Caves and tunnels in Italy: Three underground favorites

Want to explore Italy where a flashlight or even hard hat is required? There are thousands of caves and tunnels in Italy, giving the traveler lots of options to go underground. Tuscany alone has 1,500 grottoes and 270 km of underground tunnels. Here are three of my favorite underground (one is semi-underground) spots, and only one requires a hard hat! These are all great “beyond the obvious” places that we include in the custom Italy itineraries we create.


Italy tunnels: Hike the Lagazuoi in the Dolomite mountains

These tunnels were dug through the mountain by both Austrians and Italians during WWI and now provide a somewhat easy 1-2 hour hike in gorgeous scenery near Cortina. Choose whether to walk through the tunnels going up or down, then take the cable car the other way. I recommend walking down unless it bothers your knees. Before starting the hike, rent helmets and flashlights next to the cable car station. Note: the restaurant at the top is excellent. Here’s a great detailed account of the Lagazuoi hike.



Walk the Etruscan pathways of Pitigliano

I’ve planned many trips for travelers who have an interest in Jewish history, which means I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching Jewish Italy (there’s a lot there!), and I often end up recommending a visit to the Tuscan town of Pitigliano, also known as Little Jerusalem

Not only is this gorgeous town historically significant in more ways than one, it has some very interesting walkable Etruscan pathways. Some of the tunnels are completely covered, and are underneath the city. They’re accessible on walking tours – ask the tourist office. Other pathways, the Via Cave, are in the area around Pitigliano. Also carved by the ancient Etruscans and up to a mile long, they’re narrow with tall vertical walls, open at the top. They don’t go anywhere in particular but are fun to walk through. This article lists the Etruscan pathways around Pitigliano and provides a good description from the traveler’s perspective. Here’s an interesting article speculating on why the Pitigliano pathways were built.

Grotta giusti residence valmarina dot com


Soak, or dive, in the thermal waters, of Grotta Giusti in northern Tuscany

There are many natural thermal waters in Tuscany, but Grotta Giusti is at the top of my list. It’s an actual cave and natural sauna, even equipped with lounge chairs, as you can see from the photo above. Kids under age 12 can’t go into the grotto but can visit the swimming pool, which is also filled with the natural thermal waters and is at ground-level (as opposed to cave-level). SCUBA divers can even explore the cave underwater.

These three caves and tunnels in Italy are more off the beaten track, but many cities in Italy have options to go underground, such as:

Underground is a great place to be during the scorching hot summer months, and caves and tunnels in Italy can also be wonderful for kids as it introduces a sense of adventure and discovery in to any Italy trip.


Photo of Pitigliano by Arielarts used with permission, Photo of Grotta Giusti from Grotta Giusti Spa

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Posted by on Jul 19, 2010 in Dolomites, Tuscany | 3 Comments


  1. Sadeep
    July 30, 2012

    I write a lot about Italy in my blog since I’ve been there about 10 times, over 46 years. I know Florence is crowded but for me, being the ctenre of the Renaissance makes it something you can’t miss. I think Siena is wonderful, but we stay with friends when we are there.I love Venice too. it is very special. No other place like it. Most of these places need a few days at least, so just concentrate on a few places and their surrounding areas.If you have a car and go to Pisa stop off at Lucca.Cinqueterre is great but if this is your first trip save it for another time. No I don’t like Milan either.I just wrote a post about Assisi and the Umbrian hill towns. But they may be out of your way. Rome is an amazing city, although noisy, dirty and crowded. But it’s the ctenre of the Roman world and the Catholic church with the Vatican Museum one of the best in the world. There is so much to see. Lucky you, it’s five years since I’ve been I need to go again.By the way, you didn’t say how long you were going for. If you go to Venice then Verona is a wonderful city and Lago di Garda is a beautiful lake nearby. You really need a car for this.I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your trip. Italy, my favourite destination. I’ve even been there three times to attend Italian language schools .

  2. Off the beaten path in Italy - Italy Beyond The Obvious
    October 23, 2014

    […] and that beautiful Tuscan countryside. Travelers interested in Etruscan history should visit nearby Pitigliano and Sorano. In chillier weather, soak in the natural hot springs of Saturnia (one of the most […]

  3. Alta Via 1 – preliminary (1) | solo hiker chick
    June 13, 2016

    […] The entire mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage Area, and the Dolomites, as one would suspect, are made of Dolomite (similar to limestone, and calcium magnesium carbonate, CaMg(C03)2…limestone is  plain old calcium carbonate). Like limestone, however, you can find caves in dolomite. […]


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