Exploration of the Antro del Corchia Cave
The karst system of the Antro del Corchia is one of the largest underground cavities in Europe, an intricate labyrinth of tunnels and halls patiently dug by water in the heart of the marble of Monte Corchia. This magical underground environment, one of the largest in the world, enchants explorers and adventure enthusiasts. Approximately 70 kilometers of tunnels and corridors extend beneath the earth’s surface, the Antro del Corchia is an intricate tangle of natural beauty hidden in the thousand-year-old shadow of the mountain.
History of the Corchia Cave
This immense cavernous system, discovered way back in 1840 by the naturalist Emilio Simi, continues to fascinate even centuries after its initial discovery. Initially explored by brave speleologists from every corner of Europe, the Antro del Corchia has since represented a field of endless exploration. During the 1980s, various expeditions followed one another, revealing a single, gigantic karst complex. In 2001, after two years of work, a safe and fascinating tourist route was opened to the public. An engineering work has given rise to a steel walkway, weighing a total of 52 tonnes, which today guides visitors through this underground world without affecting the original beauty of the underground environment.
The tourist route
The tourist visit to the Antro del Corchia extends over approximately 2000 meters of route, in a fascinating guided journey through an intricate labyrinth of natural beauty. A sturdy steel walkway, which ensures maximum safety for visitors, winds through the heart of the Cave. The visit, which lasts approximately two and a half hours, is recommended for anyone interested in a light underground trekking experience. Even children from the age of four can participate in the visits.
The starting point is in Levigliani di Stazzema, a small village located at 600 meters above sea level, reachable via a panoramic provincial road that winds between the majestic walls of Monte Corchia. The entrance to the caves is guaranteed by a 170 meter artificial tunnel that leads visitors into the Cave without affecting the natural entrances, guaranteeing an authentic and environmentally friendly experience.
Once through the tunnel, visitors immerse themselves in the majestic Galleria Franosa, a spectacular canyon with walls that rise tens of meters. The walkway winds along the canyon floor, allowing visitors to admire the natural beauty of this extraordinary place up close. Along the route, bridges, ramps and steel steps facilitate progression without affecting the surrounding environment. The Franosa Gallery, with its 37 meter difference in altitude and 212 steps, represents a challenging descent, an adventure between undulating walls and sub-horizontal incisions.
Galleria degli Inglesi
Continuing, the Franosa Tunnel gives way to the Galleria degli Inglesi, named in honor of the British explorers who were the first to navigate these conduits in the 1960s. Here, explorers can admire giant concretions and an underground fossil lake. This tunnel, with its 245 meters in length, belongs to a network of straight conduits, an intricate labyrinth of karst wonders. Along the way, vertical communications reveal further beauties, while the walls are adorned with scallops, small regular concavities, evidence of past turbulent waters.
Galleria del Venerdì
Continuing the journey into the heart of the Antro del Corchia, you reach the Galleria del Venerdì, an underground kingdom of wonders 261 meters long, completely of phreatic origin. Already at the beginning, a magical atmosphere envelops visitors when, about a third of the way through, the opposite wall reveals an imposing concretion, which takes the shape of an eagle with spread wings ready to soar in the sky. Next door, a stalagmitic ravine supported by a limestone column has been nicknamed the “Capanna Trogloditica”.
After about 75 metres, we find ourselves in front of Laghetto del Venerdì, a small body of water with shallow waters, but which requires crossing a bridge that rests on the opposite sandy bank. This enchanting place has long been a bivouac frequented by explorers, as demonstrated by the countless engravings that decorate the nearby rock walls.
Galleria delle Stalattiti
At this point, the signs lead to the right, opening the way to the suggestive Galleria delle Stalattiti. However, before entering it, we must cross a concretioned vestibule, now almost completely fossilized, called the “Foresta Pietrificata”. Here, stalactites and stalagmites with swollen shapes emerge from the grey-brown earth, creating a unique environment. The water, once alive and moving, now lies almost still, making the concretions so dense that they almost obstruct passage. The catwalks proceed carefully in this very particular world, zigzagging in all possible directions.
The “Galleria delle Stalattiti” is a typical phreatic conduit, located at an average altitude of 871 meters, where carbonate precipitation is still active. Here too, the equipped route has adapted respectfully among the concretions, guaranteeing an authentic and environmentally friendly exploration experience. At the end of this incredible route, we head towards a short descending stretch crossed by a cascading stream, with collapsed boulders that narrow the path. Then, the route returns flat and easy, leading again to the closing point of the final ring.
The cave can be visited all year round, however, while in summer it is always open to the public, in other periods it is often only open by reservation.
For more information I recommend you visit the official website.
Full price: €16
The ticket includes the guided tour and the shuttle service from Levignani to the entrance of the cave.