gorge with walls up to 450 meters – provides a really stately appearance.
And the culmination of the whole trip is the so-called White Cave – an amazing grotto, bursting with its whiteness. This cave was acknowledged as one of the most beautiful caves in the whole world during the International Speleological Congress. Moreover, the White Cave is a very rare grotto because of its color, and the only one open for visiting.
We did not reach it; postponed the trip for next time, so you can get ahead of us.
The official website of the Grotte Di Castellana
15 Euro – the whole route of 3 km.
10 Euro – the short route of 1 km (does not reach the White Cave).
But no matter how mysterious was the underworld, we come back. Here, there is the hot Italian sun, and we want to go all over the endlessly hospitable roads of Campania.