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Caves of the Abbadessa di Pale
Climbing and potholing

Caves of the Abbadessa di Pale

Located on the slopes of the mountain of Pale, the Abbadessa Caves represent an interesting karstic phenomenon, generated mainly by the waters of the Menotre river

In the vicinity of the small and charming hamlet of Pale, in the municipality of Foligno, the waters of the Menotre river and infiltration waters have given rise to a truly fascinating underground karst phenomenon: the Pale Caves. Known since the 12th century as the Abbadessa Caves, over the centuries their charm has attracted numerous illustrious visitors, such as Queen Cristina of Sweden and Cosimo III, Serenissimo Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Their formation is mainly due to the action of the waters of the Menotre River, whose precipitation inside the cavities below has given rise to the numerous stalactites and stalagmites present in the underground system, as well as the numerous travertine outcrops that can be encountered along the same route as the Menotre Falls, which can be reached by a short walk.

The caves extend for about 58 metres, forming a labyrinth composed of several cavities to explore and discover.

The first and most impressive of these is the “Camera del laghetto” (Pond Hall), so called because of its almost perfectly circular layout. With a height of 8-9 metres, this chamber houses numerous stalactites and stalagmites, in some cases fused together to form columns, some of them of incredible perfection. After being closed for more than 40 years, the hall was reopened to the public in 2016, once again providing the opportunity to visit its wonders stored underground.

After passing through a tunnel, one reaches the second hall, known as the “Camera delle Colonne a Terra” (Hall of the Ground Columns), so called because of the majestic and imposing columns that rise in the centre of the hall. However, the hall’s wonders are not limited to its columns: in addition to numerous stalactites, here there are lamellar concretions that look like elegant draperies and a stalagmite resembling the statue of a proud rock lion.

Although there is no evidence of human habitation in ancient times, and the very environment of the caves seems to be unsuitable for the development of life, a few surprises can be found inside! Inside the caves are a type of white lichen capable of colonising the bare rocks and surviving in a lightless environment. The luckier ones, on the other hand, will be able to come across a particular type of crickets that have adapted to survive in underground environments, characterised by very long and curious antennae.

For more information, consult the Grotte di Pale website.