Exploring Puglia’s Zinzulusa Grotto


We happened upon the cave by accident. We had no idea what we were getting in to and the decision to pull off the road was a snap one made thanks to a simple sign noting that there were caverns at that particular turn. Standing in the mostly empty parking lot I called upon the power of Google to help verify that what we were walking in to was actually worthwhile. I needn’t have worried. The Zinzulusa Grotto is phenomenal.

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Just a couple miles north of Castro, Italy, the Zinzulusa Grotto is a Karst cave and is considered to be one of the most important examples of this geologic phenomenon in Italy. The name comes from the word zinzuli, meaning rags. The extensive collection of stalactites that have formed over the years have a similar appearance to rags hanging, hence the name.

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The approach to the cave consists of a long set of stairs followed by a walk along the cliff side. The views are quite impressive but pale in comparison to the interior. The stalagmites and stalactites throughout are a mix of boring brown rock and bright colors, toned by the minerals in the water that seeps through the limestone, forming them.

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The interior has a long corridor that can be explored as well as large pools of water down below. The pools are brackish, a mix of the Adriatic Sea and underground rivers that flow through the area and which caused the creation of the caved in the first place. In addition to being rather pretty, the pools also house a number of endemic species of aquatic life. During the summer season boats are available for tours at the water level.

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Towards the back of the area open for tours is a space known as the Crypt. The ceiling soars 25 meters above the floor level, creating a rather enormous room. The Crypt used to be inhabited by bats; they’ve since left for less trafficked areas, leaving the room open for tourists to enjoy.

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The cave was “discovered” in the late 18th century but has only been excavated and open to the public for about 50 years. Amongst the things discovered were vases and votive axes dating back roughly 5,000 years. Pretty amazing.

The excavated part is huge. Only a small portion is open to the public but it is still incredible to walk through the carved out paths that have existed for millennia.

Read more of our adventures in and around Lecce, Italy, here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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