Stiffe Caves represent one of the major examples of karst in the L'Aquila's territory. The caves go through a 2km long path of which 700mts are equipped and easily accesible to the public, followed by a certified spelological guide. The rest of the path is explorable only in some periods of the year and only with reservation with an expert guide and security equipment.
The Stiffe Caves are part of a major karst system that is included in one of our favorite natural reserves: the Sirente-Velino Regional Park which is a very peculiar ecological and geological territory, hotspot for biodiversity and example of best practice for human-nature coexinstence. The park also includes two of the most important cross-country and downhill ski resorts of all central Italy and is home for a really small population of Marsican Bear that are also one of the most rare creatures you may find in Europe.
Arriving at Stiffe, before reaching the cave entrance, it is always a good idea to stop and spend some time at the welcome structures near the street. A pic-nic equipped area, a nice cafe and a toddler's playground (and a Miniature Park just inaugurated) are just a part of what you can find in the surroundings to enjoy better the atmosphere of the place.
The entrance is located at the very top of a calcareous gorge overlooking the small village of Stiffe (AQ) and coincides with the upstream of the subterranean water course by the surface that follows all the hypogeum path to come out in a huge waterfall at few hundreed meters from the village. The Latter is visitable through an equipped path immersed in the Nature and represents a nice way to spend the waiting minutes before the planned tour starts.
As soon as making the first footsteps over the footbridges you'll meet a moist and dark hypogeum environment that, with its everlong constant temperature at 10°C, is certenly a pleasure during the hot summer days but not during the L'Aquila's winter ones (it is recommended to bring warm and waterproof vests and protect all electronics equipments).
As long as you go through the caves the eyes start to adapt to the darkness and the multicromatic artstic lights, positioned artfully, amplifies greatly the sense of wonder exploring cavities and concrections originated in millennia of karst activity. Even the uproar rises and reached the peak in proximity of the numerous waterfall bodies.
The path goes by different halls and tunnels, some of them carved into the bare rock, reaching segments otherwise isolated by submerging waters. The river flow streactly depends on rains and snowcaps over the overlying highlands so that is always a good idea to call the ticket office before taking the trip and verify the caves are regularly open.
Of particular interest are two great jumps in the mean water level of the river that shows the power of water falling from tens of meters on the great pools beneath. In the "First Waterfall" hall it's possible to to climb up on the flank of the walls to the top (almost 30mts) where it's possible to contemplate the vastness of the cavity from a belvedere balcony.
Just after a small trait passing by the river you'll enter the "Concretion's Hall" where great fissures on the top allow the Calcium rich waters to pass through the rock and infiltrate depositing the salts in elaborated concretions Numerous Stalagmites and Stalactites are visible in every angle of the cavebut in this hall the assume monumental dimensions with crystal reflexes in a variety of tonalities of white, black, orange and red.
The last but one hall, named as "Black Lake", presents hundreds of needle, sails and flows concretions surrounding a semicircular pool of swirling waters coming from a branch of the caves not accessible. Over the scene, an imponent 3mts stalagmite dominates from a point once reachable by an unsafe and disused bridge made of wood and ropes.
At least, reaching the last visitable hall, a narrow cavity totally flooded by a 5mts deep lake that takes all the waters coming from the "Second Waterfall". The 25mts jump is astonishing and the the smaller hall ambient greatly amplify the uproar and the spectacularity of the stream. In the flooding periods the cloud of vapor gets really close to the footbridges letting the visitors feel one with the surrounding environment.
At the end of the tour it's always a pleasure rest for a lunch or dinner in the tiny village, maybe at the one of the many handcrafting restaurants that offers appetizing and plentiful selection of typical products served as the L'Aquila's traditions want.
For more informations, prices, tickets, opening and closing days CLICK HERE
EXTRA CONTENT VIDEO
To help you better immerse in the greatness of Stiffe Caves system we produced a short HD video providing visual explanation of the structure and the variety of hypogeum environments you will find visiting our natural heritage: enjoy it!