Grotte di Luppa

Useful Information

Location: Via delle Dolomiti, 67069 Sante Marie AQ.
E 80 exit Casello Tagliacozzo, turn left on SS 5, at Sante Marie turn right into Via Dolomiti.
(42.120812, 13.157237)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave KarstKarst Trail KarstPonor
Light: bring torch
Dimension: Trail: L=5 km, VR=200 m.
Grotta di Luppa: A=1,315 m asl, L=2,000 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Grotte di Luppa, Riserva Regionale Grotte della Luppa, Piazza Aldo Moro, 1 – 67067 Sante Marie (L'AQ), Tel: +39-3338601069. E-mail:
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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1800s cave entrance discovered by two hikers, Giovanni Voltan and Carlo Ignazio Gavini.
1920s first exploration by Roman speleologists led by Carlo Franchetti.
2005 Riserva Regionale Grotte della Luppa established.


Grotte di Luppa (Luppa Caves) are located in the Riserva Regionale Grotte della Luppa near Sante Marie, a typical mountain village of the Abruzze mountains. The Carseolian mountain range on the border between Lazio and Abruzzo with the mountains Monte Bove (1340 m asl), Monte Sant'Angelo (1100 m asl) and Monte Faito (1485 m asl) is covered by a forest of chestnut and secular beech trees. The mountains are karstified limestone with numerous caves and dolines. The water vanishes is ponors, like the inghiottitoio di Luppa (Swallow hole of Luppa) and reappears at the foot of the mountain in karst springs, like the Fonte della Rocca (1,100 m asl). This site is actually a karst trail with a length of five kilometers and a height difference of 200 m. The station on this trail are the Luppa sinkhole, the Grotta del Tesoro (treasure cave), the Fonte della Rocca, the Fonte Lattéro, and the churches of San Quirico and degli Alpini. If you want to skip the walk, it is also possible to go directly to the inghiottitoio di Luppa, there is a parking lot at the SS5 halfway between the freeway and Sante Marie. From here its only 300 m or 5 minutes walk to the sink.

The Grotte di Luppa has a huge entrance portal with a small river flowing into the cave. The passage is rather big, it is normally possible to walk upright, but there is always the river on the floor. The entrance section has an elevated trail which allows to enter a short section of the cave. It is part of the karst trail. The rest of the cave is only accessible in cave trekking tours and requires appropriate equipment. There are several places where it is necessary to climb a waterfall and also a drop of 20 m which requires climbing gear. There is a sump rather close to the entrance which requires to crawl through the river, there is only a few centimeters between water and ceiling. This is not only annoying, it is also dangerous, because even a small increase of water flow will close this sump and make it difficult or impossible to return. This is one of the reason why it is dangerous to enter the cave on your own.

The origin of the name Luppa is unknown, probably it refers to the dialectal name of the hoopoe bird (Upupa Linnaeus, 1758) or the wolf (Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758). Other theories connect it to the Latin term lapis (stone), or to scyphus (vase). In old documents from the 11th or 12th century the toponym Uppa or Ippam is mentioned.

The cave is located deep in the forest, and so it was long unknown, although it has a huge natural entrance which is freely accessible. Two hikers, Giovanni Voltan and Carlo Ignazio Gavini, who were very active in the Marsica area, discovered the cave at the end of the 19th century, but did not enter it. Exploration started in the 1920s, by a group of cavers from Rome led by Carlo Franchetti. They explored 400 m of the cave. Exploration continued and finally more than 2,000 m of cave where known.

The starting point of the karst trail is the Parcheggio Riserva Regionale Grotte di Luppa. It is signposted from the SS 5 quater which connects Tagliacozzo and Pietrasecca. At the northern end of Sante Marie there is a turnoff int the village downhill, and another into a small residential area. This road is called Via Dolomiti and is paved across the residential area, then becomes a single lane gravel road until finally the parkin lot is reached. From here follow the road further uphill to the Fonte della Rocca. Further uphill the road becomes a walking trail which leads to various karst features. It ends at the Grotte di Luppa parking lot.