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.
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:
- The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome
- Underground Orvieto
- Naples Underground
- Turin Underground
- Matera, of course
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
Italy Beyond the Obvious will help make your trip truly memorable. Take advantage of our Italy trip planning services for a customized itinerary, or get coaching assistance with our Italy travel consulting services. And if you like what you read, why not subscribe to the Italy Beyond the Obvious blog and get free updates?