The Montello’s caves

The caves of Montello
An exploration within everyone’s reach

Montello is full of natural caves, yet many still don’t know it. There are about ninety between large, medium and small. They range from over 8 km of development of Castel Soto Tera di Volpago (among the largest of its kind in the world) to small ravines of a few meters, such as Buoro di Ciano. I did not want to believe it, last year, when a lady told me she had bet on this fact with an elderly resident of the Colle, who claimed she had never seen one, despite the fact that she had always lived there. I think this will seem exaggerated to many readers, yet this topic remains mysterious and fascinating. Many people say that we want to go underground ‘only after death’ and this statement contains a good part of the evocative and ancestral meanings concerning the underground world. There is talk of the womb of mother earth, but also of the door of the underworld, the dragon’s lair, the house of the dwarves of Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings, as well as the adventures of J. Verne in his famous Journey to the center of the Earth. Famous is the description of Leonardo Da Vinci who, hesitating in front of the entrance to a dark cavern, describes the conflict between curiosity and fear. But the cave is also the place of Plato’s myth, it is the seat of the mitreans, the place where Jesus is born, where the Madonna appears … Even here, religious cults and legends precede the phase of real and scientific knowledge of these phenomena of nature, just think of the legends of the fairies of the buoro or the Hermitage of San Girolamo. The study of karst on Montello is very recent. Free access to the hill was made possible only with its decommissioning and Antonio Saccardo was responsible for the first studies and publications, at the dawn of the last century, while systematic speleological explorations are recorded only after the Second World War. The speleo groups that surveyed all the local natural cavities were born only at the end of the 1960s and still operate to complete the maps of the most important cavities. The phenomenon underlying the formation of the sinkholes, valleys, cavities and natural springs of Montello, known as karst, is particularly evident and representative. The geomorphology of the hill is, historically speaking, also among the first attractions in terms of tourism, the Italian Touring Club gives a description of it in its magazine already in July 1918, just close to the Battle of the Solstice and still in full military conflict. This is evidently due to some peculiar characteristics. Montello is composed almost exclusively of a conglomerate of alluvial pebbles which is called ‘croda’ here and although its origin is relatively recent (upper tertiary), the erosion of the limestone by rainwater made acid by carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere (karst) is particularly pronounced. Large sinkholes, more or less marked and widespread everywhere, alternate with extensive valleys with a ‘V’ section (present in particular on the central southern side of the Hill) and with caves and karst springs, the latter located mainly on the northern and eastern side. The underground waters that flow to the south are lost in the strata of which the high plain of Treviso is rich, except for the very few cases of which the source of the Forame a Giavera is the most representative example.

The visit to the Montello caves is possible, appropriately guided by experts and equipped with protective helmets and adequate lighting, also having the foresight to provide clothing that can get dirty with mud and wet, as well as suitable footwear (boots or boots) purpose. The climate in the caves is mild and constant all year round: about 11 degrees the temperature, even if the humidity is particularly high. If well organized, a speleological excursion on Montello is instructive, fascinating and compelling, without exposing the participants to particular dangers or difficulties. However, I strongly advise against improvisation or the use of unqualified or not regularly qualified companions. If you follow these simple precautions, fun is guaranteed!

Article by Enrico Tirindelli for the monthly Marca Aperta (2013)

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