THE CAVES PROJECT
A fascination with the subterranean world has always played a huge role in the dreams of children and adults alike. Mysterious and fascinating journeys fired by the classics have dictated destinations and physical/time travel, treading the fine line between fantasy and reality.
The bond between people and caves has driven anthropology and they are places with many meanings - from simply places of refuge and spiritual locations to religious symbols filled with intrinsic significance. First dwelling places and then places of great scientific and visitor appeal, caves provide answers and forge a firm link between present and past, time immemorial that helped create hidden treasures that are now easily accessed by the public.
Stalactites, stalagmites, subterranean rivers and waterfalls, columns, solidified flows and crusts…, figures sculpted by nature over millennia can today be viewed by humans, still perfectly intact, stunning and enthralling. The forms are determined by numerous factors (roof height, air currents, age, stage of development etc.) but, primarily, by the ways water penetrates the environment: dripping from a vaulted roof, running down walls or amassing in pools. It has been estimated that a stalactite grows approximately 0.2 mm per year, a significant fact if we are to truly understand the worth of these underground formations.
The mythical “centre of the earth” that inspired Jules Verne in 1864 is still a mirage, increasingly difficult to reach but via a better-known route.
Mondovì opened Italy’s first cave to visitors in the very years when the French writer imagined descending into the crater of a volcano. On 2 August 1874, the Grotta di Bossea (in Frabosa Soprana) opened its doors, second chronologically in Europe only to Postumia. It is an unusual cave, not a snapshot but a “living” work, abounding with water and with intense acoustics, a giddying architectural feat that guarded the remains of Ursus spelaeus for millennia.
From Val Corsaglia to Monte Calvario and the two national records of the Grotta dei Dossi (Villanova Mondovì). On 15 August 1893, with the aid of 30 Edison bulbs and a petrol generator, it became the first cave in Italy to be lit by electricity; this light also raised the curtain on a unique colour spectrum, earning it the name of the most colourful cave in Italy.
From Monte Calvario we move on to Val Maudagna and explore the Grotte del Caudano; running for 3200 metres, they are among the longest caves in Italy. A complex of mostly horizontal tunnels developing over four levels and interconnecting in some points, they feature a unique array of limestone conformations. From the “bed of nails” to the jellyfish… there are countless evocative forms.
Different features offer an emotional, complete and multifaceted visit, all just a few kilometres from each other. These are real treasures of the people, a heritage that must be seen by as many as possible to fully appreciate their worth.
CAVES, le grotte turistiche del Piemonte promotes the system, boosting and supporting the commitment of the single authorities, from the municipal administrations of Frabosa Soprana, Frabosa Sottana and Villanova Mondovì to those managing the sites, developing and consolidating existing experiences and drawing on major strengths.
Mondovì has been a nationwide pioneer on the subterranean tourism front and its caves contain the significant remains of extinct species such as Ursus Spelaeus (cave bear), of huge interest to the archaeological and palaeontological disciplines. The tourism offer of the Mondovì valleys is centred mainly on outdoor activities and this falls in perfectly with the experience of a cave visit.
As well as being of strong scientific, naturalistic and speleological interest, the Bossea, Caudano and Dossi caves are fascinating and spectacular subterranean realities and provide major archaeological and palaeontological resources. Now, thanks to the Promotion Tender issued by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo, this heritage will be the focus of a major visitor and cultural drive.
From the centre of the Earth to the edges of the Earth, the subterranean world… is emerging.