Naples:life,death &
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main index   © Jeff Matthews  entry Mar 21, 2016




Two Grottoes near Frosinone
Pastena & Collepardo




The main highway from Naples to Rome (the A1 autostrada del Sole, see map) passes up the Liri valley through the province of Frosinone (the name of the province as well as of the capital city of that province in the region of Lazio, the Italian region that borders Campania on the north. Frosinone contains two karst cave systems of interest to tourists and cavers alike. From this entry on the Castelcivita grotto:

    Karst: A landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. The word, itself, is the German name of Kras, an area in Italy and Slovenia, where it is called Carso and where the phenomenon was first studied. Karst areas are characterized by sinkholes, caves, underground drainage systems and collapse triggered by the development of underlying caves. In the popular perception, the best known feature of karst areas are stalactites and stalagmites.
One is the Pastena Cave (image, top right) near the town of Pastena; that town is 7 km south of the Ceprano exit of the autostrada (15 km/24 mi) up the autostrada from Monte Cassino. The cave site, itself, is then 4.5 km from Pastena, on the road to Castro dei Volsci. The other cave system is the Collepardo cave (image, below, left) on the north side of the auostrada (at the next exit, Frosinone) 24 km (15 mi) up from Ceprano; then take the road to Alatri. Collepardo is a few km above Alatri. (Both sites are marked by red camera icons on the map, above.)


The Pastena cave was discovered in 1926 by Carlo Franchetti, a speleologist from Rome, and was partially opened for tourism one year later. It is the longest cave system in the Lazio region of Italy (3120 meters/9365 feet). The Collepardo site has been known since ancient times. There are pre-Roman walls that testify to a much older presence than that of Rome. The cave, itself, shows signs of having been used as a mithraeum, a place of worship to Mithra, the sun God. (There is an example of that in the city of Naples, as well. See this link.) In more recent times the Collepardo cave was also known as the Cave of Dolls because of the shapes of certain stalagmites. It was renamed the Queen Margherita Cave in 1904 in honor of the queen's visit to the site. The cave is quite near the Antullo Well (image, above, right), a gigantic sinkhole, 60 meters deep and 300 m in circumference. It is probably connected to the nearby cave system. There are strange tales about this thing, such as that farmers used to lower their animals down into it for grazing

Both cave systems as well as the sinkhole are administered by the same agency, the Consortium for Evaluating the Pastena and Collepardo Caves, located in the town of Pastena. Both cave systems are equipped as “show caves,” at least partially, meaning they are safe for you even if you have left you harness and ropes at home. But don't go near the sinkhole.



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