Day trip from Lucca: Grotta del Vento

The Grotta del Vento is a... grotto, in the Garfagnana, some 46 km (29 miles) North of Lucca.

To get there, take the road to Abetone, and follow the brown signs for "Grotta del Vento". It is a nice drive, especially the last part in the mountains, but the road is very narrow in places. Don't forget to honk before blind curves or you risk running into an other car!

You can take a 1h, 2h or 3h tour of the caves. We only did the 1h tour, because the prospect of carrying our 3 year-old son in the caves for more than an hour did not really appeal to me! This tour takes you through the main gallery, the only one that has mineral formations like stalactites, stalagmite sor drapes. The 2 hour tour takes you through the main gallery, and then plunges deeper into the caves, to a lower level, while the 3 hour tour adds a trip up to again an other level.

Contrary to its name the grotto is not windy. But that's only because there is a huge steel dor near the entrance that prevents the wind. When the guide opens that door to let you in, you can really feel a strong wind, depending on the temperatures outside. The cave itself is at a constant 11°C (52°F) all year round. Incidently that wind prevents bats from nesting in the caves, much to the displeasure of our son.

I thought the mineral formations were pretty impressive, the guide did a good job (in English), and above all I loved the coolness of the caves, as it has been really hot in Lucca for a few weeks now!

1 km before you get to the caves (it could be 1 km _after_ the caves if you come from the other side), is a little restaurant, Il Tinello, where we ate really well, and for cheap. We got there late (2:30pm) so the kitchen was closed and we couldn't get appetizers, but the fritto misto (deep fried calamari and shrimp) and the gamberroni alla griglia (grilled jumbo shrimp) were very good, and plentiful! My favourite was actually the fried zucchini, which looked like French fries. We really enjoyed our meal.

posted by michel, 2005-07-06

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