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... Read them below or add one of your own
  • December 23 2011

    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!

    • December 24 2011

      Yup…at least I can say I tried it once. That was quite enough for me (even though I saw zero creatures!)

  • December 23 2011

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

    • Pete
      December 24 2011

      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 😉

  • December 23 2011

    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

    • December 24 2011

      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!

  • Mom
    December 23 2011

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

    • December 24 2011

      I knew you would be Mom! I thought of you the entire time I was in there! 🙂

  • December 24 2011

    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

    • December 24 2011

      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!

  • December 24 2011

    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!

    • December 26 2011

      Yes, glad I did it once. And also glad I didnt’ see any bats! 🙂

  • December 24 2011

    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

    • December 26 2011

      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! 🙂

  • December 25 2011

    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

    • December 26 2011

      It’s worth a visit…if you don’t have the crazy fears I do!

  • December 25 2011

    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…

    • December 26 2011

      Thank you Arti, for your comment and your wishes! 🙂

  • Abby
    December 25 2011

    No one can fault you for trying once! I wish you’d seen bats — no you may never. 😉

    • December 26 2011

      I’ve seen bats before but never in an enclosed space, which would freak me out completely. That would be my personal hell!

  • December 27 2011

    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

    • December 27 2011

      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. 🙂

  • December 30 2011

    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

    • December 30 2011

      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.

  • December 30 2011

    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

    • December 30 2011

      No worries – there are no more caves in my future!

  • December 30 2011

    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

  • Laura
    December 30 2011

    A cave experience like this one, would be traumatic for me, too… but I would also love it….

    • January 5 2012

      I’m really glad I did it, but won’t do it again. Kinda like when I went paragliding. 🙂

  • January 3 2012

    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

    • January 5 2012

      That is a bit of a hike!! I’m glad I did it too, even for all the fear. (Never again, however!)

  • Shirlene from Idelish
    February 1 2012

    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

    • February 1 2012

      Oh, I’m glad it changed your mind! I’m glad I saw it (like you said, it is REALLY beautiful!) but that is it for me. No more! 🙂

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge