The Adriaticaves project financed by the European Union with funds from the INTERREG V-B Adriatic-Ionian Programme (ADRION) 2014-2020 ends tomorrow. 7 qualified partners of 6 nationalities took part to the project: the Majella National Park (Italy), lead partner, the Regional Council of Shkodra (Albania), the Cantonal Public Institution for Protected Natural Areas (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the Velebit Nature Park Public Institution (Croatia), the Authority for the Management of Parks and Biodiversity-Romagna (Italy), the TC Lipa cave ltd (Montenegro), and the City of Čačak (Serbia).

The project aim was to promote sustainable management practices for the enhancement and conservation of the natural and archaeological heritage of caves in the Adriatic area. The major outputs concerned the following 3 fields:

1) the creation of an international Adriaticaves brand for “minor” and sustainable speleological tourism to be used as an engine for the tourist development of the ADRION area;

2) the Charter of the Caves, an international agreement signed by cave operators, with a discipline aimed at guaranteeing sustainable tourism in the caves managed by them;

3) an international Action Plan, drawn up in compliance with the Habitat Directive (92/43 / EEC), to ensure the conservation of the habitat 8310 “Caves not open to the public” and at the same time to guarantee that tourist activities comply with European legislation, without neglecting to improve cave accessibility.

Thanks to the signing of the “Charter of the Caves”, 37 underground cavities of 7 countries (the 6 partner nations plus Slovenia) are illustrated in the international book (in 4 languages) entitled “The Book of Caves of the Adriatic and Ionian Areas” which reports the 17 caves of the project partners and another 20 managed by organizations that have signed this document, committing themselves to manage their caves according to the quality and sustainability standards adopted within the project.

A catalogue of proposals entitled “From Cave to Cave” allows you to organize your own journey among the hidden wonders of the underground world that are waiting to be discovered in the project partners’ caves. 19 are the “local” tourist packages but the catalogue also offers all the useful information needed to organize your own international tour among these caves. The project has in fact also trained the speleological guides of each partner to make high quality visits to project caves, making them more and more interesting. These speleoguides agreed with a document of commitments to ensure a high standard quality in accordance with the principles of sustainability of the project and in respect of the underground environment. Besides, a network of speleoguides aimed at circulating information and good practices has been created. The training of speleoguides was also finalized at the creation of new professional figures as a contribution to the improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the mountain areas, another purpose of the project.

Where necessary, various project caves have been subjected to careful scientific monitoring for the detection of chemical-physical parameters, and in one case geomicrobiological analysis have been carried out, in order to be able to control both the impact of tourism on the underground environment by establishing the maximum number and optimal frequency of visits in order to guarantee that both the safety of operators and visitors are sustainable with respect to the emissions of Radon, a harmful gas present in more or less high concentrations in caves.

All this was told in the final conference of the Adriaticaves project, on 12 March 2021, which registered the participation of 22 qualified speakers and was followed online in Italian and English with simultaneous translation by the guests of the 7 project partners as participants and by other members as listeners. The morning involved the greetings of the authorities and interventions of a more general nature on the managerial and scientific aspects of the project, as well as on the ADRION funding channel and on the other projects of the same cluster to which Adriaticaves belongs. In the afternoon interventions on sustainable tourism alternated to the reports from each Adriaticaves project partner who presented the activities they carried out during the project. For those who have not been able to follow the Conference, it is possible to watch the videos uploaded on the project website at the following link: