Val più la pratica della grammatica.
(Experience is more important than theory.)
Nook of Naples: About 85 kilometers north of Naples lies an impressive and yet out of the way Grotto di Pastena. We plan to go to Formia, but see signs for the Grotto and we're curious. It's a liesurely Sunday afternoon, so we say to ourselves -- why not? It's surely close, otherwise why would there be a sign?
An hour drive later up several mountain roads, we spill into a gravel parking lot replete with a restaurant and souvenir shop. (Italian roads tend not to have the distance marked on their signs.)
Once we stand at the Grotto entrance and pay the 8 Euro fee per adult, we stroll down a park pathway and reach a rock opening with shades of copper and mossy green. The Grotto measures 2127 meters long and is actually a huge river cave. The river drains into the cave from the valley, creating a large sinkhole. As we walk through the first chamber and up several steps, we can see small blue lakes and water streams.
Stalagmites and stalactites are everywhere to admire. If you don't remember your fifth grade science class, stalagmites rise from the floor and stalactites hang from the ceiling of caves. They form through the dripping of mineralized solutions. In this grotto the stalactites often look like rippling frosting.
We hear the echo of running water throughout the Grotto, along with squeaking bats. We walk to the edge of sheer cliffs. At the end of the tour, we come to a cave of impressive stagalmites that go up a hill until dirt meets the rock above. Bats fly all around. And a large black mound of bat excrement towers in the middle. (Ewe.)
What makes this an impressive visit is the drive itself through windy off-roads that climb up lush green mountains. It's worth the trip if you remember that the ride to the grotto will take some time.
Getting There: If you go down the A1 either from Rome or from Naples, you will see the signs to the Grotto everywhere. It's easy to find.
(Pictures: The steps leading down to the grotto, the walkway, the grotto from the outside, the entrance hut in front of the grotto, two views of the grotto on the inside.)