Discover Tuscany Underground - when you think you've seen it all!

by Alexandra Korey / Nov 10, 2009 / 0 comments

Here’s another definition of “where the sun don’t shine”!! Did you know that Tuscany has 1500 grottos, 270kms of natural underground tunnels, numerous mines and other underground treasures. Definitely, these  prehistoric caves, Etruscan necropolises, and underground streams fall into the category of “hidden tuscany”, things to be discovered.

grotta del vento

The Grotta del Vento near Lucca, in the centre of the Apuan Alps' Natural Park, takes its name from the strong drafts which blow from the Grotta Giusti which is a real natural sauna. The Grotta del Vento is about 10 degrees celcius inside and is visitable year round, with three paths you can follow inside. This place would be a relief in the summer!


The second grotto, Giusti, is the opposite - it's HOT! It is full of stalagmites and stalactites as you can see in the photo. This grotto was in fact discovered by a satiric poet named Giuseppe Giusti in the 19th century and became famous in all of Europe. For this reason, already in the last century they set up a fancy spa hotel here; now you pay about 40 euros for an hour in the sequence of sauna-like grottoes called – what else – Paradise, Purgatory, and Hell... this last one is at 34 degrees celcius (that’s 93F).


Another really cool underground part of Tuscany is actually in Chiusi, an etruscan town with a really great museum. The first time I was there I somehow missed the Labyrinth of Porsenna – perhaps I was too busy looking at the art (Chiusi is known for Bucaro ware pottery that is black and looks like metal). Legend (thanks to Pliny) has it that the Etrucan King Porsenna was buried in a majestic tomb guarded by, amongst other things, a hen and 5000 chicks (golden, of course), accessible through a network of galleries that unwind beneath Chiusi. This is not really true; there is an underground area, but it’s really an acqueduct – although it IS Etruscan! You can visit this starting from Piazza Duomo and go for an underground walk that lets out in a large round Etruscan-Roman reservoir from the 1st century BC with a double barrel vault held up by a central column. The structure is made from dry stone walls of blocks of travertine which are covered in cocciopesto, a mixture of pottery fragments held together by lime, ensuring they were perfectly watertight (so don’t worry, you won’t get wet!).

One could conceivably tour Tuscany entirely underground – that’s an idea for anyone who says they’ve seen it all!! For more underground ideas, please see the related page on the official tourism website: