Calcata Cave Houses

Useful Information

Location: Calcata. North of Rome. A1 Firenze Roma, exit Magliano Sabina, SS3 south, turn right onto SP78, at Faleria turn right onto SP79 to Calcata. Calcata is located behind Calcata Nuova.
(42.216626, 12.419660)
Open: Town: ro restrictions.
Different open hours for underground locations.
Fee: Town: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave House
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
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.


1930s inhabitants relocated 800 m up the road to a newly built town, Calcata Nuova.
1960s artists and bohemians discovered the town and buyed the abandoned houses.
1983 Holy Foreskin mysteriously disappears.


Calcata is one of the best preserved medieval hill towns in Italy. Located high atop a 50 m high hill, it has a small castle and is surrounded by a dense forest. This place was originally used by the Faliscans, a pre-Roman people, as a sacred ritual site.

During the Middle Ages the settlement was expanded to form a typical fortified hill town, but it was nevertheless plundered by the armies of Karl V. in 1527 after the Sack of Rome. At this time a German soldier showed up, who had stolen a relic during the raid, the supposed foreskin of Jesus. He was captured and the Holy Foreskin was confiscated, and soon Calcata became a pilgrims destination. This ended when the relic vanished in 1983, and many locals think it was stolen by the Vatican.

The town Calcata was relocated in the 1930s by the Italian government. There were fears, the craggy cliffs it sits on would collapse. The inhabitants moved 800 m up the road to a newly built town, Calcata Nuova. But the planned destruction of the old town by the government never happened. In the late 1960s artists and bohemians discovered the abandoned town and bought the houses. The owners were happy to get rid of the ruins. The new owners started to renovate them, transforming many of the caves under the village into subterranean homes. The town now consists a of a wide variety of alternative people, artists and bohemians. Every third house contains an art gallery. But other basics of modern life are missing completely. There is no supermarket or ATM.

There are many caves, some are public, others are private. Athon Veggi is an artist and egyptologist who moved to the village in the 1970s She lives in two adjacent caves: one for her art work, the other for living. Grotta dei Germogli is an Italian restaurant in a mosaic-lined cave, run by Pancho Garrison from Texas.

Although some sources call the hil a volcano cone or the now inactive remains volcano, it is not of volcanic origin. The rock is travertine or tufa, composed of limestone, which was deposited by a spring and typically has a lot of holes. It is rather soft when it is still in the ground and becomes hard when it dries. It was used to build most of the houses of the town and after this limestone variety the town was called Calcata. It is easy to build caves in this material, it is a natural result of removing rocks for building houses. This explains the high amount of caves in the village.