The Zinzulusa Grotto is probably the most well-known grotto located in the Castro area, on the road between Otranto and Santa Maria di Leuca, one of the top 10 most beautiful roads in Italy, on the south-eastern side of the Salento peninsula.
Reached via a dramatic opening on a limestone cliff, towering above the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea, the Grotto Zinzulusa is one of the largest karst phenomena of the Salento peninsula. Karst is primarily a landscape with specific landforms and features which have developed in the carbonate rocks. The cave entrance is located just north-east of the small town of Castro.
The numerous stalactites and stalagmites found inside this cave reminded the local population of what they refer to as “zinzuli” – old threadbare clothes – hence the name of Zinzulusa. Beyond the entrance lies a karstic tunnel, more than 100m long, gradually narrowing until it reaches the Duomo, the final hall of the above-ground stretch which is open to tourists. From this point on a drop in the level leads to the underwater part of the cave, the Cocito. Unique living fossils were found here, as well as large stalagmites.
Although the cave was discovered in 1793, it was only opened to the public in 1957. On average, it is visited by more than 100,000 visitors a year.
Other grottos in the area include Grotta Azzurra (accessible only from the sea), Grotta Palombara and Grotta Romanelli. The grottos are often included in local boat excursions.