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I Blame Hollywood


Any tourist attraction with the word “cave” in it typically gets a pass from me.

My strong dislike for being in tight enclosed spaces, and the thought of possibly being trapped with anything creepy is enough to make my skin tingle.

So, I’m not entirely sure what compelled me to go to the Grotte di Castellana, three kilometers of underground caves, near Bari. On recommendations from friends, and with the desire to do something new and different, we made plans to go.

When we got there, still somewhat unsure, I hesitantly approached the ticket booth and stared at the board outlining the tour options. The man behind the counter stated something in Italian, completely incomprehensible to me, except for the urgency and his promptness in handing us tickets.

I didn’t even have a chance to ask my most pressing question…”Are there bats?“…the answer to which would have dictated whether or not I spent the next hour in the car while Pete enjoyed the tour alone. Instead, we had gotten there just slightly after the hourly guided walk was to start, so we were quickly whisked down to the caves to join others.

Grotte di Castellana

I completely blame Hollywood for the experience that followed.


I blame Indiana Jones for the terrible visions of giant rolling rocks ready to surprise me on a narrow path. I blame Arachnaphobia for the spiders and other creepy crawlies that I envisioned jumping out at me. And I blame Lord of the Rings for the ghastly whisper of “My Precious” I was sure I heard, or the faces of the “undead” I could make out in the cave walls.


Each dark cavern contained a creature that wanted to eat me,


in each black hole I saw the eye socket of an empty skull.


It didn’t help when the tour guide pointed out a formation in the shape of a cobra, or when Pete looked up at a ceiling of pointy stalactites and said “Gee, it sure would suck if there was an earthquake right now.

Thanks honey. You’re a BIG help.


Past the first cave, we weren’t allowed to take photos, which was a good thing as it left me one of Pete’s hands for holding (read: squeezing-for-dear-life). Sudden movement caused by him tripping over a stone, or the unexpected drop of condensation on my head from above caused an anxious yelp from me.


An hour and a half is a long time to have your heart in your throat. That was my first, and last, experience in underground caves.


** We were guests at the Bed And Breakfast La Uascézze Bari, Italy and our 2 night stay was complimentary.  You can read our review on the B&B here.

33 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Personally, I enjoy exploring underground caves, but I also understand being anxious about bats – these creatures are just creepy :)
    Adrian B. recently posted..Merry Christmas Everyone!

  2. Moral of the story? Props to Pete. Keep Dalene on her toes. :)
    Justin Hamlin recently posted..Foto Friday – December 2, 2011

  3. Oh no! Sorry to hear this cave experience was so traumatic for you!

    My sister and I visited the Meramec Caverns in Missouri this summer on our U.S. roadtrip, and I thought it was fascinating to see all the stalactites and stalagmites and rock formations that have taken millions of years to form! Then again, if I was afraid of the dark, it would have been terrifying!
    Amanda recently posted..Photo of the Day: Sydney

    • The formations were REALLY cool, when I could calm down long enough to gaze around. I would have been just happy to go take a quick look and then get back up to the surface…I should have thought twice about walking all 3km of it!

  4. Ah…Yah, I’m with you Dade.
    They did look very interesting though.

  5. Caves are for bears. There’s no need to go where bears live. Simple as that.
    But were there bats?
    Steve recently posted..Merry Christmas From More Kids Than Suitcases

  6. I kinda happen to love caves … I’m weird or maybe part bat? :)

    Looks like it would be amazing experience. Sorry to hear that it wasn’t good for you. At least you tried!
    cheryl recently posted..The ABCs Of Travel: Edition.

  7. Part of me would like to do this, part of me is scared. I would definitely need to have someone’s hand to hold!
    dtravelsround recently posted..Escape of the Week: Radovljica, Slovenia

  8. No one can fault you for trying once! I wish you’d seen bats — no you may never. ;-)
    Abby recently posted..Rain, rain, go away?

  9. You been there? Lovely! I spent a year living just 1 hour drive from the cave and never had a chance to visit it, unfortunately!
    crazy sexy fun traveler recently posted..A WEATHER GUIDE TO ASIA’S MAIN TOURIST HOTSPOTS

  10. Ah!! That must surely have been a scary experience for you. I can relate because I too am scared of those tight places and when you have darkness there too, its hell!!!!
    But the pics are just beautiful.
    Wish you have a very Merry Christmas Dalene:)
    Arti recently posted..Random Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Dhabas, Sadhus, Garhwali caps and more…

  11. Well done for feeling the fear and doing it anyway! You should probably give the burial cave on Atiu in the Cook Islands a miss if you ever make it there. We had to crawl around on our hands and knees bumping into skulls and bones.
    Erin recently posted..December Update & Plans For 2012

    • Okay, wow, thanks for the heads up because that would definitely be a PASS! In Sicily we did a tour of Mount Etna and part of it included going into one of the lava caves. I put the hard hat on, took one step in, and turned around and left. It was REALLY cramped and immediately freaked me out. Pete confirmed later that he saw a bat in there. Good choice by me. :)

  12. This reminds me of my visit to the Jenolan caves just outside of Sydney, Australia. There was a an option to do a tour where spaces got so tight at times that you were crawling on your stomach…. no thanks! Instead I did the walking tour which was pretty awesome, I braved it with no boys hand to hold onto :( haha
    Weird that they made you stop taking photos though, what was that all about?
    cailin recently posted..My love-hate relationship with Berlin

    • Well, you are much braver than I then! I think they wouldn’t let people take photos because it is a very tightly scheduled tour – they can’t have too many people in the same place at once, so they had to sort of rush us through to get the next folks in. That’s my guess anyways.

  13. Awwww! Dont go to the caves in Hungary though …. lots of tight squeezes involved and probably wouldn’t help if you dont like enclosed spaces
    Jade – recently posted..Midweek Snapshot – Tallinn, Estonia 2008

  14. Photographs are meticulously captured in low light….Caves give claustrophobic feelings….but I won’t deny its an amazing geographical creation….
    Rahul recently posted..Agra Diaries: Taj Mahal in Moon light

  15. A cave experience like this one, would be traumatic for me, too… but I would also love it….
    Laura recently posted..The Igloo Village: Enjoying The Northern Lights From… An Igloo

  16. I actually walked to this cave from the city center. Really dumb idea, especially because I was carrying my backpack as well. I’m glad you got to see it. I thought it was amazing.
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon recently posted..Heels and Wheels from A-Z

  17. I chuckled as I read you account of your experience. It was exactly what it felt like when I visited my first ever cave! I too, blame Hollywood for all those horrible things I imagine is lurking around the corner or about to crawl up under my trousers.

    I actually did stop to tuck my jeans into my shoes and then stood further down the middle of the line of people…. In case a boulder comes rolling along! But I found that I enjoyed the experience after all when I saw the beauty of the caves under well placed lighting! Since then, I’ve continued to be excited and intrigued by cave attractions!
    Shirlene from Idelish recently posted..{USA} Creative Omakase at Sushi of Gari in New York

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