Sunday, March 23, 2014

In which I go on an expotition* to some caves & enter the Buca delle Fate

Thursday, March 20
About this time last year, I saw some unmarked caves in a ravine above Piano di Mommio, about a fifteen minutes hike from the vacation home of our friends Eberhard and Dorothea. The caves had become visible from their house because of a mudslide, and I walked up a trail to peek inside the caves. I didn’t have the foresight to carry a flashlight, so I didn’t go inside, and besides that there were animal tracks around the outside of the caves, and I didn’t want to waken a sleeping wild dog or, worse, a wild hog—a cinghiale.

Lucy and I visited our friends again today, and this time I asked Eberhard to loan me a flashlight so I could, if I dared, enter the caves—which I did. However, they are no longer unknown caves, as now the state has posted interpretive signs outside of each, no doubt the result of last year’s blog post revealing to the world the existence of the caves (just kidding; my blog doesn’t receive that many page views). The signs explain that the caves were re-discovered in the late 1900s and have been excavated several times by the University of Pisa and other archeologists. Besides finding bones from bears, horses, hyenas, wild boars and deer, the archeologists also discovered some primitive tools that resemble those used by Neanderthals from the Middle Paleolithic era, although other artifacts were also found that represent different eras—showing that the caves have been used as temporary camps by hunters throughout history.

As I moved along to read the signs at two different caves, I found the entrance to the smallest one guarded by a fierce-looking man, but he turned out to be harmless. I tried to make contact by speaking in a series of grunts and guttural vocalizations, but he didn’t respond. Granted, I’m a little rusty in my Neanderthalian.

I only found one cave that I could actually enter standing up, the South Cave of the Fairies, la Buca delle Fate Sud, and it went back about ninety feet before it became too small for me to continue. Having no desire to slide along on my stomach on the wet clay floor, I stopped and took a picture of some very small stalactites. Water was still dripping from them, so I’m pretty sure that when I come back in a couple of hundred years they’ll be much bigger.

When I got back to the house, Eberhard informed me that there had been a ceremony last fall to inaugurate the caves as an archeological attraction, and that now there is a sign at the entrance to Piano di Mommio mentioning the caves. Now when people talk about them, I can say, “Yeah, I knew those caves before they were famous.”

*A reference to a Winnie the Pooh story, from A.A. Milne.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! I'm surprised you waited to have a flashlight, though - usually you are more bold, dad. :) But we are glad you are still in one piece despite your interactions with a Neanderthal.


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