A24 exit Assergi, follow road into town, then first right to the cemetery. Follow the single lane gravel road on the left side of the cemetery for 2.1 km to a small parking lot, from here its 250 m/5 minutes walk.
only after appointment.
|Dimension:||L=480 m, VR=84 m, A=956 m asl, T=12 °C, H=90 %, Twater=9 °C.|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
Collegio Regionale Abruzzo Guide Speleologiche, Presidente Andrea Degli Esposti, Tel: +39-348-6720301.
Ente Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga, Via Del Convento, 1, 67010 Assergi (AQ), Tel: +39-0862-60521, Fax: +39-0862-606675. 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.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|20-AUG-1573||first speleological cave exploration in Italy by Francesco De Marchi.|
|1930s||archaeological excavations by Ugo Rellini.|
|1970s||archaeological excavations by Sergio Pannuti.|
|1990s||archaeological excavations by Vincenzo D'Ercole.|
|08-DEC-1973||depicted on the first Italian stamp showing a cave.|
The Grotta a Male (lit. Cave in Evil) is a cave with a nice cave lake and numerous fine speleothems. It is located in the Vasto Valley, near Assergi, north of L'Aquila, in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga (Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park) and under protection. The cave is visited on guided cave trekking tours, which are organized by the Collegio Regionale Abruzzo Guide Speleologiche. There are about a dozen guides who are allowed to accompany speleological and canyoning tours in the park. The cave is explored by the Gruppo Grotte e Forre “Francesco De Marchi” (GGFAQ), the L'Aquilla section of the Club Alpino Italiano (Alpine Club Italy). It is also mentioned in tourist guides as having trails and electric light, which is only partly true, as this cave is actually not a show cave.
The cave was originally named Grotta Amare which means "impervious" or "difficult" in the dialect of Aquila. This means that the floor of the cave is never flat, but always has a certain slope and climbing skills are required in some places. The current name Grotta a Male seems to be a caver joke, as it actually sounds quite the same, only the r is replaced by a l.
The cave was discovered and first explored by Francesco De Marchi (*1504-✝1576), an Italian mountaineer, speleologist and military engineer and architect. He was the first on the summit of Corno Grande (2912 m asl) of the Gran Sasso d'Italia, and the next day he went into the cave. This is considered the first speleological cave exploration in Italy, as he actually made a detailed description of the cave, which was the first time ever. He applied the new Renaissance thinking to his efforts, and his skills as mountaineer and enigneer. Some think this was the first speleological cave tour ever. We found it quite exceptional, that he was 69 when he did both in 1573. It is also the first cave depicted on an Italian stamp, which was released on 8 December 1973. And it is the largest cave in the Gran Sasso massif.
The cave was excavated three times during the 20th century, which revealed remains from the Neolithic, the Copper Age, and the Bronze Age. It was used as a burial place and for worship, during the Bronze Age it was used for smelting bronze, the remains of the furnaces were found. This is actually a little weird, as the cave is neither the source of ore nor coal, both had to be transported to the cave and down the entrance, the bronze had to be transported back. It probably served to keep pollution away from people, a habit that was soon lost and that even today few people seem to know.
The cave has a huge entrance chamber, which is actually a sinkhole, where the roof of the cave has collapsed. This Salone di Ingresso (Entrance Hall) is the place where the excavations took place. The archaeologists left trails and electric light, which was installed for the excavations. The rest of the cave is undeveloped though. But the main passages are quite big with a continual down slope, and not really difficult to visit with modern equipment and some climbing skills. The second chamber is called Sala del Tronco (Chamber of Logs). Here the cave ended, until the Speleological Group of Aquila opened a blocked passage in 1962. It spirals deeper to the largest room of the entire cave, the Sala dei Colossi (Hall of Giants) with a length of 55 m and the floor covered by huge boulders. The descent along the lower left wall leads to a 15 m deep shaft which is the connection to the next chamber, the Ramo delle Pannocchie (Cob Passage). It ends at the Ramo dei Laghi (Lake Passage), which ends at a spectacular cave lake. The descent along the lower right wall leads through a crawl to the Sala della Croce (Hall of the Cross) which is the most beautiful room of the cave with an abundance of speleothems. It was named after a cross, which Francesco De Marchi engraved into the wall to mark his visit. Its quite impressive that he reached the remote parts of the cave and required his skills as a mountaineer. It also ends at the cave lake, which is the same lake connect underwater by a siphon.
This cave is closed, so any visit requires a guide with the key, but the difficulty of the visit depends on the parts which are visited. If the tour only includes the entrance section the cave is like a show cave with trails and light. Nevertheless, the archaeological aspect is quite interesting. To see the speleothems and the cave lake, full caving gear is required, including overall, helmet, headlamp, gum boots, and basic climbing gear. Also, some surefootedness and physical fitness.
The cave is located near the village Assergi. There is a wooden shelter at the cave entrance, which allows to change clothes. It's a relic of the archaeological excavations. When at the cave, you should also visit the nearby Eremo di Santa Maria della Croce, the ruins of a hermitage in a small cave, only 150 m up valley, on the same side.