The Onferno Caves and the Oriented Nature Reserve

Discover the Onferno Caves and the Oriented Nature Reserve: a UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Hidden amidst the hills of Romagna are the Onferno Caves and the Oriented Nature Reserve where you can enjoy a unique journey through nature and history.

This enchanting corner of the region is close to Gemmano, in the province of Rimini. It’s a must-see destination for anyone keen to explore the natural and cultural treasures of Emilia Romagna.

In this unspoilt environment you’ll find rare and unusual flora and fauna, and a karst landscape formed of chalky stone, gullies and ravines.

Besides the fascinating caves, there are plenty of opportunities here to explore nature—on foot, by bike or on horseback thanks to the many trails and paths.

And now there’s an extra reason to visit Onferno. The uniqueness and outstanding universal value of the Onferno Caves have led to official recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

  • Length
    24 hours
  • Interests
    Nature & Outdoor
  • Target
  • First stop - the Onferno Caves Gemmano

    The first stage of our itinerary is a visit to the Onferno Caves, a karst complex covering over 800 m that takes you deep into the earth to admire the crystalline chalky stone—and huge colonies of bats.

    Carved by the waters of a stream over the course of millennia, the caves cross a chalky cliff from side to side, which was once the site of the “Castrum Inferni”. Today, this small village with its enclosed courtyard offers a magnificent view of San Marino, the Conca Valley and Sassofeltrio.

    The mystical and intriguing atmosphere inside the caves is sure to capture your imagination. The descent down the forest steps is in itself an incredible experience made up of light and shadow, clearings and narrow passages, rivulets of water and a deep silence.

    Guided by expert speleologists, visitors can explore the sequence of enchanting halls and galleries, including the Sala Quarina - one of the biggest of its kind in Europe - with huge conical protuberances of chalk descending from the ceiling.

    In summertime, the Quarina is also a nursery for more than 6,000 bats, which is why this space is only open to visitors for a limited time during the winter; this is truly the domain of these flying mammals of which there are at least 6 different species in this cave.

    All tours are guided, and there are different things to see and discover, depending on the time of year. Comfortable clothing is recommended, and don’t forget a waterproof jacket even in summer—temperatures in the cave are around 12 degrees Celsius all year round.

  • Second stop - the Oriented Nature Reserve Gemmano

    As well as the caves, the surrounding area is also protected, within the Oriented Nature Reserve of Onferno

    This is also an SCI (Site of Community Importance) and is part of Europe’s Natura 2000 network designed to protect biodiversity.

    This natural treasure covers 274 hectares of the Conca Valley and is home to a wide variety of animal and plant species, some of which are endangered and protected. The area is particularly important for roe deer and porcupines, who have returned to populate parts of this landscape.

    Visitors can walk the trails surrounded by lush vegetation, as they try to spot many species of bird, butterfly and small mammal.

    The Visitor Centre and Nature Museum are housed in the old parish church of St Columbus, which was restored after heavy bombing in the Second World War.

    At the Centre, visitors can discover the unique characteristics of this nature reserve, especially the geological aspect, and see the exhibition of the birds, reptiles and mammals native to the area. There is also a space dedicated to archaeological discoveries which have been found here.

    Also recommended is the fascinating Multimedia Museum and Botanic Gardens, full of paths lined with wild herbs and ancient oak trees.

    Of the many itineraries through the Reserve, we recommend the “Grande Anello CAI 011”, a 3-hour trail that takes in the whole of the area.

    At the highest point, you can admire the panoramic Ripa della Morte (532 m above sea level), a sheer drop with views of the nearby ravines, and see the magnificent Mediterranean oak forests rich in native flora and fauna. 

Last update 04/12/2023

Information offices

UIT Gemmano
Provinciale Oferno, 107 - Gemmano (RN)
+ 39 0541 984694 Opening: seasonal

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