Grotta della Spipola

Grotta Novella

Useful Information

Location: Gessi Bolognesi.
Parco Regionale Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell'Abadessa. Croara, near San Lazzaro di Savena, souteast of Bologna. Meeting point at the "La Palazza" car park - Via Benassi at the corner of Via La Palazza Ponticella in San Lazzaro di Savena - 40068 San Lazzaro di Savena (BO)
(44.445270, 11.379959)
Open: All year monthly Sundays 9:30, 14:30.
Actual dates see website, reservation until Friday required.
Fee: Adults EUR 16, Children () EUR 8, Seniors (65+) EUR 8.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave. SpeleologyGypsum cave Messinian period
Light: none, helmets and headlamps provided.
Dimension: L=10,000 m (Complesso Spipola-Acqua Fredda)
Guided tours: MinAge=8.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Paolo Grimandi, Paolo Forti, Piero Lucci (2020): Guida ai fenomeni carsici del Parco regionale dei Gessi Bolognesi, Bologna, FSRER, 2020, 4to brossura con copertina illustrata a colori, pp. 227. €10 online
Address: Gessi and Calanchi Bolognesi Regional Park, Ente di gestione per i Parchi e la Biodiversità – Emilia Orientale, Reservations, Tel: +39-051-625-4821. E-mail:
Ente di gestione per i Parchi e la Biodiversità, Emilia Orientale Piazza XX Settembre, 1, 40043 Marzabotto (BO), Tel: +39-051-670-2811, Tel: +39-051-625-4811, Fax: +39-051-625-4521. E-mail:
Parco Regionale Gessi Bolognesi e Calanchi dell'Abadessa, via Jussi 171, Croara, 40030 San Lazzaro di Savena, Tel: +39-051-6251934, Fax: +39-051-6254521. E-mail: contact
Park Centre, Via Emilia 302, Fraz. Idice, 40068 S. Lazzaro di Savena (BO), Tel: +39-051-6258569, Fax: +39-051-6258581.
Museo della Preistoria "Luigi Donini", via Fratelli Canova, 49, San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), Tel: +39-051-465132, Fax: +39-051-6275077. E-mail:
URP - Ufficio Relazioni con il Pubblico del Comune di San Lazzaro di Savena, Piazza Bracci 1 - 40068 San Lazzaro di Savena (BO), Tel. +39 051 6228174, Fax +39 051 6228283. 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.


1871 first documented archaeological and speleological research.
1932 Grotta della Spipola discovered.
1960s Luigi Fantini discovers Copper Age graves in a natural shelter created by a protruding layer.


The Grotta della Spipola is a rather huge wild cave in gypsum. It is open to the public for cave trekking tours. Because of its closeness to Bologna it is rather well visited.

The gypsum of this area was formed about six million years ago in the Messinian period. At this time the Straits of Gibraltar closed up and the Mediterranean sea became a salt desert. The Bolognese Gessi, the gypsum of Bologna, was deposited in the sounding-depths contouring the just emerged Apennines. The rock is rather young and the karstification too, it started two million years ago in the Pliocene. The gypsum was locally called selenite (moon stone), due to its pale white colour. This stone was used for buildings in the area and in the close city of Bologna, which then was called moon city for its shine during the day when the sun was grazing. The term selenite is still used, but it describes a certain sort of gypsum crystals, not the common rock. Numerous quarries, where the gypsum was quarried can be seen in the area. After being closed for centuries, the quarry walls look like natural cliffs.

The Grotta della Spipola is one of more than 150 caves in this gypsum formation, which is said to be one of the largest and most spectacular gypsum karst areas in Europe. Guided tours are offered by the Regional Park and take either half a day or a full day. They include the Grotta della Spipola, the Grotta del Farneto, the Grotta Novella and many other karst features like dolines and ponors. The largest sinkhole of the gypsum complex with a diameter of more than 700 m is the Dolina della Spipola. In the Grotta Novella a subterranean laboratory has been placed. The cave ecosystem and the development of gypsum formations is studied here. Nearby is the Inghiottitoio "Buco delle Candele", a sink or swallow hole, where the surface water vanishes underground.

"Le Buche" (The Holes) are a series of dolines. Buca delle Candele is named after a series of karren or lapies, which are called candele or candles in Italian. The Buca del Budriolo is located at a deep blind valley and is the access to the Calindri Cave. Buca dell’Inferno is actually a number of sinkholes, which lead to small caves such as the Coralupi Cave. The Buca di Gaibola is a large sinkhole with access to numerous caves in the walls. The largest is Grotta Novella. The Buca di Ronzano is a dry valley with numerous houses, vineyards, rows of fruit trees, and meadows.

Another interesting site which is related to the cave is the Museo della Preistoria "Luigi Donini" (Museum for Prehistory "Luigi Donini"). It is located in San Lazzaro di Savena, a suburb of Bologna, only a few kilometers to the north. Many findings from the cave are on display at the museum.