Grotte di Tremusa

Useful Information

Location: 89058 Scilla RC.
Autostrada E45 exit Scilla, turn left on Strada Provinzale, up to the plateau, at Melia turn left, signposted. After 500 m there is a paved single lane road branching off to the right which is not signposted. Parking at the end of the road. 5 minutes walk.
(38.232971, 15.764684)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyTufa Cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=530 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: D. Carbone Grio (1877): Le caverne del Subappennino ed i resti fossili del glaciale in Calabria, (The caverns of the Subappennino and the fossil remains of the glacial in Calabria), Tipografia Romeo, Reggio Calabria. Italiano - Italian
M.L. Garberi, G. Belvederi (1984): Le Grotte di Tremuse (Scilla, Reggio Calabria), Sottoterra, n. 68, p. 20-21. Italiano - Italian
Address: Grotte di Tremusa, 89058 Scilla RC, Tel: +39-0
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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1984 explored by the Bolognese Speleological Group of the CAI and the Bolognese Speleological Union.


The Grotte di Tremusa (Tremusa Caves) are located in a secluded valley near the city Scilla. There are two chambers, called vano di sinistra (left room) and vano di destra (right room). The limestone is very rich in fossils, mostly Pecten (bivalves), which are so abundant in places that the rock looks like a pile of shells. It actually looks like a single, very wide and quite low portal, with a single chamber separated into niches by multiple pillars. The ceiling is very low, its necessary to stoop at the entrance and crawl at the rear. Most visitors actually do not enter the cave.

Its not obvious how the caves were formed. At the first glimpse they look like tufa caves, deposited by the limestone-rich water of a karst spring. But the rock with the shells is not tufa, is a very soft Pliocene sandstone with high limestone content, so the caves are obviously secondary caves. One theory says that they were at sea level 5,000 years ago and were formed by the erosion of the waves. This is obviously nonsense, as an uplift of 500 m in such a short period is geologically impossible. Probably they were eroded by a river which flowed through the valley, and at the end of the last ice age was much bigger than the small rivulet of today, due to the melting waters of snow or much wetter climate. However, the most likely explanation is, that they are karst caves formed by water which emerged from the limestone at this level and dissolved and eroded the limestone. The cave was a resurgence, and the humidity together with frost from the outside widened the portal further. The cave behind is very low, its necessary to crawl for the most parts. It's a soft layer of sandstone which was easily eroded by the water. Today it is not a spring anymore, the aquifer lowered and the cave is reactivated only during heavy rains. The guess that the reason was the collapse of the rear part is quite unlikely.

This is all rather vague and a result of the abundance of legends but the lack of actual research. The caves were known for millennia, but the first speleological exploration was in 1984. Cavers of the Gruppo Speleologico Bolognese del CAI (Bolognese Speleological Group of the CAI) and the Unione Speleologica Bolognese (Bolognese Speleological Union) visited the cave. And it seems the cave is too unimportant for further research. The cave was first described by D. Carbone Grio in 1877, but he did not even visit it himself. The following legends about the origin of the name are told by the locals, but they are completely wrong, even the explanation of the name.

Once three nymphs lived in the caves. Inside the cave, the nymphs welcomed, with music and dance steps, the young women who came to celebrate their last night as virgins before marriage. So the name originates from the Italian term Tre Muse (three Muses) which was concatenated. There once were three stalagmites inside the cave which looked like statues, they were thought to be the petrified muses, but they were stolen during raids. In ancient times pagan rites were practiced in the cave.

Starting at the sea, it's an ascent of more than 500 m to the plateau where the village Melia is located. There is a brown sign, the typical Italian marker for a tourist site, but it seems the sign for the next turnoff is lost. After 500 m you must turn right between two houses of a tiny hamlet on a paved single lane road. The road crosses the plain, then slowly descend into a valley trough traces with olive trees. About 500 m from the turnoff there is a sign for the cave, just park the car at the road. The caves are developed with a trail to the entrance, a plateau with a railing in front of the portal, and there are earthen trails inside the cave. It is quite small, a light is not needed, but we nevertheless recommend to take one with you.