Inside Grotte di Castellana

Visiting the Amazing Grotte di Castellana Caves (for 2024)

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photos by Pete Heck (unless otherwise noted)

The Grotte di Castellana is an astounding cave system located in southern Italy near the city of Bari. Exploring these majestic underground cavities offers an incredible journey into an underground world. This region of Europe is actually home to many cave systems and the Grotte di Castellana bears many similarities to the Karst cave systems located in Sardinia and Slovenia.

La Grave – image via

The caves offer stunning natural formations, including intricate stalactites and stalagmites. Visitors can immerse themselves in the ancient geological wonders as they embark on a guided tour, where the guides share their fascinating insights into the caves’ history and significance.

It is a worthwhile visit for many, as long as you aren’t too claustrophobic or scared about being underground. Read on for details on visiting, and then further down, get the lowdown on our personal experience.

Tips for Visiting the Grotte di Castellana Caves

Where are the Caves Located?

The Grotte di Castellana is situated near the town of Castellana Grotte, approximately 40 kilometres south of Bari, the capital of the Apulia region. If you’re arriving by air, the nearest major airport is Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport (BRI). From Bari, you can reach Castellana Grotte by car (around 40 minutes) or by train (approximately 20 minutes).

Practical Information

  • The standard guided full tour, known as the “Grotta Bianca” or “White Cave” tour, lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. The tour takes you through some of the most spectacular sections of the white cave system, showcasing intricate stalactites, stalagmites, and other remarkable formations.
  • Visitors with disabilities can now experience this incredible cavern. The caves are now 100% accessible for visitors in wheelchairs. Note that strollers and baby carriers are not permitted inside the caves.
  • While the Castellana caves are well-maintained and equipped with walkways and lighting, it’s important to note that some sections involve stairs and uneven terrain. Visitors with mobility issues or claustrophobia should take these factors into account when planning a visit.
Entrance into the Castellana caves
Walkway inside the caves
  • Photography inside the Castellana Grotte is limited. Visitors can only take photos during the first part of the tour at La Grave (in the huge cave with the hole in the ceiling), but in other areas, photos are prohibited. As always, be sure to respect any rules provided at admission or by your guide to ensure the preservation of the natural environment.
  • There are a number of amenities at the Grotte di Castellana caves, including restrooms, a souvenir shop, and a bar/cafeteria where you can grab a bite to eat or something to drink before or after your tour.
  • The Grotte di Castellana may not be suitable for individuals who are claustrophobic or have anxiety in confined spaces. While the caves are well-maintained and equipped with walkways and lighting, certain sections may feel narrow or confined, and there are stairs and uneven terrain to navigate.
Grotta Bianca – The White Cave – image via
  • Although the Castellana Caves extend for nearly 3.3 km and are 122 metres deep, the maximum depth reached on the Grotte di Castellana tour is approximately 60 meters (197 feet) below the surface. This maximum depth can vary slightly depending on the specific route taken during the tour. As you explore the caves, your guide will lead you through various chambers and passages, showcasing the impressive geological formations that have been shaped over thousands of years.
  • Smoking is prohibited inside the caves.
  • It is forbidden to touch the limestone formations or to remove the speleothems.

Admission to the Grotte di Castellana

Admission to Grotte di Castellana is offered year-round, but the type of tour is limited depending on what month you visit. For example, tours are only offered in Italian in the off-peak months of November and December.

  • Full Itinerary Ticket (Grotta Bianca/White Cave Tour): €18.00 per person.
  • Short Itinerary Ticket (seniors over 65, and groups of at least 15 people): €15.00 per person.
  • Children under 4 years old: Free admission.
  • Special tours (such as the Speleo Tour and Adventure Tour) may have different pricing and availability, so it’s best to inquire directly with the caves or check their official website for the most up-to-date information.
Inside Grotte di Castellana Caves

What You’ll See Inside the Castellana Caves

Depending on which tour you take will allow you to see a number of Grottos. On the “Full Itinerary,” there are eleven different viewpoints inside the cavern. Here is a full list:

  • La Grave
  • The She-Wolf of Rome
  • Monument Cavern
  • Cave of the Owl
  • Cavern of the Spring
  • Desert Corridor
  • Dome of Milan
  • The Leaning Tower
  • The Pond and Scalenoheral Concretions
  • The Dome
  • The White Cave

A full list and itinerary can be found here.

What to Wear to the Grotte di Castellana

It is recommended to wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes suitable for walking on uneven surfaces. The constant temperature in the caves is about 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit), so bring a light jacket or sweater. Although there is no water in the caves, some parts can be slightly wet or damp due to the natural underground conditions.

Calcium deposits hang in the Castellana Caves

Grotte di Castellana Tours

To visit the Grotte di Castellana, it is required to take a guided tour. The underground cavities are very extensive and can only be accessed with a trained and certified guide. The “Grotta Bianca” or “White Cave” guided tour is included in the admission price and gives visitors valuable information about the geological formations within the caves, the history, and the significance of the caves. On top of that, the guided tour ensures visitors’ safety and helps preserve the natural environment.

Booking a tour in advance and buying tickets online is highly recommended. You can click the following link to book a Grotte di Castellana tour.

Formations in the Castellana Caves

Our Experience

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 kilometres 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 Arachnophobia 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.

Inside Grotte di Castellana

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). The sudden movement caused by him tripping over a stone and the unexpected drop of condensation on my head from above both 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.


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    1. I was quite proud of her for going in. I didn’t say anything all day, and I knew she was going to be on edge. But she was a trooper, despite the little yelps 😉

  1. 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!

    1. 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!

    1. Haha, exactly! Why didn’t I think of that? There were no bats at all (that I saw). Nor were there any other creepies. But I freaked myself out enough about it!

  2. 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!

    1. I was the same way – kind of half and half, and then didn’t really have time to think about it and was just whisked into it. Glad I did it…but never again! 🙂

  3. 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:)

  4. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

  5. 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?

    1. 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.

  6. Photographs are meticulously captured in low light….Caves give claustrophobic feelings….but I won’t deny its an amazing geographical creation….

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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