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Experience underground wonders of Le Grotte di Collepardo


By Melissa Cannavo-Marino

Do you like to explore? Do you know that there are beautiful places to explore under the ground? Would you like to learn more Italian words? Here is a story about a place in Italy that most people don’t know about but you can learn about it this month!

Italy is a country with so many beautiful places to see above ground that many visitors do not often see the treasures that are underground. One of these sites in Le Grotte Di Collepardo in “La Ciociaria,’’ the historic name of an area around La citta` di Frosinone (La cheat-ta dee Fro-see-non-nay) the city of Frosinone.

On a warm fall day years ago we visited Le Grotte (Le grow-tay) or the caverns after hearing about them from our landlords. Underground caverns are full of stalagmites, mounds or columns that rise from the floor of a cave. These are created by calcium salts deposited by dripping water and they often join with stalagites that grow down from the cavern ceiling. These mounds or columns form all different kinds of shapes which are also sometimes sitting in pools of water or larger underground lakes!

It was a half-hour ride in la macchina (ma-key-nah) the car to Le Grotte. We purchased our tickets at la biglietteria (bee-yet-ta-ree-ah) ticket booth and met with a guide who would take us through the caverns. He explained that the Grotte di Collepardo anche si chiamano (ahn-kay see key-ah mah-no) are also called Grotte dei Bambocci (grot-tay day bahm-bo-chee) or Caverns of the Children because of the shape of their stalagmites. L’entrata (len-trah-tah) the entrance was rather low, so we had to crouch down to enter. However, when we were finalmeinte (fee-nahl-men-tay) or finally inside, we found ourselves in an area consisting of due camere enormi (do-ay cah-mer-ay a-norm-ee) two large chambers. After a short walk on il sentiero (eel sen-tee-air-o) the path, we arrived in a huge hall with lots of pillars and stalagmites. Il sentiero, mostly an iron bridge, led us through other “rooms” of the caverns. We spent time studying the formations and talking about how the shapes reminded us of animals or people and even certain types of trees.

We were really having a great time, when suddenly, as we entered a small side cavern and looked above, we saw something that scared us. Hanging from the ceiling above were centinaia (chen-tee-nay-ah) hundreds of pippistrelli (peep-pee-strel-lee) bats. Suddenly mia figlia (me ya fee ya) or my daughter, began to panic and wanted to run out of the caverns. We convinced her that la gente (la gen tay) people go through the caverns everyday and that these pippistrelli are used to people, and wouldn’t bother her. It was true because even though the bats flew over our heads they didn’t try and hurt us.

In the end, all went well. We made it to the end of the tour but when we asked our daughter if she wanted to visit another cavern nearby she said, mai piu`! (my pew) meaning never again! A questo punto (ah koo wes toe poon toe) at this point we were all famati (fah mah tee) meaning famished. Of course a great meal and some gelati (jel la tea) ice cream was the perfect way to end the day!

P.S. — If you ever visit Italy but don’t get to take a tour of one of the beautiful caves there, you can always visit or learn about one of the many underground caverns here in our area. One of our favorites is Luray Caverns in Virginia which was discovered in 1878. Happy exploring!

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