Grotta Gigante

I have a love-hate relationship with caves. They’re beautiful to look at, but they’re also cold, dank, and sometimes claustrophobia-inducing. So when I discovered that, during a recent stop in Trieste, we would have the chance to visit Grotta Gigante, the world’s largest show cave, I was intrigued. Pretty cavey rock formations in a pleasantly spacious, relaxing environment? Sounds good to me.

This warning sign outside the entrance both amused and concerned me, especially since I had to spend much of the visit carrying my stairs-averse three year old. I was also amused to see that the translation of “grotta” for the benefit of the German tourists was “höhle“. Big höhle in the gröund.

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The steps led down, and down, and still down, but after a few minutes at the end of the initial descent a view of part of the main chamber became discernible.

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After a while we emerged into the main chamber, which was pretty breath-taking. It’s 99 metres high, which is almost as tall as St Paul’s cathedral in London. My photos completely fail to communicate the scale, but to get an idea, that zig-zagging line across the top left is the path we walked along through the cave. The vertical lines are part of a geodetic pendulum for the study of “earth tides“.

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The pendulum reaches up to the cavern roof.

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Temperatures inside were indeed the advertised 11°C, which was a full 20 degrees cooler than outside, and yet I didn’t even need the light sweater I’d brought with me. Maybe the effort of carrying my boy was keeping me warm.

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We spent a while in there, partly because the guide was giving a quite detailed explanation in Italian. Some of the German members of the group lost patience with this and, having obviously had their fill of geological wonders, stormed off on their own towards the exit.

Asshöhles.

In the photo below we’re looking back across the cave towards the stairs we descended at the start (the iluminated zig-zag at top left).

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And then we started to climb. This section was actually pretty vertigo-inducing, and we went all the way up to the point where the pendulum meets the ceiling.

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And looked back down at where we’d come from. Well, I gingerly held my camera over the edge, anyway.

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Definitely worth a trip if you’re anywhere in north-east Italy (or western Slovenia).