The Altolina Valley and its Caves
The conformation of this area is the result of the geological changes that took place roughly 200 million years ago, during the formation of the Apennine range and before the Italian peninsula had emerged from the sea.
The series of events that altered the geological structure of the area can be traced by reading the layering of its rock formations, its mineral composition and the fossilised creatures that have been found here.
The oldest formation is known as ‘Heavy Limestone’. It dates back to roughly 180 million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era at the beginning of the Jurassic. At that time the sea here was warm and shallow, far from any land. It was part of the ancient ‘Telide’ ocean.
The central and eastern section of the Sasso di Pale is made up of heavy limestone roughly 700 metres thick. Roughly 400 of these are above ground and can be toured by taking the path that leads from Pale to the hermitage.
The Caves of Pale
The infiltration of water from the river have provoked an interesting hypogeal carsic rock conformation: the Le Grotte di Pale.
In the 12th century these caves were known as the ‘Grotte dell’Abbadessa’ (Caves of the Mother Superior). They were visited by a host of illustrious characters, including Queen Catherine of Sweden and Cosimo III of Tuscany. The caves are divided into different sections. The first is considered a jewel of geological architecture and is called the ‘Camera del laghetto’ (Chamber of the Lake). Circular in shape, it is between eight and nine metres high. From the dome-shaped vault hang stalactites, while a series of stalactitic sedimentations have grown into 5 perfectly-shaped columns at the centre.
When the river Menotre flooded, this place was used to collect its waters by the local population in the past. A small passageway leads to the ‘Camera delle Colonne a Terra’ (Chamber of the Grounded Columns), where there is a stalagmite shaped like a lion, a number of stalactites that look like draped fabric and some imposing central columns.
Surrounded by greenery, the Pale waterfalls are the result of a 200-metre drop taken by the Menotre river after the village of Pale. After the waterfalls the river runs through Belfiore to then join the river Topino.
A cosy BED & BREAKFAST is located in Belfiore, for those seeking something different. Via Pastine 10 Belfiore di Foligno PG (not far from the waterfall)
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