La Grotta dell'Orso

Bears' Cave - Caverna Generosa - Grotta Generosa


Useful Information

Location: Monte Genoroso. 7km from Como, 20km from Lugano at the Lake Lugano. Use motorway A2 from Lugano along the lake towards Como/Italian border. Exit at Capolago, at the south eastern end of the lake. Use cog wheel train from Capolago to the summit of Monte Genoroso. 15 min walk from the cable car station.
(45.934304, 9.025211)
Open: Cave: AUG to SEP Sat, Sun 11-16.
Trains: 22-MAY to 17-OCT daily 9:30-16:30, every hour.
Last train downhill Mon-Fri 16:45, Sat, Sun 17:45.
[2019]
Fee: Cave: Adults CHF 8, EUR 5.50, Children (6-16) CHF 5, EUR 3.50.
Buy tickets at the counter of the self service restaurant of the Ristoranti della Vetta (Summit Restaurant).
Train: (Capolago-Vetta)
Adults CHF 54, Children (6-15) CHF 27, Children (0-5) free, Seniors (60+) CHF 48.
Groups (10+): Adults CHF 48.
[2019]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave. lower Lias chert limestones.
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=70m, A=1,450m asl., T=8-10°C.
Guided tours: D=30min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Ferrovia Monte Generoso SA, Via Lüera 1, CH-6825 Capolago, Tel: +41-91-6481105. E-mail: contact
Paleontologic field schools: Sergio Barenco, Tel: +41-79-6860614.
Mendrisiotto Turismo, Via A. Maspoli, 156850 Mendrisio, Tel: +41-91-641-30-50. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1988 cave discovered by Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli and Sergio Vorpe.
1998 flint tools discovered.
1999 opened to the public.
2002 flint tools discovered.

Description

The Monte Generoso is a typical karst area, showing many karst features like karren, natural bridges and swallow holes. But the lower Lias limestone is not very pure, so many of the surface karst features are rather small. However, there are numerous caves, the longest being Sistema Immacolata at S. Fedele, which is 3,500m long and 384m deep. There are 73 cave known in the area until now.

The Grotta dell'Orso is rather small and located at the eastern slope of the Monte Genoroso. It is 15 minutes walk from the train station at the summit. It was discovered by Francesco Bianchi-Demicheli and Sergio Vorpe, two speleologists from Ticino. In winter 1988 they noticed a patch of molten snow which was caused by the warm air from the cave. The cave has a narrow entrance and a single passage with a length of only 70m. But despite its rather small size, this cave is extremely important for its Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus) remains, hence the name of the cave. They are excavated at the moment by the Dipartimento di Scienze della terra (Department of Earth Sciences) at the Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan) and by the Museo cantonale di Storia naturale (Kantonal Museum of Natural History).

In order to allow visitors to see this important site, and of course to raise money for the scientific work, the cave was recently developed as a show cave and is now open to visitors. The excavation work is still going on and so visitors can see the work of the scientists. Also the tours are guided by scientists which makes them very informative. The cave may be visited daily dependent on the timetable of the cog wheel train schedule from Capolago. On certain days during June, July and August, the cave is open for evening tours, which start at Capolago at 20:45 and return at 23:30. Also the scientists offer three palaeontological field schools for up to 10 participants each.

The cave bears lived at Monte Genoroso more than 18,000 years ago. At some times during the ice ages this mountain top was the last piece of land which was not covered by ice. So far 40,000 bones were excavated, which make this cave one of the most important sites in Europe. Most of them are from cave bears, and it seems the male and female bears used different parts of the cave. In one part of the cave only male bones were found, in the other only female. The youngest bear bones are 20,000 years old, this is the time when the cave bear became extinct in this area. Most of the 500 individuals excavated by the University of Milan are between 30,000 and 50,000 years old.

Beneath the bears remains of wolf and various small mammals were found. And there were flint tools, the oldest some 60,000 years old which means that they are from Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis).

Other sights on the summit are the extraordinary view and the observatory which is open for the public.