Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Nov  2015         

Meri, the Karst Pits of Mt. Soratte

This is not exactly near Naples. It's above Rome but is related by location to this item about the WWII German High Command for Southern Europe that was located in a large bunker complex dug into Mt. Soratte.
Karst areas are characterized by drainage holes on the surface, underground caves and drainage systems and collapses triggered by the development of underlying caves. In popular perception, the best known features of karst areas are stalactites and stalagmites.  - from Karst Caves on this website.
Monte Soratte is the only notable mountain ridge in the Tiber Valley in the province of Rome, about 45 km (28 mi) north of the city of Rome, itself. The nearest settlement is the village of Sant'Oreste. Mt. Soratte is a narrow, isolated limestone ridge 5 km (3.4 mi) long with six peaks, the highest of which is 691 m (2,267 ft) above sea-level. The mountain has an elliptical shape and appears as a terrestrial island in the Tiber valley. In the past, however, it was a real sea island; during the Pliocene period, all the surrounding areas were invaded by the sea. From that period, the area surrounding the mountain is characterized by sands and clays which originated from sea deposits.

The ridge is part of a 444-hectare (1,100-acre) Nature Reserve hosting a variety of flora and fauna and characterized by the so-called Meri, karst pits that can be up to 115 meters (377 ft) deep. The pits formed during the geological formation of the limestone massif, the ridge, itself, in the Triassic Age (about 200 million years ago). The Meri karst pits are of extreme interest to geologists and cavers. The first ones were discovered in the 1920s and '30s. Since that time, others have been discovered. The meri are on the eastern base of the mountain in the zone known as Santa Romana. There are three main ones, the entrances opening at between 220 and 250 meters a.s.l.; they are all about 115 meters deep and interconnected at depth. The Mero Grande, the largest of the three has a vertical shaft at the opening that is tens of meters deep with a diameter of 20 meters. Exploring for new meri is ongoing. As recently at 2014 a new one was discovered and dubbed the Luk Grotto. There are extensive photos of this new grotto at this external link.

They pretty much all look like this at the surface.
Yes, you can fall in. Read the end note, below.

The meri are of interest to paleontologists, as well. The first evidence of prehistoric cults on Mount Soratte was found in the early 1950s when a jar, dating back to Neolithic times, was discovered in one of the Meri. The jar was placed in a position to be always filled with water and one interpretation is that this indicates the existence of ancient practices of worship linked to groundwater.

The town of Sant'Oreste has a natural history museum about the area, As well, there are various tourist and caving groups, private as well as sponsored by both the province of Rome, the region of Lazio and by the authority for the nature reserve, itself.
The address and phone number for the nature reserve is: Via Tiburtina, 691 - 00159 Roma (RM), 06/67663317-67663303. The appropriate email and website for the province of Rome is:   and The appropriate tourist organization for San Oreste is Associazione Avventura Soratte di Sant'Oreste, website at  e-mail:  Tel. 329 8194632.

By car you can approach Mt. Soratte from the Autostrada del Sole A1 (exit Ponzano Romano-Soratte). By normal street roads from Rome, you need the SS (state road) Flaminia and the SP (province road) Tiberina.

Read this!

The nature reserve has tours, graded by difficulty, to the more explored Meri. Some are easy and some are not. Under no circumstances should you just hike off on your own. There are reports of leftover unexploded ordnance from WW II still scattered not only in the brush of Mt. Soratte, but even in some of the pits. This comes as a result of heavy Allied air-raids on the German High Command that had set up shop in the massive bunker complex within the mountain in 1943-1944. The Allied air-raids never managed to crack the bunkers but they did leave dangerous souvenirs scattered about, potentially deadly. So, these are not nice little caves that Sunday hikers in tennis shoes should approach. You should inform yourselves and go with cavers who are well-equipped and who know the area.

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