Scenes and stories from a small town in the hills of Italy's Le Marche region
Exploring Camerano's
Underground Mysteries: The Grotte

By: Allison Fisher



Camerano has a secret beneath its streets.
Virtual tour of Camerano's Grotte
(QuickTime movie)



The star dome in the Grotte di Palazzo Corraducci is a special attraction unique to this cave.


This is the opening of the Grotte Manciforte e Costanini leading down 60 feet of stairs to the bottom of the cave. This is the deepest cave available to the public at this point in time.





Story written by:
Allison Fisher

Web Design by:
Kiley Peters

All Photos by:
Kiley Peters

Video by:
Elliot Yancy

Camerano, Italy- More than 60 feet below the winding stone streets of Camerano is a mysterious complex of elaborately intertwined tunnels and niches. The Grotte, or caves, are buried beneath centuries of folklore. With 17 known entrances, this intricate three-level complex is one of the town’s hidden jewels.

Grotte Manciforte e Costanini
There are many caves that run underneath Camerano, this cave, Grotte Maniforte e Costanini, is charted as the deepest cave open to the public at about 60 feet underground.

Despite years of legends and taboos, Alberto Recanatini, a local historian and author, decided to dig deeper for the facts. His research has resulted in an extensively documented book “Le Grotte del Conero” (“The Caves of the Conero”). He recounts important discoveries about the origins and past cultures of the Grotte’s inhabitants, including some dating back thousands of years.

More than 150 tombs have been found in Camerano and surrounding areas. The Picens, a people living in pre-Christian times, were the first documented settlers between the 7th and 4th millennium B.C., according to Recanatini. Later, the caves and land of Camerano came under Roman control.

This hidden preserve was partially opened to the public in 1997. According to legend, the Grotte are a sacred space whose spiritual intensity increases with depth. The caves symbolically represent purity and are typically associated with light and darkness, life and death, and creation and destruction, Recanatini says.

The Grotte served various purposes over time. Whether for religious rites, shelter, water collection or storage, the sandstone caves connected the town. These caves under the fields primarily served for water collection, while those under the city center were used more for storage and religious rites.

Vaulted, domed or arched niches and tunnels in the caves are adorned with religious symbols. One of the structures can been seen as imitating the Knights of the Round Table while another hall resembles the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, according to Recanatini.

Located underneath the San Francesco church, this room is appropriately referred to as "La Chiesa" which translates to "the church." This room is attached to the Grotte di Palazzo Ricotti.

The dome “star” structure defines the Grotte as a beautiful, planned project, Recanatini says. The “star” dome was used by the Knight Templar, an ancient religious order, as a meeting place in Medieval times.

During World War II, the people of Camerano hid from the fighting and bombing in the Grotte during a key month in 1944. Recanatini was 6 at the time, “It is interesting to think of the caves as saving us. Everybody came down. No one told us to come. Life went underground.” Women, children and older people fled beneath the surface as Americans troops arrived to fight the occupying Germans, he says. The compartments lining many of the narrow passageways below ground served as homes for many families during those 20 days. As the men fought off the Germans, teenagers were sent into the fields to stealthily collect food.
A tour group admires the star ceiling in the Palazzo Corraducci, a unique feature of this cave.

The three caves are now open to the public: Palazzo Ricotti, Palazzo Corraducci and Palazzo Mancinforte. Each has its own identities and symbolism. All became the property of wealthy families that built their houses, or palaces, on top of the caves. Many used the niches, which have an average temperature of 57 degrees, to store wine and firewood.

Restoration has taken place slowly to re-establish the city under the city. Bricks and cement have been laid in various areas to help structurally support the historic ruins.

Many of the caves, some of which are legally owned by families, are closed off because of dangerous conditions or privacy. If the caves are under the piazza (town center) or Town Hall, they are considered public grounds.

A project led by Camerano’s mayor, Carmine DiGiacomo, is now underway to buy all the caves, unblock the passages and re-open them as a museum.

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