The Great Cave or La Grotta Gigante: An Exquisite Natural Wonder Near Trieste, Italy

Hi there,

Today, I will take you on an adventure that will unveil the mystery of the Grotta Gigante.

Nestled in the heart of the captivating Karts region, just a stone’s throw from the enchanting city of Trieste and near the town of Sgonico, known as Skocjan in Slovenian, lies an underground masterpiece that beckons adventurers from far and wide. Inspired by the rich history and culture of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, my family embarked on a journey through time and geology, exploring the mesmerizing Grotta Gigante, or the Giant Cave.

Measuring as the most extensive cave ever discovered in Europe, the Grotta Gigante’s vastness left us in awe. Our scheduled tour at 11 a.m. beckoned.

After a seamless registration process, we joined our fellow explorers in a petit museum-like waiting room. Here, our expert guide outlined safety guidelines, ensuring our hike would be both exhilarating and secure.

The Museum
The Museum
The Expert guide talking about the wonders of the cave
The Expert guide talks about the wonders of the cave

Clad in warm outwear, we descended into the womb of the Giant Cave, well-equipped for tourists, with walkways and lighting to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

View from the top at the beginning of 500 steps
View from the top at the beginning of 500 steps

Now, a closer look at the cave itself,

This natural Giant Cave opened its doors to tourists in 1908. However, its discovery dates back to 1840 by Anton Friedrich Linder, an Austrian mountain engineer, who stumbled upon its grandeur while searching for underground water for Trieste. Excavations unearthed artifacts spanning the late Neolithic to the Bronze Age, Roman times, and the medieval period.

The cave was formed by the action of water on the limestone rock of the Karts region over millions of years. Kart’s landscape is characterized by sinkholes, underground rivers, and caves, which develop as water dissolves the soluble rock.

The giant cave represents a section of an ancient river tunnel, so calcified concretions have also started to grow, and numerous stalactites and stalagmites grace its cavernous embrace, growing at a leisurely pace of 1mm every 15-20 years. Among them, the “Roger Column” stands 12 meters high and was formed 200,000 years ago. A reddish hue imbues most formations as a result of iron oxide presence.

Roger column
Roger column
Other columns with reddish hue
Other columns with a reddish hue


Numerous stalactites and stalagmites
Numerous stalactites and stalagmites

The cave’s depths beckon further exploration, leading to the Altar Hall, situated 250 meters below the surface. The “Finocchiaro Trail,” a panoramic route, guides intrepid souls through an artificial gallery to an awe-inspiring lookout.

The cave chamber, known as the “Cathedral,” has a height of about 107 meters (351 feet), a width of 65 meters (213 feet), and a length of 130 meters (426 feet). It’s so large that it could easily accommodate the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano). The 850-meter journey, descending 101 meters below the surface, is a guided spectacle lasting approximately an hour, with 500 steps to descend and 500 to ascend.

Reddish rocks
Reddish rocks
La Grotta Gigante or Giant Cave in Italy
La Grotta Gigante or Giant Cave in Italy

Yet, the Grotta Gigante is not merely a tourist attraction. Within its chambers reside the world’s longest geodesic pendulums, harnessed by the University of Trieste to monitor the Earth’s ever-shifting crust. Clinometers and seismometers, courtesy of the OGS National Institute of Italy, provide insights into the cave’s horizontal and rotational movements.

The world's longest geodesic pendulums
The world’s longest geodesic pendulums

As the seasons change, the cave takes on an enigmatic aura. Throughout the summer, it hosts events like yoga, sound baths, and drum circles. Its constant intrigue knows no bounds.

Our journey was an unforgettable tapestry of discovery and wonder. If you are in the Trieste area, I recommend visiting La Grotta Gigante. Reaching the cave from Trieste is relatively easy, making it a convenient day trip with kids.

You won’t merely witness nature’s handiwork; you’ll embark on an odyssey through time and space, a journey that transcends the ordinary and leaves an incredible mark on the soul.

The Giant Cave
The Giant Cave

With wanderlust and awe, Svetlana.

Svetlana Hristova

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