Parco archeologico di Cava d'Ispica

Useful Information

Parco archeologico di Cava d´Ispica, map. Cava d´Ispica, Sicilia, Italy. Public Domain.
Catacombs of Larderia. Cava d´Ispica, Sicilia, Italy. Public Domain.
Location: Crocevia Cava Ispica, 97015 Modica RG.
A18/E45 Catania-Sirakus exit Casello di Rosolini, SP 115 towards Ragusa 1.6 km, turn right towards Masicugno 3.3 km, turn left on SP27 towards Modica. Follow SP27, SP34, SP32 for 8.3 km. On the left side, parking lot on the right 100 m.
(36.85015, 14.83794)
Open: All year Mon-Sun 9-19, Hol 9-13:30.
Fee: Adults EUR 5, Adults (18-25) EUR 2.50, Children (0-17) free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House SubterraneaCatacomb SubterraneaCave Church
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Parco archeologico di Cava d'Ispica, Crocevia Cava Ispica, 97015 Modica RG, Tel: +39-0932-771667.
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.



Grotte Cadute (Fallen Caves). Cava d´Ispica, Sicilia, Italy. Public Domain.
Chiesa rupestre di Santa Maria. Cava d´Ispica, Sicilia, Italy. Public Domain.

The Parco archeologico di Cava d'Ispica (Archaeological Park of Cava d'Ispica) is a meander of the river of the same name. But actually it is named after the valley of the same name which is about 13 km long, between Modica and Ispica. The local dialect is somewhat different from normal Italian, while cava is elsewhere used for cellar, wine restaurant, and even quarry, here in Sicily it is a term for the numerous deep ravines which cut through the karstified limestone plateaus. So it is best translated Valley of Ispica. The whole valley has caves, natural and artificial, which were dug since Greek times. During Roman times more caves were dug, but most caves are actually form the Middle Ages. There are cave houses, catacombs, and Christian churches.

Quite spectacular is the Necropoli di cava d'Ispica (Necropolis of Cava d'Ispica), which is located right behind the entrance to the park on the right side. It is mostly a huge passage with quadratic shape, or actually three parallel tunnels. The floor and the walls are full of graves, cuboid hollows big enough to bury a body. This is the reason why they are often called Catacombs of Larderia, but they are also known as Grotta della Larderia. The word Larderia is derived from the word ardeia and means with abundant water. This is a necropolis or catacomb originating from the 4th to 5th century. It is the second largest in Sicily, after that of S. Giovanni in Syracuse, and has an extension of over 500 m².

The next site is the Ginnasio di Cava d'Ispica, or Grotte di Ginnasio, the word descends from the Greek γυμνάσιον (gymnásion), the Greek word for a sports center. So this is actually where the first Greek settlers in Sicilia made their workout in the 6th century BC. There are two connected rooms equipped with side seats, there are Greek engravings designating the seats. PRE means elders, presbyteroi, while NEO means the young people or neoteroi.

There are abandoned cave villages, which are known as Grotte Cadute (Fallen Caves). The people lived in cave houses which were called spaccaforno. This is also the local dialect name of nearby city Ispica, often written Spaccafunnu. The last cave houses were abandoned in 1935. However, the cave houses were quite popular from the Prehistoric times to the earthquake in 1693, which made the inhabitants rethink their decision. This earthquake was probably the origin of the name Grotte Cadute (Fallen Caves).

And then there are several cave churches. The Chiesa Rupestre di Santa Maria is located right above the gymnasion. The Chiesa Rupestre di San Nicola is located outside the small park, on the other side of the river, beneath the administrative building of the park. And there is another cave church named Chiesa Rupestre della Spezeria, also right outside to the south. The one on site is open with the park, but the other ones are gated and normally closed. Check at the park ticket office if it's possible to open them.