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.
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.