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The path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron is very rocky, with several long ascents and descents. But the roughly milelong path is fairly picturesque.
The path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron is very rocky, with several long ascents and descents. But the roughly milelong path is fairly picturesque. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
The path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron is very rocky, with several long ascents and descents. But the roughly milelong path is fairly picturesque.
The path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron is very rocky, with several long ascents and descents. But the roughly milelong path is fairly picturesque. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Those using the path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron pass over a narrow bridge about halfway along the route.
Those using the path from the parking lot in Fregona, Italy, to Grotte Caglieron pass over a narrow bridge about halfway along the route. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Waterfalls, rocks, bridges and various fauna are in abundance at Grotte Caglieron, a series of caves and tunnels about a half-hour's drive from Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Waterfalls, rocks, bridges and various fauna are in abundance at Grotte Caglieron, a series of caves and tunnels about a half-hour's drive from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Grotte Caglieron, a part of the Italian national park system, is a short drive to the northwest of Aviano Air Base, Italy. Admission is free.
Grotte Caglieron, a part of the Italian national park system, is a short drive to the northwest of Aviano Air Base, Italy. Admission is free. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Standing just above a waterfall on a viewing platform at Grotte Calgieron, one can look down at other layers of the site.
Standing just above a waterfall on a viewing platform at Grotte Calgieron, one can look down at other layers of the site. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
The large cave at the entrance to Grotte Caglieron looks foreboding from the outside, but it's not very deep.
The large cave at the entrance to Grotte Caglieron looks foreboding from the outside, but it's not very deep. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Some parts of Grotte Caglieron are natural and some parts are man-made. Either way, there are plenty of interesting views and, the caves and water offer cooler temperatures than those found not that far away at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Some parts of Grotte Caglieron are natural and some parts are man-made. Either way, there are plenty of interesting views and, the caves and water offer cooler temperatures than those found not that far away at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Grotte Caglieron wasn't that crowded during a recent weekend visit, though it's likely to get more visitors when work is completed to restore more access and when summer vacations start.
Grotte Caglieron wasn't that crowded during a recent weekend visit, though it's likely to get more visitors when work is completed to restore more access and when summer vacations start. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Even though the sun doesn't shine much on many spots of Grotte Caglieron, that doesn't stop green stuff from growing in areas of the caves.
Even though the sun doesn't shine much on many spots of Grotte Caglieron, that doesn't stop green stuff from growing in areas of the caves. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Visitors have been able to see only part of Grotte Caglieron for several months. That's supposed to change June 15, when walkways currently judged to be unsafe are restored.
Visitors have been able to see only part of Grotte Caglieron for several months. That's supposed to change June 15, when walkways currently judged to be unsafe are restored. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
Larger and smaller waterfalls wind through the rocks and onto pools below at Grotte Caglieron, a series of caves and tunnels a short drive from Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Larger and smaller waterfalls wind through the rocks and onto pools below at Grotte Caglieron, a series of caves and tunnels a short drive from Aviano Air Base, Italy. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
This cave at Grotte Caglieron, generally sealed off from the public, has long been used to age cheese produced from a local consortium.
This cave at Grotte Caglieron, generally sealed off from the public, has long been used to age cheese produced from a local consortium. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)
There are plenty of nice views to take in as you approach Grotte Caglieron, whether one is walking along the milelong path from the town of Fregona or driving along a series of mountain roads that take one closer to the site.
There are plenty of nice views to take in as you approach Grotte Caglieron, whether one is walking along the milelong path from the town of Fregona or driving along a series of mountain roads that take one closer to the site. (Kent Harris/Stars and Stripes)

Italy’s most famous sites — such as the Colosseum in Rome, the Grand Canal in Venice and Pompeii — are famous around the world.

But it’s not that difficult to live in the country for years and find lesser-known venues that you’ve never heard of, much less discovered.

Grotte Caglieron is one of those places. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Aviano Air Base and only about half of that for those who live west of the base. But it’s far off normal tourist paths and missing from most guidebooks.

The caves and tunnels at the site, part of the country’s national park system, might not be as spectacular as others, such as Grotte Gigante near Trieste. But they’ve got at least two things in their favor: proximity and cost. Admission is free.

The landscape here was formed over centuries as the Caglieron River carved various paths through softer rock. Today, visitors can see waterfalls, swift-flowing streams and relatively calm pools, as well as caves and tunnels made by nature and by man. Some passageways were laboriously carved out to allow easier access to visitors. One local company has long used a cave to age its cheese.

For first-time visitors, the site could probably use a bit more signage. After winding your way up a twisty road into the town of Fregona, you’ll see some signs indicating that a city lot — with metered parking — might be a convenient place to park. But if you stop there, you’ll still be a little more than a mile from the caves. And the walking path to get there can be hard to find at first — and a bit arduous, if you’re not in shape. But the scenery is pretty.

There are a few smaller winding roads if you keep on driving above Fregona. These can get you closer to the caves if you’re averse to the walk.

In either case, bring walking shoes with good tread. And tread carefully. The paths can be slippery and difficult to navigate. Much of the site was closed earlier this year, as walkways were judged to be too treacherous. During a visit in early June, reports were that those sections — going deeper into the cave system — were supposed to be open on June 15. But several target dates for re-opening the paths before that were missed. Even with those areas closed, there are still caves, rock formations and waterfalls to check out.

harris.kent@stripes.com

Directions: Grotte Caglieron is located near the Veneto town of Fregona, about a 45-minute drive west of Aviano Air Base. There are several ways to get there. The easiest is probably to travel via the SS-13. Take the second right at the traffic circle past the Bennett mall and head toward Vittorio Veneto. On the outskirts of that city, start looking for the brown signs for the grotto or follow blue signs for Fregona.Times: Open from sunrise to sunset. A good portion of the site was not accessible in early June because of work to make the walkways safer. This section was set to re-open June 15, but several previous target dates had not been met.Costs: Admission is free. The parking lot in Fregona costs 1 euro per hour.Food: There are a few restaurants in Fregona and many more along the route from Aviano. But the best bet might be to bring a backpack or two full of picnic supplies. There’s an area designated for picnicking not far from the caves, and there are numerous supermarkets along the driving route.Information: The site is not stroller friendly. Kids — and adults — need to watch their steps.Website:prolocofregona.it/en/grotte-del-caglieron

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