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The Caves of Castelcivita

Place: Castelcivita (SA)

Distance from Pilaccio: 56 km 

Journey time: 70 minutes

Time to visit: 3 hours

Castelcivita caves

At a short distance from the Calore river there are the Caves of Castelcivita, set at the south-western foot of the Alburni mounts; the caves represent one of the most important spelaeologic sites in Italy. They are included in the National Park of Cilento and of the Vallo di Diana and stand for a naturalistic and geomorphologic patrimony of inestimable value. Their besotting underground routes develop throughout 4.200 metres in an exultation of colours, galleries, stalactites and stalagmites of the most strange and fanciful shapes. From a purely morphologic point of view the caves are formed by a main large gallery from where the secondary galleries diverge in different ways and at different heights. These underground ambients develop for about 5 kilometres and are characterized by important phenomena of concretion (stalactites, stalagmites, columns, calciae streams, and so on), by galleries and halls, by wells and ponds that overlap in different ways and colours making of your visit a supernatural experience.

These Caves, at 94 metres on the sea level, were known also to the prehistoric men. Various archeological findings of objects in stone or bone, dating back to about 40.000 years ago and discovered in the Seventies, seem to indicate that the mouth of the Caves was inhabited by groups of Paleolitic hunters and collectors that used the place as a safe shelter from outdoor dangers. The first generic information about the caves in the Modern Age can be found in a manuscript dating back to the year 1781, while the first systematic explorations of the caves were held in the XX Century, more precisely in the Twenties, when a group of speleologists from Trieste explored the caves following up the aimless attempts of the Ferrara brothers that had tried to explore the caves in 1889 without success because of gas vapours coming out of the caves.

After the Second World War, in a succession of explorations, several Neapolitan spelaeologists allowed the creation of this contemporary fascinating touristic track. It is interesting to see that the caves have had different names in the passing of time: in the Eighteenth Century they were called the Devil Caves; later on they were baptized as Spartacus’s Caves, from the name of the gladiator that in 71 b.C. rebelled against Rome (the legend tells how Spartacus and his army found refuge in the caves). Afterwards they were called Norce’s Caves, from the name of the woman loved by Spartacus and later on they received the name of the Cave of the Prince of Piemonte, in honour of the future last king of Italy Umberto II who visited the caves in August 1932. All those names testify the importance of the place as well as the its extraordinary fascination that led to the creation of myths and legends.

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