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Pertosa: Navigating On An Underground River

By Rossella Gonnella

A Small and welcoming medieval village in the province of Salerno, (Campania, Italy,) which rises on the slopes of the Alburni Mountains, on the right side of the Tanagro River. Its name, in the local dialect “u pertusu” (from the Latin pertusus), means “hole” which refers to the presence of the dominant element of the area: the Caves. Over time, nature has created a scenario of intense and spectacular beauty.

Spend a day discovering nature: What to visit? The Caves open in a huge cavern about seventy meters from the Tanagro river, located at the foot of the Alburni and Mount Intagliata. The entire complex extends for a length of about three thousand meters, suspended between land and water, in an alternation so suggestive that it excites anyone.

To access it, in the first section it is necessary to cross the Negro river with typical boats pulled by man by a steel cable, which serves to reach the rest of the pedestrian path. They are among the few non-marine caves crossed by a waterway that can be navigated by boat. The entrance, through the underground river, makes the visit unique and special: they are the only ones in Italy to have this characteristic. Fascinating and unusual boat trip immersed in a magical silence with the meeting of lights and shadows, enchanted by the glimpse of the large natural waterfall.

Landed inside you can admire in a wonderful show, stalactites and stalagmites that create fantastic representations, highlighted by colorful and suggestive lights. In 2020, the photo of a stalactite and a stalagmite that are about to join, a real kiss of nature, brings the Caves to the attention of the whole world.  An extraordinary union, a kiss of nature, a truly exceptional fact because it is estimated that for about twenty thousand years these concretions have been growing slowly trying to touch each other and that they will form a single body, which will take the name of “column”.

An unforgettable excursion. The guided tour includes a journey of over a kilometer, with 400 meters to be covered by boat sailing on the underground river, to reach the internal waterfall and visit the Hall of Paradise, and then continue on the northern branch discovering the majesty of the Great Hall, the peculiarities of the Sala delle Spongne and the charm of the Arm of Wonders.

It is also possible to practice a unique activity in Europe: speleoraft, a visit to the caves with raft boats in the first section and on foot in the speleological section. They are also the most important archaeological site in Europe with two stacked stilts, brought to light, inside the cave, by archaeological excavations. Some scenes from the film “The Phantom of the Opera” by Dario Argento were shot inside the caves. Once the visit is complete, you cross the Maremanico bridge. Here the traveler looks away towards the Campostrino gorge and is captivated by the suggestive Maremanico waterfall, the Tanagro river flows through this gorge. From the bridge, moreover, you can see the remains of industrial archeology: the old mill from the 12th century and the railway from the 20th century. Once the walk is complete, you will arrive at the Museum.
 Soil Museum In a simple and effective way, even through multimedia devices, they illustrate the importance of soil for the life of the planet. Right under our feet, in the different layers of the soil, the fundamental processes on which the functioning of the entire ecosystem depends are carried out. A story about the processes of formation of soils, about their relationships with ecosystems, living communities and landscapes, about long-lasting interaction with human societies, to the discovery of a fundamental resource such as air and water to be conserved and protect.
 Speleo Archaeological Museum The route begins with a virtual lift that gives the sensation of descending into the bowels of the earth. The Museum exhibits the phenomena of karst phenomena and the environment of the Caves, with multimedia material and interactive displays, also offers an archaeological exhibition with original or reproduced finds from the Caves.
 I recommend you to visit Pertosa in the period April-May, nature in these months will offer you the opportunity to taste the famous White Artichoke. The name derives from the light color of the “heart” of the artichoke. The characteristic is that they do not have thorns. A combination of naturalistic beauties and cultural itineraries with genuine gastronomic productions. It is also possible to admire the typical landscape of agricultural areas represented by hectares of olive trees.

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