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.
Open: Cave: JAN to JUN daily 9:30-12:30, 14-17.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-12:30, 14-17:30.
SEP to DEC daily 9:30-12:30, 14-17.
Museum: all year daily 9-12:30, 14-17.
Fee: Cave: Adults EUR 9, Children (6-14) EUR 5, Reduced EUR 7, Seniors (60+) EUR 7. Groups (20+): Adults EUR 7, Children (6-14) EUR 5.
Museum: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave horizontal cave.
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=150 m asl., T=16 °C.
Guided tours: L=1,280 m, D=70 min, V=200,000/a. V=200,000/a [2000] V=85,000/a [2008]
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: 10.7554/eLife.45204 oline
Address: Grotte di Toirano, Piazzale delle Grotte, 17055 Toirano, Tel: +39-0182-98062, Fax: +39-0182-991903. 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.
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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 opened to the public.
1960 tunnel to the Grotta di San Lucia Inferiore dug, tours reorganized.
1962 exploration by Carlo Tozzi of the University of Pisa.


The Grotte di 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, 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.

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.

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 a iron bar gate.