• Danik Bates

Exploring the Toirano Caves

Updated: May 7

The Liguria region isn’t just full of mountains and luxury holiday resorts on the riviera, there are also some fantastic day trips to do. One of my favourite day trips whilst staying in the area was checking out the caves on the outskirts of the village of Toirano. Ideally a car is needed to get here as public transport isn’t that great and there is ample parking outside the main building. To visit the caves, I was put in a guided tour group but unfortunately due to the time of day I didn’t have English speaking so I had to go with the Italian speaking tour (which wasn’t too much of a problem for me).

From the building to the cave entrance is about a ten minute walk up the mountain side and it can be hard going in the heat as the path is steep in some places, so my advice is to take some water. At the cave entrance I was met by my guide and about thirty of us followed her into the unknown.

The cave system has several main areas where we (the group) saw some interesting things we have never come across before. In the area known as Grotta della Basura (The Witch’s Cave), we were looking at the remains of the Ursus Spelaeus (the cave bear) who decided to use this cave to hibernate. Here we found the remains of ground paw prints, claw marks on the wall and loads of bones. I was totally amazed at what I was looking at, this amazing piece of natural history, this was worth making the trip just to see this, let alone the cave system. Also nearby is evidence that humans were in this cave around 12,000 years ago as there are foot, knee and hand prints in the clay.

After a few areas of looking at the amazing stalactites and lakes the group was taken to the deepest spot inside the mountain (which is open to visitors and about 170 meters above sea level), a tunnel which connects one cave to another. Before anyone asks, I did bang my head here whilst walking through this section.

The final section of the tour took us to an area where we were looking at calcite flowers which are formed by the process of water evaporation and condensation at different pressure levels and temperatures. Pour moi, it was too much information with all this science jargon so I am going to say, they look like crystals and they were pretty. The last section was a huge den which was used as an air raid shelter for the locals during the Second World War and has even hosted concerts.

I do have a few pointers if anyone is making the visit. I always say take a jumper or coat when visiting caves as it can be quite chilly down here. In the middle of the hot summer months, a light jumper (pullover) is enough but make sure to wear the right footwear. It can be slippery in some places. This is not disabled friendly so wheelchairs are highly not recommended. A visit will last around one hour but there is a cafe afterwards to have a drink and a snack.

How to get to the caves: I drove my car to the site (as having my own transport was very handy for this region of Italy) and it is very easy to reach from the A10 (take the Borghetto Santo Spirito exit) and then follow signs to Toirano. Caves are signposted. Very easy drive I found. However, by train get off at Loano and head to one of the bus stops on Via Aurelia. Bus information and more information on the caves can be found here.

Afterthoughts: I really did enjoy the morning visit to the caves and came away really happy as I saw some fantastic natural history (bear bones and prints in the clay) and glad I made the journey here. As the caves are located in the mountains, the view of the local area is brilliant and I could even see the sea from here which is about ten miles away. Highly recommend a trip to the Toirano caves to anyone who is exploring this part of Italy.

Check out my blog post on the nearby Nervia Valley here

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