In the heart of the Parco dei Gessi e dei Calanchi dell’Abbadessa (Gypsum and Badlands of the Abbess Park) are the Spipola and Farneto Caves. These geological formations are rich in history and natural beauty.
Farneto Cave was discovered in 1871 by Francesco Orsoni. Inside, Bologna speleologist Luigi Fantini found a few tombs dating back to the Bronze Age. Today it’s the most famous cave in the entire karstic landscape near Bologna. It’s about 1km long and constitutes the end of a complex karstic system that begins in the Ronzana Valley. Today it’s a refuge for bats and a real world laboratory for biologists.
Spipola Cave, on the other hand, was discovered a few decades later, in 1932 by Luigi Fantini, who fell into ir from the “Buco del Calzolaio”(Cobbler’s Hole). Used as a refuge during WWII, today it’s considered the largest European cavern made by gypsum.
Both caves can be visited thanks to guided tours organised by the park authority.
The entrance to the Farneto Cave is next to the Casa Fantini visitor centre in the hamlet of Farneto. The guided tour is an adventure for adults and children of all skill levels, covering a rather easy route.
On the other hand, the guided tour within Spipola Cave is a true speleological experience that is recommended and suitable for families with children over 8 years old. The route covers about 500 meters and isn’t particulary challenging, but close attention is required. In the cave, visitors can observe and learn about underground karstic system in the Parco dei Gessi e dei Calanchi dell’Abbadessa by accessing tunnels, alabastrine lava flows, vault channels, and big chambers until reaching the inner doline. The man-made entrance to the cave was built in 1936 by the Gruppo speleologico bolognese (Bologna Speleological Group) and is found near the La Palazza rest stop in Ponticella (San Lazzaro di Savena), just a bit lower compared to the natural opening discovered by Fantini. It’s located at the bottom of the largest doline in the entire Bologna gypsum complex (over 700 m in diameter). It contains smaller dolines and ponors (holes in the ground) that offer an entry point to the caves. Expansive forest cover the floor and the cooler sides, while cultivated fields and a downy oak forest covers the sunnier sides.
Visitors must wear suitable clothing and gear as advised by the park authority upon booking, which is always required.
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Geological formations rich in history and nature