Grotte di Toirano

Grotta della Bàsura - Grotta della Strega - Witches cave

Useful Information

Location: In Toirano, near Borghetto S. Spirito.
30 km SW of Savona. A10 Genova-Ventimiglia exit Pietra Ligure coming from Genova, exit Albenga coming from Ventimiglia. Follow signs to Borghetto Spirito and then to Toirano. From Toirano private road to the cave.
(44.135601, 8.200389)
Open: Cave: APR to SEP daily 9-12:30, 14-16:30.
OCT to MAR Mon, Wed-Sun, Hol 9-12:30, 14-16:30.
Booking by phone mandatory.
Museum: APR to SEP daily 9-13, 15-18.
OCT to MAR Mon, Wed-Sun, Hol 9-13, 15-18.
Fee: Cave: Adults EUR 16, Children (5-18) EUR 8, Children (0-4) free, Students (-24) EUR 8, Disabled free.
Groups (20+): Adults EUR 13, Children (6-14) EUR 8.
Museum: free with cave ticket.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave horizontal cave.
Light: LightLED Lighting
Dimension: A=150 m asl., T=16 °C, H=90 %.
Guided tours: L=1,280 m, D=70 min. V=200,000/a [2000] V=85,000/a [2008]
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Marco Romano, Paolo Citton, Isabella Salvador, Daniele Arobba, Ivano Rellini, Marco Firpo, Fabio Negrino, Marta Zunino, Elisabetta Starnini, Marco Avanzini (2019): A multidisciplinary approach to a unique Palaeolithic human ichnological record from Italy (Bàsura Cave), eLife 2019;8:e45204 DOI: online DOI DOI researchgate
Roberto Chiesa, Stefania Castellino (1999): La Grotta Santuario di Santa Lucia Speleologia #40, 1999, S. 45-52, ISSN 0394-9761. Italiano - Italian
Marco Avanzini, Isabella Salvador, Elisabetta Starnini, Daniele Arobba, Rosanna Caramiello, Marco Romano, Paolo Citton, Ivano Rellini,Marco Firpo, Marta Zunino, Fabio Negrino (2021): Following the Father Steps in the Bowels of the Earth: The Ichnological Record from the Bàsura Cave (Upper Palaeolithic, Italy), Reading Prehistoric Human Tracks, Open Access, pp 251–276.
Marco Avanzini (2022): New insights into taphonomic analysis of the Upper Pleistocene Ursus spelaeus bone deposit from Bàsura cave (Toirano, NW Italy) Journal of Quaternary Science, Volume 37, Issue 6, August 2022, Pages 1133-1147. DOI
Hsun-Ming Hu, Véronique Michel, Patricia Valensi, Horng-Sheng Mii, Elisabetta Starnini, Marta Zunino, Chuan-Chou Shen (2022): Stalagmite-Inferred Climate in the Western Mediterranean during the Roman Warm Period Climate 10, no. 7 (n.d.): 93. DOI
Address: Grotte di Toirano, Piazzale delle Grotte, 17055 Toirano, Tel: +39-0182-98062, Tel: +39-0182-989938. E-mail: contact
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.


12.000 BC Stone Age man visited the cave.
1890 first scientific exploration by Don Nicolò Marelli from Pietra Ligure.
1950 speleologists from Toirano discover new passages.
1953 Grotta della Bàsura opened to the public.
1960 tunnel from Grotta della Bàsura to Grotta di San Lucia Inferiore dug.
1962 exploration by Carlo Tozzi of the University of Pisa.
1966 Grotta di Santa Lucia Inferiore opened to the public.
1967 tunnel between Grotta della Bàsura and Grotta di San Lucia Inferiore completed, tours reorganized.
2011 storage of sparkling wine in the cave for maturing started.
2015 Sala dei Misteri (Hall of Mysteries) reopened after 25 years with new LED light system.


The Grotte di Toirano (Caves of Toirano) are located in a karst area at the end of the Vallone del Vero (valley of truth). More than 70 caves are known in this area. As the plural in the name shows, there are several different caves. The whole system consists of the caves Grotta della Bàsura (Bàsura Cave), Grotta della Strega (Witches cave), Grotta del Colombo (Pigeons Cave), and Grotta di S. Lucia (Cave of St Lucia). The show caves are two of the caves, the Grotta della Bàsura with its prehistoric remains and the lower level of the Grotta di S. Lucia. Both are connected by an artificial tunnel.

During prehistoric times, the cave was once visited by prehistoric man, probably 14,000 years ago. Very interesting are the hand and foot prints from Neanderthals, many of the handprints are from children. They were analyzed by Marco Romano from Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and others. The article published in 2019 tells the story of five individuals, two adults, an adolescent and two children, who entered the cave barefoot and illuminated the way with a bunch of wooden sticks. The traces show no signs of clothes which were printed into the clay, so the humans had at least bare legs and arms. The fact that youngest individual was only three years old demonstrates that very young children were active members of the group and participated in apparently dangerous and social activities.

Other remains found in the cave were graves and amphoras from the time of the late Roman Empire. A building at the parking lot of the caves contains the Museo Preistorico della Val Varatella, the prehistoric museum of the Varatella valley. The findings from the caves are on display here.

Another cave visitor was the Biologycave bear (Ursus spelaeus). They left traces like footprints and scratches from their paws. And of course some died in the cave and left their bones in the Cimitero degli Orsi (bear cemetary). A complete skeletton was reconstructed and is on display in the cave.

Since 2011 a part of the cave is is used to mature local sparkling wine. The winery Durin in Ortovero stores them under the name Bollicine in grotta (Bubbles in the cave). The humidity and temperature are ideal. The project is supported by the Superintendency of Archaeological Heritage of Liguria and the Municipality of Toirano. The wines Bàsura Obscura, Bàsura Riunda and Bàsura Rosa are named after the legendary witch and so they are stored in Grotta della Bàsura. Bàsura is a local word for witch.

But the prehistoric remains are not the main sight of this place, much more impressive are the speleothems, which are unique and impressive. The Antro die Cibele, the final chamber of the Grotta della Bàsura, is filled with bulbous calcite conretions, looking like aubergines or melons. Sometimes they remember a bunch of hanging dicks, a comparison you wont hear on the tour. This passage of the cave was still waterfilled when it was discovered, but the water was drained by the construction of the tour path. And so calcite concretions, which form over a very long time in carbonate rich water, which is completely undisturbed, are now accessible. The wealth of strange forms and calcite of aragonite crystals is exceptional and quite rare. In Italian they are called concrezioni mamellonari, obviously a joke, as they look like female breasts.

After this treasure, the path enters the artificial tunnel to the final chamber of the Grotta di San Lucia Inferiore. And here the spelethemes are completely different, but still as exceptional as those before. They are mostly fragile and pointy aragonite crystals of exceptional size and number. After this, the remaining chambers, offering a wealth of dripstone speleothems, are not appropriately appreciated by the visitors which are overwhelmed by the things they have seen before.

But this place has even more caves for the visitor. There is Grotta di S. Lucia, the upper level of the show cave with a medieval cave church in the entrance. Unfortunately, the cave and church are closed most of the time, but it is possible to see the church portal. On the way to this cave a steep trail branches off, which leads to the Grotta del Colombo. This trail includes some iron ladders and climbing, until the visitor reaches the cave entrance. The view is impressive, but the cave is closed by an iron bar gate.

In the nearby village Toirano there is the Museo Etnografico della Val Varatella (Museo Etnografico della Val Varatella). It is more or less a local history museum, but also contains numerous archaeological finds from the caves.