The Corchia Grotto
Five million years of geological history
Discovered by Giuseppe Simi in 1847, exploration of this grotto proceeded until the early 1900’s when it was interrupted by technical difficulties which continued until the early 1930’s. At that time, the public was enthralled by several deep caves that had been discovered in France. Nevertheless, explorers confirmed that the Corchia Grotto was the deepest of its kind when a group of cavers discovered that its depth reached 670 meters. From that moment onwards, the cave became a legend, and ships from overseas began searching for new tunnels. In 1969, the Snake hole was discovered; today, it has become the main entrance. In 1971, explorers discovered the Fighiera abyss which was no less than 12 km long and 700 meters deep. This natural abyss meets the Farolfi cavern at a depth of 500 meters. Since then, explorations continued until 1983 when, after careful survey, a group of cavers discovered that all of the structures’ depths are derived from a single 1210-meter structure.
It is the deepest one in Italy and one of the most profound in the world. According to experts, the cave was created about 220 million years ago, when the area was a plain. One millennium later, it was flooded by the sea which generated a thick layer of carbonate sediments. Subsequent movements of the earth’s crust formed the Apennines and the Alps. Glaciers formed and when they began to thaw, the effects of corrosion and the result of chemical run-off caused masses of carbonate to accumulate. This stage saw the formation of so-called karst cavities, which are frequently seen on the Apuane. They are produced by rain and thaw. Enriched with carbon dioxide, water penetrates into the fractures producing chemical corrosion (water containing carbon dioxide dissolved the limestone). This natural combination of elements caused erosion.
As the erosion process continued, the water produced new fractures, which were, in turn, invaded and corroded. This situation created an ample maze of tunnels as the water slid further and further down, until it reached the ancient base, which resisted corrosion (silicate and carbonate). Following erosion, water remaining in the capillary interstices was enriched with calcium carbonate that was deposited in drops once the water completed its journey along the surface of each tunnel. Hence, stalactites and the stalagmites were created. To visit the cave, go to Levigliani di Stazzema. From here, proceed along the historical Marble road until you are about 2 km from town, where you find the entrance. This artificial entry-way hosts three successive entrances that allow for limited hydro-thermal exchange with the outside world, a situation which ensures proper conservation of the area’s internal microclimate.
Once inside, guests can enjoy the extraordinary scenic area thanks to a series of bridges. Generated by concretions, these environments have special names such as: the Franosa gallery, the British gallery, and the Suzanne well—all these names bare witness to more than a century of adventurous explorations. Throughout the interior, you’ll find a series of bottleneck tunnels, caves, ravines and underground lakes. Guests will be amazed at the surprising variety of colours and configurations that characterise the area and the sheer vastness of the environment.