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Andiamo Italy: Grotte di Pastena

By Bridget Perry

Ciao and benvenuto to the first collaborative blog entry between Convivio Society and Andiamo Italy – a San Diego based resource for planning authentic Italian travel experiences! Through this series we hope to offer readers helpful insight on all things Italy – from cultural perspectives to travel tips and an inside look at lesser known destinations. For our first entry – we leave Rome and head into the back roads of the Lazio region in pursuit of an ancient cave system!


Italy draws millions of tourists every year with its alluring history, art, and culture, and yet many visitors limit themselves to the splendors of only the most notable cities. Admittedly, the variety and excitement found in places such as Rome, Florence, and Naples make them worthy of praise, but what about the hidden gems found just beyond the city limits – or better yet, underground?

Located about an hour and a half south of Rome via the main highway (A1), the Caves of Pastena offer a unique adventure ideal for those looking to escape the city crowds, summer heat, or simply immerse oneself into the Lazio countryside. Close enough to warrant a day trip, but far enough away to justify a weekend getaway this is a fun side quest for anyone looking to go off the beaten path during their travels.

Used as a religious site as far back as 3,000 years ago, the Caves of Pastena have been known and used by locals off and on throughout history. Notably, the first documented exploration of the system took place in 1926 by Carlo Franchetti, and was later used as a headquarters for German troops and a shelter from bombings during the Second World War.

The network is divided into active and inactive caves – active caves still have water flow which produces some impressive waterfalls and reservoirs while inactive chambers are dry and boast towering stalagmites, stalactites, and a local bat colony. Guides simply ask that you not touch the cave walls, keep your voice low, and keep flash turned off when taking pictures.

Visits are available through one hour guided tours (€9) and while the guides only speak Italian an info sheet with brief descriptions of each cave and its history is available in English and the experience itself is worth the language barrier. The paths inside are well maintained but comfortable walking shoes are advised as is booking your reservations in advance; especially for weekend and holiday visits.

While certainly not as easily accessible as the more popular sites of Rome, a visit to the Pastena Caves is an enjoyable and feasible adventure that fits comfortably into a weekend itinerary or as a stop when driving between Rome and Naples. Conveniently, local private transfer service See Amalfi Coast offers a visit to the caves as a stop-over when you book travel with them between Rome and Naples/Amalfi thus offering an easy way to visit the caves while enroute to your next destination.

More info on the Caves of Pastena and other off-trail suggestions can be found in the new travel guide Road Trips from Rome by Andiamo Italy. Convivio Society blog readers can enjoy a 25% discount on this guide through June 30th by using the code ROMETRIP24 at check-out (

Buon Viaggio!


  1. Dorene Perry

    Love the “off the beaten path” aspect of this concept. Very well written.


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