Grotta San Giovanni

Grotta di S. Giovanni di Domusnovas

Useful Information

Location: North of Domusnovas, on the road to the north. Cagliari, Sardegna.
(39°20'15.79"N, 8°37'39.84"E)
Open: no restrictions.
Electric light: daily 9-21.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave TopicCaves Used as Road Tunnels
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=1650 m, road tunnel: L=850 m, A=230 m asl.
Guided tours:
Address: Comune di Domusnovas, Via Cagliari, 5, 09015 Domusnovas (CI), Tel: +39-0781-72368.
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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1999 cave declared a natural monument, road closed.


The Grotta di San Giovanni is a huge cavern with two entrances, but it is not a show cave, it is a road tunnel. As a matter of fact, this cave is so big and at the right place, so they built a normal road right through this through cave. The main passage is used as a tunnel in its full length of 850 m. The road was built at the end of the 19th century on behalf of Count Beltrami to access the mines of the Oridda valley to the north. The mines Sa Duchessa, Barrasciutta, Arenas and Perda Niedda were very productive but are closed now. It is possible to visit the Arenas mine and a Mineral and Fossil Museum.

This is one of extremely few caves you could visit while driving your own car. Just follow the road S.S.N. 130. But as one can not see very much from the car, you had to walk along the road. The traffic was obviously not not very fortunate for the cave and the cave animals, the vehicles, especially the trucks, brought a lot of dust and exhaust. So the government of Sardegna closed the cave for the traffic and declared it a Natural Monument in 1999. Now there is no fear of being killed in a road accident any more, during the cave visit. The best start for the visit is the southern entrance, only 1.5 km from Domusnovas, where the parking lot of a long closed bar and pizzeria exists.

The whole cave has very little speleothems, but there is an impressive formation of rimstone pools. Halfway down the main passage a side passage branches off to the west. The cave fauna in the side passage is very interesting, so it is now protected by an iron bar gate.

The Grotta di S. Giovanni was named after the Saint because it once contained a cave church or chapel. Some remains of human structures can be seen at both entrances, but there are no remains of this chapel. Today a small country church nearby is still dedicated to San Giovanni.

The cave is not only a through cave, it is a river cave. The river bed runs parallel to the road and is dry most of the year. Only in winter, after heavy rains, water flows done the riverbed. There is even the rare possibility of floods, which make it impossible to enter the cave.

The cliffs around the cave entrances and on the nearby mountains Monte Acqua (540 m asl) and Punta San Michele (908 m asl) are very popular among climbers and free climbers. On weekends during summer there are many climbers.