There are many caves systems above and below the coasts of the Salento, the most renowned of which are the Caves of Zinzulusa. Odd stone formations twist into a hanging ceiling, these mineral deposits gave the caves their name by resembling old rags or “zinzuli” in the regions dialect language.
Formed over the ages by underground water flow through the Karst soft limestone bedrock, the Zinzulusa cave system drained the ground water from the Salento down to a much reduced area which then formed what is now the Adriatic sea.
Melting of the Ice packs lifted the sea levels, ensuring constant erosion by wave action – opening and enlarging the streams rocky cave mouth into the half submerged portal of the attraction today.
Situated just south of Otranto and 3 kms north of Castro, Zinzulusa is only an hours drive from our holiday Villas, where the waters of the Adriatic merge into those of the Ionean sea.
Sharing a car park with the municipal swimming pool, first buy your tickets at the office then descending the steps from the parking area, follow the pathway as its meanders ever downwards in a series of switchbacks down the rock face, finally curving around the contours of the cliff face with spectacular views across the aquamarine waters of the seas below. Finally the path drops to the waterside, small boats serviced by a timber pier offer paid voyages into the ancillary caves and nearby features.
In front of you the cave entrance yawns open, scarring the pink, sand and grey limestone cliff-face dropping into the clear turquoise and blue waves washing below.
Ascend the path up and enter into the caves portal, and continue through to the entrance behind.
Divided into two sections, Zinzulusa caves has a lower level which the sea swells into. Two ‘pools’ contain aquatic life, the latter, La Conca – takes its name from the caves front section and contains both fresh and marine species, its brackish waters testifying to continuing ground water presence. The upper section consists of a pre cave area called the Conca or “bowl”
Elephant and other bones of other creatures have been discovered there, bearing witness to the caves past use as shelter by animals in earlier times.
The Conca leads into the “Corridor of Wonders” adorned with enormous stalagmites and stalactites, then on to the “Crypt” and into the “Cathedral” itself with the roof soaring upwards to a height over 25 metres. Christmas sees the “Cathedral” attracting pilgrimages to admire the Nativity scenes that are set up within it to celebrate the occasion.
Travelling forward and then back through the caves, amuse yourself by trying to recognise in the rock formations around you, such shapes named as The Ham and Damocles Sword, The Pulpit, The Creche or The Horse. To name just a few.
Now after regaining the daylight, make the return trip back up through the stepped path, stopping occasionally to savour the views as you return to your car.
If you have made this excursion in the morning, it will now be close to lunch time, there is an excellent restaurant beside the car park with beautiful sea views as you dine.
Because of Zinzulusa’s proximity to other attractions, it is possible to visit the fortified town of Otranto, Castro or just use the opportunity to spend the afternoon on the beach at Porta Badisco for example.
Come evening time, relax back at your Villa beside the illuminated pool and reflect on the experience of this, one of Italys most attractive waterside caves.