With its rolling hills, beautiful beaches and enchanting sunny weather, Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. However, there is more to natural Italian beauty than what immediately meets the eye. There is also a hidden world of natural splendour lying underneath Italy’s surface, featuring dramatic waterfalls, sparkling colours and fascinating patterns that have taken thousands of years to form – Italy’s amazing caves and grottoes. There are more than 10,000 documented caves in Italy, from the hidden caves in the mountains to the famous grottoes in the sea. Here’s our pick of some of the best.
The Blue Grotto
Easily the most famous of Italy’s stunning grottoes, the Blue Grotto (or Grotta Azzurra, as it is known to locals) is a truly spectacular sight. Set on the coast of the enchanting island of Capri, the Blue Grotto was the much-loved personal swimming pool of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, and it’s easy to see why – the grotto is flooded with an incredible blue light which illuminates the walls and gives the water an otherworldly glow.
Grotte di Stiffe
Located in Italy’s gorgeous Abruzzo region, the highlight of Grotto di Stiffe has to be the spectacular waterfall buried deep inside the cave. Set amongst beautiful caverns with stalactite and stalagmite formations, the dramatic waterfall is caused by a river that runs through the cave culminating in an incredible drop to a small lake. If you’re planning on visiting, our advice is to head there during spring - that's when there's the most water and the waterfall is at its most amazing.
Grotto dello Smeraldo
Set against the backdrop of the glamorous Amalfi Coast is Grotto dello Smeraldo – the Emerald Grotto. Just like Capri’s Blue Grotto, it is renowned for its incredible colours; however at Grotto dello Smeraldo, the colours filter from an underground opening and fill the cave with intense nuances of green.
The grotto features unique rock formations that boast an almost artistic quality, as well as being home to an underwater nativity scene, created by a ceramics artisan from nearby Vietri in 1956.
One of Italy’s most interesting, unique and memorable locations, Matera is famous for its sassi – an extensive collection of cave-dwelling districts. The caves of Matera had been inhabited for centuries before they were evacuated in the 1950s, and in 1993 the town was made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nowadays visitors can explore the landscape and wander the lanes alongside the picturesque cave-filled cliffs. In fact, there are even a few luxury hotels available that allow you to spend a night in a truly unique setting!
Grotte di Frasassi
Known as Italy’s most impressive cave system, the Grotte di Frasassi – the Frasassi Caves – is a chance to experience incredible natural wonders in the heart of the country. Located in central Italy’s Marche region, this immense collection of caves was only discovered in 1971, and since then has become a must-visit location on any explorer’s wish-list.
The huge rooms of the caverns are filled with stunning stalactites and stalagmites, and highlights include the Ancona Abyss, a room so large that Milan's duomo could easily fit inside it, a crystallized lake, a Grand Canyon and a room filled with formations that resemble candles.