Nature & OutdoorNature & Outdoor

Journey to the Center of the Earth: Emilia-Romagna’s caves you cannot miss

by /// April 25, 2024
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes



What are the most interesting and beautiful caves of Emilia-Romagna? Ever wondered about that? But mostly, which ones can be safely visited?

The underground world has always fascinated me. It’s not completely unrelated that one of my favourite childhood reading was Journey to the centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.

If you could only imagine how often I have been fantasizing about following Prof. Lindenbrock and his explorers in a journey to the depth of the planet. Despite all of that, reality has always kept me down-to-Earth (…get it?).

Grotte e Speleologi in Emilia-Romagna
Caves and Speleologists in Emilia-Romagna

North to South, Italy features several places where the descent to the centre of the Earth is possible, and that includes Emilia-Romagna.

For decades groups of speleologists have been exploring the cave areas of the region, and the Italian federation Federazione Speleologica Regionale dell’Emilia-Romagna (FSRER) listed the caves that have been discovered and explored so far – accessible via web.

So on the one hand remote and difficult-to-reach areas, on the other hand, the so-called “tourist caves”, accessible for everybody. An extraordinary world including kms of tunnels, also more than 200m deep, streams of water, wells, unbelievable human traces and ancient fossils dating back to 5 million years ago, which were recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2023 for their uniqueness and representativeness of the Earth’s geological and geomorphological evolution.

And now, put warm clothes and trekking shoes on and get ready for an adventure!

Grotta del Re Tiberio

Starting point: Via Firenze, Borgo Rivola at Cava di Monte Tondo (Riolo Terme, Ravenna)
Duration: 1h30′
Difficulty: medium
Length: 600m + 60m within the cave

Riolo Terme (Ravenna), Grotta del Re Tiberio
Riolo Terme (Ravenna), Grotta del Re Tiberio

Grotta del Re Tiberio is located in the Gypsum Vein of Romagna Regional Park, in the territory of Riolo Terme (Province of Ravenna).

It’s the last part of a system of natural tunnels on different levels, that formed because of the draining waters flowing from Monte Tondo – 6km of tunnels and a difference of 223m.

It owes its name to Emperor Tiberius who allegedly found refuge here, with no success, to escape the fate and avoid dying hit by a thunder. The cave has been visited in a heterogeneous way since the Copper Age.

Easy to walk with shoes with plastic sole, its average temperature is 12°C, therefore it is highly recommended to bring a jacket with you.

Tours of the caves are allowed only upon reservation and accompanied by speleologists of Park Vena del Gesso Romagnola and “La Nottola” Association: tel. +39 389 031 2110 | email:

Grotta Della Tanaccia

Starting point: 23 Provincial Road (Brisighella, Ravenna)
Duration: about 1h30′
Difficulty: medium (not suitable for people suffering from claustrophobia, children under 12, pregnant women and people with motor impairments)
Length: 500m

Brisighella (Ravenna), Grotta della Tanaccia
Brisighella (Ravenna), Grotta della Tanaccia

2km west from Brisighella, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Grotta Tanaccia is most likely one of the best and most famous speleological tours of the entire Vena del Gesso Romagnola.

Inside you can find stalactites, stalagmites and interesting erosion phenomena. Furthermore, on the inside, archaeological researches carried out in the XX century brought to light remarkable finds, some of them dating back to the Copper Age, that contributed to trace the prehistoric settlements of the entire region.

Visits, upon reservation and subject to admission, are possible all year round except in winter, to preserve the quiet of the bat’s hibernation. I suggest you bring rubber boots (boots in general) with you, together with a waterproof suit. Average temperature is 14°C.

Visits are organised by Visitor Centre Ca’ Carné: tel. +39 0546 80628 o +39 339 2407028 (Ivano Fabbri) | email:

Grotta della Spipola

Starting point: Via Benassi near La Palazza parking area (San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna)
Duration: about 2-3h
Difficulty: medium
Length: 700m

San Lazzaro di Savena (Bologna), Grotta della Spipola
San Lazzaro di Savena (Bologna), Grotta della Spipola

Grotta Della Spipola is situated at the foot of the first hills outside Bologna, and it’s hidden in the heart of Bolognese Gypsum and the Abbadessa Badlands Park.

On the bottom of the sinkhole with the same name, 135m asl, it is now considered one of the main caves in chalk ever discovered in Europe.

The artificial entry, realised by Gruppo Speleologico Bolognese, is situated southern the natural entry, the so-called Bus d’la Speppla o Buco del Calzolaio, discovered in 1932 by speleologist Luigi Fantini.

The 700m tour is suitable for everybody with no particular restriction. Taking the state of the cave into consideration – humid environment, average temperature 10°-12°C – is it advisable to wear proper clothes, trekking boots, long trousers, sweater, raincoat, potentially a change.

Guided tours, led by expert guides, are organised by Parco Regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi. Reservation in advance is mandatory: tel. +39 051 6254821 | email:

Grotta Del Farneto

Starting point: Via Jussi n. 171 near Park Centre “Casa Fantini” (Farneto, San Lazzaro di Savena, Bologna)
Duration: about 1h30′
Difficulty: low (suitable for children 4+)
Length: about 200m

San Lazzaro di Savena (Bologna), Grotta del Farneto 
San Lazzaro di Savena (Bologna), Grotta del Farneto

Discovered in 1871 by Francesco Orsoni, the cave Grotta del Farneto is well-known for its significant archaeological traces dating back to the Bronze Age.

After its forced closure due to a landslide, the 1km cave was opened to the public again in 2008. The fascinating tour, suitable for children and adults alike, stretches among crystals on the ceiling, that light up with the lamps, small bats flying around and finally, in the deepest space of the cave, the silent voice of Earth.

Visits to the cave are organized from March to November, only upon reservation, and are led by authorized speleologists of the Regional Park Gessi Bolognesi. For further info please contact tel. +39 051 6254821 | email:

Grotte di Onferno

Starting point: Via Provinciale Onferno, 50 (Gemmano, Rimini)
Duration: about 1h30′
Difficulty: medium
Length: about 400m

Gemmano (RN), Grotte di Onferno, ph. Piero Gualandi, CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0
Gemmano (RN), Grotte di Onferno | Credit: Piero Gualandi, CC-BY-NC-SA-3.0

The Grotte di Onferno stretch underneath the Onferno Nature Reserve, and list among the most important gypsum caves in Italy.

The name Onferno comes from the Italian Inferno (hell) and is due to the steam that emanated from the area; legend had it, the cave was the entrance to hell.

Tunnels, bottlenecks, and galleries on different levels constitute a complex system of more than 400m galleries, excavated over the centuries by the stream of an underground river. Among the caves, the Sala Quarina is worth a mention.

Also known as Sala dei Mammelloni, conic gypsum protuberances are hanging from the ceiling and seem to be the biggest of Europe.

But the real landlords are the remarkable bat colonies: 6 different species that inhabit the underground environment. The path, partly paved and partly on natural ground, is properly ventilated and the average temperature is 12°-13°C. For this reason, it is highly recommended to wear comfortable clothes before starting the tour.

The caves can be visited all year round upon reservation: tel. +39 389 1991683 | email:


Davide Marino

Davide Marino was born archaeologist but ended up doing other things. Rational – but not methodic, slow – but passionate. A young enthusiast with grey hair

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