Hermit's Cave

Useful Information

Location: Griffin, Riverina.
Below Sir Dudley de Char's Lookout
Open: no restrictions [2006]
Fee: free [2006]
Classification: SubterraneaCave House
Light: not necessary
Guided tours:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1920s cave discovered by Valerio Recitti.
1952 Recitti left the cave and moved to Italy.
2007 show about the life of Valerio Recitti planned on site.


Hermit's Cave is a sort of rock shelter which was altered to become a cave house. It was constructed by the Italian immigrant Valerio Recitti. The cave is a sort of labyrinth including stone structures, gardens, stairs, a kitchen, and a chapel. It even has a water well and a lookout. There are floral painted rock walls and inscriptions.

Valerio Recitti was born ins Italy in 1899 and travelled to Australia in 1916. He first worked at Broken Hill but then began drifting. After a yer of timber-cutting, with all his wages in his pocket, he visited a brothel in Adelaide. What followed is really weird: he forgot his wallet in the brothel, but the bouncer did not let him in. Finally he threw a rock through a window, as he wanted back his wages. It is not really clear if this was a scam by the brothel or because he could not speak English. However, after the thrown rock he was chased and sentenced to two years in Adelaide jail.

The next story is equally weird. After being released from jail he moved to Melbourne. He owned only one thing, a coat, which he intended to pawn. A passer-by said he would pawn it for him, but never returned.

But he was lucky and found a job on a Murray River paddle steamers. When he came through Griffith in the 1920s he found the cave and decided to stay. Recitti thought he was the only Italian in the area and so he did not contact any of his neighbours and became the hermit namesake to the cave. He decided to construct a private paradise by clearing and decorating the caves. Caves, galleries, and cliff side gardens were connected by pathways, which required the moving of hundreds of tons of rock. As he wanted to stay alone, he worked at night and early in the morning.

One day Recitti fell and injured himself. He was found by a passing swagman and taken to the hospital. The enormity of his work was discovered and much marvelled at, so he became a celebrity. He was reunited with his old friends, old compatriots from Broken Hill who had settled nearby. Increasing numbers of Italian migrants had arrived and formed a small Italian comunity. He now got a job, but he continued to live in his cave.

During World War II many immigrants were interned. This included Recitti and other Italians, who were interned at Hay. They had to work building roads, and he instructed his captors on how to improve their road-building methods. After his release he was re-employed by his old friends in Griffith.

In 1952, Recitti was 53 years old, and he was troubled by visions and obsessions. He also became sick, and so he decided to travel to Italy to see his old homeland once again. He died there six months later.

Half a century his cave was open and nobody cared about it. Now the hillside gardens are restored to their former glory by a local service club. A copy of Recittis biography is available from the visitors centre. The escarpment where the cave is located, a spur of the McPherson range, is called Scenic Hill, and there are numerous scenic trails.