In the morning, we finished breakfast at our trullo, said goodbye to our host, and drove on to Castellana di Grotte, a cavern system in Puglia. When we arrived, Lucas felt sick, so we delayed our tour until he felt better...a mild case of twisty road car sickness. A cool drink and lemon gelato pop put things right and he was good to go.
Rather than walking down hundreds of steps with the main group, we opted to take the elevator with the other folks with mobility issues, which saved our legs for the rest of the tour. (A bit embarrassing since the rest were very old people with pretty severe walking problems). We didn't know that they'd make us walk uphill and around to the highest point on the Grotte property where the elevator shaft stuck up above everything. We had already walked down to the entrance, then Lucas felt ill so we had to walk way up to where the snack bar was, then back down to the entrance waiting on line for 20 minutes (even though it was late for the time of our tour) and now we were going way back up. Sigh. The cave itself had lots of steps anyway and fairly steep and slippery paths, both upwards and down.
The main cavern is a 180-foot tall bubble in the earth...with a 50-foot wide oculus on top, letting the sun shine in. We went through four huge chambers and loads of side passages...stalagmites, stalactites, huge columns, bizarre shapes...all colorful and strange. Lisa thought Luray caverns was better, but Lucas and I were wowed.
They only allowed pictures in the first chamber (an arbitrary rule), after that, the tour guides turned on their jailhouse charm...watching us like hawks and threatening to end the tour if anyone snapped a pic. They even came after Lucas at one point as the tour started and he was still taking pics beyond some imaginary point of NO PHOTOS. Ridiculous. I'm a professional photographer and this stuff always gets me--especially for amateur shots. A pro might bring lots of equipment and tripods, flash units, etc.... and they have a means to earn money on the photos. But amateurs don't typically earn money at all, so when tourist places forbid picture-taking the only reason is they want to ensure purchases of their own promo materials... books, postcards and the like. These rules are silly.
Anyway... We made it out alive, but my knees sure didn't. By the way, anyone visiting this cave should know that while it is a bit cool, at least during this warm October the humidity was very high and sweating was unavoidable.