Franco Anelli

18-OCT-1899 - 23-OCT-1977

Franco Anelli. Public Domain.

Franco Anelli was born in Lodi, Lombardy, a small village a few kilometers from Milan on 18th October 1899, the son of Francesco and Elivira Mascaretti. Anelli graduated in Milan, and then took a degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Bologna. Later, in Fiume, he married Lidia Weichandt, and in 1930 became curator of the Speleological Museum and a member of the Italian Institute of Speleology at the Postumia Caves in what is now Slovenia.

In 1938, during a brief exploration of the Murgia plateau near Bari, he discovered the Castellana Caves which were to have a profound effect on the rest of his life.

Anelli became chairman of the Postumia Caves, but was forced in flee in 1945. He and his family took refuge in Trivignano Udinese.

In 1949 he was invited to take up the post of chairman of the Castellana Caves, a position he held until his death on the 29 October 1977.

Anelli also lectured in Geography at the University of Bari, and his many interests included palaeontology, archaeology and cave meteorology, lecturing on speleology for the first time in Italy.

Anelli contributed to the Dizionario Enciclopedico Treccani (Dictionary Encyclopaedia Treccani). From 1955 he edited the prestigious national speleological publication"Le Grotte de Italia". He also supported a local publication Mondo Soterraneo, by writing hundreds of articles about the great cave of Castellana. In a special issue of "Le Grotte de Italia", Franco Orofino published a detailed and up-to-date bibliography.

In addition, his knowledge and experience brought international renown and economic development to an anonymous small town m the south of Italy. Millions of visitors came to the caves, drawn by the wonderful descriptions and marvellous pictures of the Castellana Caves in Anelli's articles, which were published in a wide variety of journals.

Text by Tony Oldham (2007). With kind permission.


18-OCT-1899 born in Lodi, Lombardy.
1930 becomes curator of the Speleological Museum and a member of the Italian Institute of Speleology at the Postumia Caves.
23-JAN-1938 discovery of the Grotta di Castellana, exploration of the first 500 m by Franco Anelli.
23-OCT-1977 dies in Bari, Apulia.