Istrian Cave Systems and Dantes Inferno


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Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. The concept of the seven deadly sins was expanded on in Dantes Inferno – nine circles leading to hell.

The Inferno, the first of three poems making up the 'Divine Comedy', is followed by 'Purgatorio' and 'Paradiso', describing Dante's travels to reach heaven, with a sub-text of the soul's journey to find God.




Behind Trieste, the ground rises significantly into the Trieste plateau, a limestone rock area known as the Karst (or Kras, Carso) Plateau.



Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. The geology of the karst plateau, with mysterious sink holes and seemingly endless underground cave systems is cited as a major influence on Dante.

Originally a densely forested region, the trees were managed in the Venetian era for naval ship construction and also for the piles used to support the city of Venice.

Under the Hapsburgs, the area was cleared for agricultural use.



Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. Over millions of years, rainwater and snow melt-water have carved valleys, created sink-holes, underground rivers and cave systems decorated with sometimes grotesque, sometimes beautiful, but always amazing stalactites and stalagmites.


On the Slovenian Kras the best-known cave systems are at
Postojna and Skocjan.

Postojna cave has been a tourist attraction since the early 1800s.

A 3km underground railway to take you into the system of well lit underground passageways passing through cathedral-like caverns – one used as an auditorium for concerts.
The Postojna cave system is also the watershed point between waters flowing to the Mediterranean or the Black Sea.


Guided tours into the Skocjan Caves can be dated back to 1884 with annual visits rising from 2,000 in 1903 to 90,000 visitors currently.


Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. From the Italian side, the system has the
Grotta Gigante - with a single cavern physically large enough to contain St Peter's in Rome.
Water from this system escapes to the sea near Montfalcone.

It is a UNESCO heritage site due to the exceptional size.
Martel's Chamber is considered the largest discovered in Europe and one of the largest in the world.

Little wonder then, that folk in ancient times thought that this was the entrance to hell, the perfect inspiration for Dantes Inferno.


Temperature underground stays a constant 11°c all year round.

Guided cave tours lasts about an hour, the huge scale of the
Grotta Gigante involves 500 steps up and 500 going down,
the regular race over this route - escaping Dantes Inferno -
is not compulsory to visitors!

Factors effecting movements of the earth’s crust include
the gravitational pull from the sun and moon and the weight of snow
on the Alps as well as earthquake activity.



Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. To measure these movements,
The University of Trieste employs seismology equipment
including two geodetic pendulums visible at the centre of the cave.
The proportions of the cave allow these instruments to be among the largest of their type in the world.





Dante's Inferno, cave systems, Trieste, travel, holiday, Istria, beaches. The underground river system
complete with sinkholes and springs was recorded by Homer,
reputed by the Romans to be an entrance to Hades
and possibly even an inspiration for Dante’s Inferno.









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