Heading south along the Salento coast of Puglia, the views of the sparkling, crystal blue waters of the Adriatic are dazzling. How do you describe these hues and shades of blue?
Unobstructed by trees and minimal foilage, with spring patches of wildflowers in red, yellow, blue, purples lining the narrow road, one can gaze forever into the horizon…
We’re on our way to the very tip of Puglia’s heel, St. Maria di Leuca, where the Ionian and the Adriatic meet. En route, we stop at Grotta Zinzulusa which is located only 2 km from Castro Marina.
The grotto’s name comes from the word zinzulo which means “rag” because when seamen were approaching the grotto, the entrance resembled rags.
As we make our way past the entrance, we walk along a narrow and almost slippery path to the entrance of the grotto. You can only visit the grotto with a guided tour. We are greeted by our guide, Francesco who, reminding us of the fragility of the grotto, he emphasizes that it is critical not to touch anything.
We watch our step and tread gingerly along the wet, dimly lit and path as we enter the passageway into this huge and fascinating primordial world.
Grotta Zinzulusa dates back many many millennia, an estimated 23 million years, in fact! The grotto is home to legend and scientific fact – fossils of penguins and elephants dating back to the last ice age have been found here!
In fact the remains of 63 different aquatic and terrestrial species have been found here. There is a fresh water “lake” where excavated objects were found indicating that “water cult” rituals were once practiced here.
The subterranean cave is “living”. We can see the slow drip of time creating the huge stalactites and stalagmites, which sometimes meet to form immense columns. The grotto has been researched and studied since it was found in 1793 and, today, it is considered to be an endangered ecosystem.
Our path is only from the 50’s and at the very end it leads us to a “cathedral”-like dome over 25 meters tall! At one time this entire cavern was completely filled with bat, well, bat waste known as guano. And I’m telling you that’s a lot of bat waste!
Workers back in the early 1900’s had the unenviable task of shoveling it all out! To “commemorate” their efforts, they wrote their names and the dates on the cave walls with, yep, you guessed it! And there they remain!
Our visit to Grotta Zinzulusa has been interesting and fascinating. We hope that efforts to preserve and protect this precious natural treasure will be successful.
Many secrets wait to be revealed, don’t you agree?
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