The big Etruscan cave
twenty-seven centuries of history and transformations cancelled out to build a wall
The quarry and “Well 2”
The last cave is the oldest and largest on the site. Its ceiling is irregular and follows the natural fissures in the rock, reaching a height of 14 meters. Between the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the 19th, the great wall, which constitutes the right-hand wall and supports the street above was constructed. The tuff needed to build this was extracted entirely from here and what was once an opening in the cliff with multiple levels of caves, became one big cavity. The signs from wedges used to extract the blocks and the flaking of the tuff due to mining activity are still visible but this quarrying erased most of the Etruscan, Medieval and Renaissance archaeological evidence that previously existed. However, there are signs of a narrow access stairway, located in the highest part of the quarry, and several niches from different eras, some small channels and some small basins that still contain some plaster. The most important find is perhaps the bottom of the well, in the central part of the cave. The ruins, which date between the 18th and 19th centuries, may be those of a cistern, a grain silo, a votive well or part of an unfinished work. It is difficult to tell. So, it seems that what “Well number 2” was used for will remain a mystery.
- Several archaeologists have suggested a variety of alternative hypotheses regarding the original use of these two caves, such as animal husbandry, a substantial incomplete cistern, a fulling mill, a habitation, a tannery and even a thermal bath.
- From December 23rd to the Sunday after Epiphany, this large cavern plays host to the final scene of the annual Nativity in the Well, a life size exhibition with animated characters, which are themed differently each year.
The Pozzo della Cava Archaeological Complex was included in the Global Network of Water Museums of the UNESCO-IHP program in 2023, as it houses finds that testify to the efforts for research, collection and conservation of water for a period of time over 25 centuries.
Even the last large cave of the Pozzo della Cava archaeological complex has several Etruscan emergencies linked to water and its continuous research. In fact, it is possible to admire the bottom of another cistern for the collection of infiltration water, never completed, and a part of a lowered arch tunnel, also Etruscan, equipped with the typical groove for the water to flow out.
The small tunnel, originally in communication with the basement of Palazzo Filippeschi, has the same structure and the same orientation as the one found at the bottom of the Pozzo della Cava.
As already mentioned in the dedicated section, the singularity of this small tunnel lies in the fact that this is the only case in which the collection channel descends along the tuff wall, instead of extending towards the center of a cistern, as occurs in all similar Etruscan structures.