Grotte di Stiffe is one of Italy's top Caves to visit. Inside the caves are beautiful caverns with stalactite and stalagmite formations. But what makes the tour unique is the stunning waterfall inside the cave emptying into a small lake. A river runs through the cave and creates a crashing waterfall. The best time to see the waterfall is in spring, since that's when there's the most water and the waterfall is at its most dramatic. At other times of the year, it may be just a trickle or not even visible, although the caverns are still beautiful all year.
Visitors to the cave must take a guided tour, which lasts about one hour. Tours can be booked at the cave entrance or reserved by calling ahead. The tour covers 700 meters (less than half a mile) inside the cave. Since the internal temperature is 10 degrees C (about 50 degrees F) and water can drip from the top, it's advisable to wear a jacket and sturdy shoes.
Also at Grotto di Stiffe visitors will find a snack bar, souvenir stand, picnic area, children's playground, and a large parking lot. Two nature trails, one taking about 30 minutes and the other 45 minutes to walk, start near the ticket office.
During the Christmas holiday season (December 8 - January 6) a presepe, or nativity scene, is usually set up inside the cave with scenes in various places along the course, making this an interesting time to visit. On December 26, a moving nativity pageant takes place in the cave.
Near Grotte di Stiffe
Grotte di Stiffe is in a very beautiful part of central Italy's Abruzzo region, about 17 kilometers (11 miles) southeast of the city of L'Aquila. L'Aquila's medieval quarter was badly damaged in a devastating 2009 earthquake. While parts of it are still closed to visitors, highlights that are open include the Fountain of 99 Spouts, Renaissance squares, and buildings, and its castle, the Spanish Fort, that houses the National Museum of Abruzzo.
As you drive to Grotte di Stiffe, you'll see picturesque medieval villages and castles dotting the hillsides so you could easily spend a whole day exploring this area.
We stayed at Monastero Fortezza di Santo Spirito, a restored 13th-century fortress-monastery that's now a hotel, in a beautiful setting on a hill a few miles from Grotte di Stiffe. Our hotel gave us a coupon for a discount on admission to the caves, as do most hotels in the area so be sure to ask. There's a camping area near the caves parking lot, too.
Grotte di Stiffe Visiting Information:
Address: Via del Mulino, 2, Stiffe, near San Demetrio ne' Vestini, Abruzzo
Hours: The cave is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm April 1 to October 15, and from 10 am to 5 pm the rest of the year. From November through April, weather conditions could cause closures so it's advisable to call ahead,
Tour price: Current cost (in July, 2019) is 10 euro or 8.50 for children and adults over age 65.
Check current hours on prices and see photos on the Grotte di Stiffe website.