Nature & OutdoorNature & Outdoor

The Caves of Soprasasso, Marvel of the Bolognese Apennines

by /// April 3, 2024
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes



Ever heard of the word tafoni? These grooves carved into the rock are typical of coastal and arid areas; you don’t have to leave for exotic destinations to admire them though. They can also be found in the hinterland of Emilia: all you have to do is leave for the Soprasasso Caves, a natural wonder located about 50 kilometers from Bologna.

We are in Montecavalloro, in the municipality of Vergato, an area that lies between the Reno River valley and the scenic mountains of the Bolognese Apennines, characterized by the presence of sandstone rocks. Typically porous and granular, sandstone has been shaped here by the continuous action of wind and condensation water, resulting in a truly unique phenomenon.

Everyone knows them as caves, but they’re rather peculiar hollows in the rock. Some compare them to a piece of gruyère, others to a beehive or even to the lunar surface, but they’re basically caves featuring more or less spherical cavities and smooth walls, similar to holes, that geologists call tafoni. A sight not to be missed, which the Emilia-Romagna region has included in its list of geosites of local significance.


The Trail to the Soprasasso Caves

Vergato (BO), Grotte di Soprasasso | Ph. Elena Tartaglione via Wikimedia Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED
Vergato (Bologna), Soprasasso Caves | Ph. Elena Tartaglione via Wikimedia Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

Now, how to visit the Soprasasso caves? You can get there by following a loop trail made a few years ago on the old Gothic Line route, which starts from the village of Cavalloro, site of a small abandoned church. Once you leave your car at the caves car park you will notice the well-marked entrance to the path which in about an hour’s walk will lead you to your destination.

Or rather, to your destinations. There are indeed three cavities to explore, namely Grotta di Soprasasso, Grotta Buia and Grotta dei Piatti. Each has its own peculiarities, but the one thing they all have in common is the magnificent view of the Reno Valley and the mountain scenery that stretches as far as the Corno alle Scale.

While the Grotta di Soprasasso cave looks like an opening in the rock housing a sort of throne carved out of the stone, the Grotta dei Piatti can be recognised by its circular cavities reminiscent of the shape of plates (piatti in Italian). Paying attention to the uphill stretch and carrying a torch, those who go as far as the Grotta Buia will be amazed at the mysterious charm of this place shrouded in darkness which offers wonderful views of the surrounding nature.

Although not very long – about 6 kilometres – the path to the Soprasasso Caves does have some steep spots and a few short steps, and is therefore recommended for experienced walkers.


How to Get There

As we have seen, the Soprasasso caves are located about 50 kilometres from Bologna, in the municipality of Vergato. We advise you to set on your navigator the small free car park of the caves located in the village of Serra-Riola, from where the path starts.

The caves are not the only attraction of this part of the Bolognese Apennines. If you decide to spend the day in this area, you could also enjoy a visit to the Labante caves and their small waterfall, also accessible via a trail, and to Rocchetta Mattei, the famous mediaeval and Moorish-style castle built by Count Mattei around the mid-19th century.


Maria Grazia Masotti

An eternal dreamer, but I try to stay grounded. I was raised in the countryside but I love big cities. I’m always ready for a trip, as long as it’s sustainable.

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