The cave

Situated in the heart of the Apuan Alps’ Park, in an uncontaminated area of extremely high landscape and geomorphological value, the Grotta del Vento presents different unique aspects.

It is definitely, amongst the Italian show caves, the most complete under a morphological and evolutionary profile, since its itineraries allow the direct observation of every aspect of a deep karst environment (fossilized or occasionally active vadose tunnels, phreatic tunnels still subjected to occasional flooding during particularly heavy rainfall and areas permanently abandoned by water where shiny limestone formations of every type and colour are still growing).

It is the only one to offer the possibility of choosing between three touristic underground itineraries, one of which (3rd itinerary) has the longest duration in Italy.

It is one of the few that is open all year round (except the 25th December), allowing the public to take a trip “outdoors” even if it’s raining or snowing outside.

The possibility to choose between different types of visits, makes it an ideal destination for excursions for singles, couples, families, schools, groups and motor bike or classic car rallies, etc.

The origins of its name

In the summer, whoever visits the cave is amazed by the intensity of the wind coming from deep inside the mountain when a re-enforced steel door is opened. This discomfort only lasts a short time because, as soon as the guides closes the door, the wind and the cold suddenly stop.

The temperature in the most internal parts, all year round is +10,7° C., a figure which corresponds to the average annual temperature. There are two openings: the lower one is the current entrance for tourists and is at 642 metres above sea level, the higher one is located at a height of 1400 metres, on the opposite side of the mountain.

There is consequently an air current about 800 metres high, free at both ends, that during summer is colder and heavier than the air outside, so it precipitates downwards creating a strong outgoing wind at the lower entrance (the touristic one), meanwhile relatively hot air is drawn in through the higher entrance which, running through the cave, cools down and maintains a continuous circulation.

In the winter the situation is reversed: the air inside, hotter and therefore lighter than that outside, quickly flows up, creating an incoming wind at the lower entrance that heats up when it enters, constantly maintaining the circulation towards the top.

Generally, the speed of the wind is directionally proportional to the difference between the temperature inside and outside. In the rare moments when both temperatures are equal all air currents stop.

The miner's fridge

The tourist’s entrance to the underground complex is situated at the bottom of the Trimpello Channel, not far from the village of Fornovolasco (little more than 600 metres as the crow flies).

Even nearer (less than 200 metres) is the tiny hamlet of Trimpello. This group of houses, during the period of the Estense domination of Garfagnana, was inhabited by the miners who extracted iron from the nearby magnetite mines. The choice of this place, determined mainly by the vicinity of a little spring could also have been made due to the close proximity of the cave, then known not as an underground cavity, which no one knew existed as the entrance was buried by a huge amount of detritus, but as the place where in Summer an icy cold wind would blow out from fissures in the rock. The miners, without questioning the origins of this wind, which was accepted as a “gift of divine providence”, built a little stone hut above the fissures where they kept fresh perishable goods. This sort of natural refrigerator was extremely efficient since the air blowing from the bowels of the mountain was also humid as well as fresh and was used for a few centuries until the beginning of the 1900’s.

The discovery of the cave

It was only in 1898 that some youths from Fornovolasco, curious about that current of air, convinced a four-year-old girl to climb into the fissure which was too narrow for an adult. The little girl only went forward for a few metres, enough to let her friends know that underground was dark and that the initial narrow passage got bigger. The boys got hold of some picks and shovels and widened the initial fissure to their size and went forward for about twenty metres until the wide area now called “the Hall of the Bear”. They stopped there, probably influenced by stories told in those times about caves being haunted by monsters and demons, they decided to return to daylight as quickly as possible. Just a few steps which however had an enormous weight on the economical and occupational future of Garfagnana. In fact, today the Grotta del Vento is visited by an average of 50,000 people each year and represents the main tourist attraction of the Apuan Alps and the entire Serchio Valley.

History of the explorations

The expedition from the group from Lucca in 1964 was directed by the speleologist Vittorio Verole-Bozzello, then twenty one who, despite his young age ,already had under his belt the exploration of over 400 caves and had founded the Lucca Speleological Group of the Italian Alpine Club, subsequently officialised in 1960. Right from the beginning of his exploration activity, which began in 1957 when he was 14 years old, his dream was to be able to dedicate his life to the underground world, communicating to others his passion for caves by the tourist valorization of a cave. It was love at first sight with the Grotta del Vento. Despite its distance from any roads of communication and the enormous technical difficulties that the tourist valorization would have entailed due to the numerous shafts and “vertical drops”, this cavity possessed all the requirements that Vittorio for years had been looking for and that he had not found in the 50 show caves he had analysed in Italy and abroad with the purpose of using the positive solutions, dismissing those which didn’t correspond to the standards he had fixed under both a technical and managerial profile.

Work began in 1965 with a big excavation which was necessary to build a concrete trench making it possible to reach the buried entrance. Hundreds of cubic metres of detritus were extracted from the initial tunnel to allow visitors to walk through in an upright position. The biggest obstacle, the siphon, was overcome by means of a manmade tunnel, dug out of the bare rock, about thirty metres long. The “first itinerary” was opened to the public in the month of June in 1967. There was no electrical system and the tours were made using smelly portable lanterns fuelled by propane gas.


The “second itinerary”, given the great difference in height and the need to build some parts of the walkways across the rock face brought about much greater difficulties. It was opened to the public in 1970. In the same year the first electrical system was built, initially powered by a generator.


In 1973 the first road of access was built. All the costs were sustained entirely by the administration of the Grotta del Vento.


In 1974 work began on the construction of the building that now hosts the ticket office, the snack bar, the mineral exhibition, the offices and the home of Vittorio Verole-Bozzello.


In 1979 work began on the opening of the “third itinerary”, made extremely difficult by the need to build most of the walkways along the vertiginous rock face of a shaft of 90 metres. After several interruptions caused by a waterfall which would start up during periods of heavy rainfall outside, this vertiginous route, unique in its kind in Italy, was inaugurated in the Summer of 1982.


In 1998 extensive excavation work brought to the definitive resuscitation of the natural entrance of the cave, an elegant portal four metres high. In this way the dark and anti-aesthetic concrete trench was eliminated which, reminded one more of the squalor of an air raid shelter rather than the fairy-tale like entrance to an underground world.

Standards of valorization

By visiting about fifty show caves Vittorio had noticed that almost all of them had in common one characteristic: mostly horizontal, all with lots of formations, and the explanations of the guides were just a boring list of shapes to find in the various limestone formations: “See? That’s the tower of Pisa” and that looks like the “Mother Mary with a child”, “the fairy castle”, “an organ” and so forth. The shapes to be found, often with difficulty, were the same from one cave to another. The rare information given on the scientific aspects of the underground world was often inaccurate.


Given the extraordinary variety of aspects the Grotta del Vento represented the best that one could imagine to present a deep karst environment in all its entirety. Not only that, horizontal tunnels full of stalactites and stalagmites, also aspects which previously no one had taken into consideration, like the forms of erosion, passages made smooth by a phreatic circulation, the fascination of vertical shafts, the layers of sediments interpreted as chapters of history millions of years old. All elements to be explained in detail, to correlate in an organic way to build up the curiosity in visitors towards a whole series of scientific subjects that went well beyond making a dull list of shapes.

The conception of how to build the walkways was also quite innovative: whereas in the usual horizontal caves the walkways were made by levelling the floor, in the Grotta del Vento the walkways, all in non-slip cement, have measurements of just 60 centimetres in some parts to reduce visual impact to the minimum. They have not been camouflaged but as they are essential to make the cave accessible to visitors, they have been built almost everywhere in a way to distinguish them clearly from the natural morphology of the underground environment.

The management company (Grotta del Vento S.R.L.)

The management company is made up of Vittorio Verole Bozzello (president), and by his sons Marco (administrative director) and Mario (scientific director).


Vittorio Verole-Bozzello, born in Reggio Emilia on the 12th February 1943 from an early age was deeply fascinated by all underground environments, both natural and artificial. His speleological activity began at the age of 14, although in an informal way. In 1969 he founded the Lucca Speleological Group of the Italian Alpine Club, of which he remained president until 1965, when he began the work on the tourist valorisazion of the Grotta del Vento. In the same year he founded the Speleological Group Garfagnana-Grotta del Vento.

Author of several books of a speleological and touristic nature amongst which the most substantial are:

“The caves of Italy, – a guide to underground tourism” – Bonechi editions. Firenze 1970, 320 pages, lavishly illustrated with photos and maps. After an extensive introduction about Italian caves in general and about karst phenomena and that connected with it, the book presents a detailed analysis of all the show caves which then existed on the Italian territory.

“Discover Garfagnana” – Grotta del Vento , 2005, 240 pages, an extensive guide book about everything to visit in the Serchio Valley with a complete description of every municipality and hamlet, and of all the major attractions, both on the Apuan side and the Apennine side..

In 1994 he conceived and founded the Italian Show Caves Association (A.G.T.I.), which groups together the almost totality of the major show caves. The objective was to allow a confrontation between these realties to find the best technical and managerial solutions, as well as starting a publicity campaign to increase the public awareness towards caves. Currently the A.G.T.I., in collaboration with the major experts of the Italian Speleological Society, organizes special travelling courses for the training of cave guides.

Honorary president of the A.G.T.I., Vittorio Verole-Bozzello is one of the teachers on the training courses for guides.

For his contribution to the touristic and economic development of the Serchio Vally, in 2017 he was awarded the prestigious “Gonfalone d’Argento”, the highest award given by the Tuscany region.


Marco Verole-Bozzello, born in Barga in 1972, also a speleologist, for at least 20 years has actively managed all the administrative aspects of the company, and the organization of the groups. He also concentrates on the scenography of the lighting system with excellent results. A cave photographer (his took almost all of the photos that appear on the cover of the books and posters about the cave) he also has an important side business: the import-export of collectors’ minerals and fossils from all over the world. This business involves lots of travelling to numerous mines in all the continents. As well as supplying important collectors, shops and museums, he personally tends to the vast exhibition of minerals and fossils that everyone can admire in the Visitor’s Centre of the Grotta del Vento.


Mario Verole-Bozzello, born in Barga in 1970, a graduate in aerospace engineering, is an extremely active speleologist. He is an advisor for the Italian Speleological Society, for A.G.T.I. (Italian Show Caves Association) and for I.S.C.A. (International Show Caves Association), he actively collaborates with the scientific commission of the Tuscan Speleological Federation and coordinates the intensive research work done at the Grotta del Vento. An IT expert he is also an excellent cave photographer and has operated in many parts of the world. He also collaborates actively with his father and brother with the management and promotion of the company.

The scientific research

Due to the interest of the management company and the convenience of having a lighting system and well laid out paths, the Grotta del Vento has become a permanent laboratory for the study of everything regarding deep karst. The guides also collaborate, as amongst them there are also speleologists, geologists and biologists. Not only that, but often illustrious members of the academic world also take part in this activity.


Scientific research in caves has an extreme importance not only for exploration purposes, but also, and perhaps even more so, to contribute to the knowledge of karst phenomena which can have useful applications in everyday life.


In the 80’s for example, an extremely successful medical experiment was conducted and consisted in the treatment of severe forms of allergic asthma by means of a prolonged stay inside the cave. For the occasion an accurate study was carried out by specialists from the University of Pisa on all the parameters of the underground microclimate.


Research in a geo-morphological field makes it easier to research new routes to explore and, at the same time can give useful information about the succession of variations in climate the Earth has undergone over the centuries and millenniums. Just as interesting is also the comparison between the progress of global warming and the data regarding the underground hydrology connected with the parameters of a weather station that has been installed near the entrance to the cave.


The colouring of the underground water courses is also of fundamental importance for a more comprehensive knowledge about the availability and protection of water resources. In 2019 it was established in this way that the underground river that flows in the “second itinerary” sees the light of day at the Gangheri spring, between Vergemoli and Gallicano, with a capacity however that is ten times more than the one registered in the cave. Where does all that excess water come from? A mystery to be resolved, but also the knowledge that in all probability the Grotta del Vento is just a minimal part of something immensely bigger that’s still to be discovered.


An experiment in 2018 raised a bit of a stir. It was conducted by a pool of various companies, amongst which the Alenia Aerospace and the waterworks company of Torino, with the collaboration of the national advisory of research, when inside the cave a complex experimental piece of machinery was tested which is destined to purify water aboard the I.S.S. The huge international space station which since 1998 orbits around Earth.