Speleopolis: the city of magic and a special Halloween

CAVES presentation at Casola 2013 Underground. Credits: Cervelliln Azione

CAVES presentation at Casola 2013 Underground. Credits: Cervelliln Azione

This year the ESA CAVES team was invited to celebrate a magical Halloween at the Casola 2013 Underground event.

Each year, on the days that we celebrate all saints and the dead (not Halloween really, as Halloween is not a very Italian tradition), Italian speleologists meet to celebrate those who live underground and the underground world: darkness, friendship, exploration, endurance and discovery.

This year the International Meeting of Speleologists (which is held mainly in Italian, but with many speleologists from around the world) was held in Casola Valsenio, a small town of 2000 inhabitants in the beautiful hills of Emilia Romagna. Casola was literally but peacefully invaded by a happy crowd of 2500 speleologists.

Registration office. Credits: Cervelli In Azianoe

Registration office. Credits: Cervelli In Azianoe

The event involved a few days of presentations, round tables, videos and 3D projections, exhibitions, guided tours, school labs, book presentations, cultural events, music and poetry… you name it.

In the midst of it all ESA CAVES gave a presentation which was made unforgettable by the announcement of the birth of Paolo Nespoli’s son. Later during speleonight a videoconference was organised with Paolo himself and NASA astronauts Jack Fisher and Mike Barratt.

It’s hard to describe the magic of Casola, a city that has officially been named Speleolopolis, and which for a few days has two mayors: Nicola Iseppi, mayor of Casola Valsenio and Biagio, mayor of Speleopolis.

Directions to everywhere in Speleopolis. Credits: Cervelli In Azione

Directions to everywhere in Speleopolis. Credits: Cervelli In Azione

Considering that ESA CAVES is about effective and safe teamwork, I can only applaud the organising team, led by Stefano Olivucci, for being on top of everything and having the spirit, professionalism and flexibility to handle surprises that came along and gracefully inject them into the programme.

It has been a pleasure to entertain kids with astronaut tales, to teach them about space oddities and the analogies of exploring underground and to listen to the stories of true explorers, their struggles and their achievements.

Thank you Casola, you kept your word, and made the myth come true!

Loredana Bessone

P.S. I would like to add a short text sent from Max, an organiser of many key events at Casola. It is in Italian but translating Max’s texts are an impossible feat. In any case, you probably needed to be there to get the spirit of his words. Enjoy!

CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen tweeted this spooky picture of CAVES 2013. Credits: ESA-V. Crobu

CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen tweeted this spooky picture of CAVES 2013. Credits: ESA-V. Crobu

In un luogo definito Speleopolis tutto può accadere. Eppure, sentire chiedere a una classe di bambini “chi è stato nello spazio?” va certamente oltre. E va oltre anche l’essere rimproverati perché “il Teatro Senio e’ troppo piccolo per gli astronauti”…
Tutta Casola 2013 Underground è andata oltre. Gli astronauti che si allenano in grotta, le ghiacciaie che diventano location per mostrare stupende immagini d’aragonite, Diemberger che è l’unico vivente con due ottomila per primo. La narrativa per ragazzi e gli spot per la speleologia che si fanno contest con decine di autori e opere, le grotte turisticizzate, le anticipazioni del 2015. Si potevano percorrere pochi metri e attraversare orizzonti esplorativi, andare dall’ipogeo alle vette. Ascoltare parole e musica su Pollok, andare alla presentazione di un nuovo testo di Natalino Russo, fermarsi a ballare, Speleonotte o Speleobar. Presentazioni tante. Mostre tante e tante le associazioni. Materiali e discussioni sui materiali. 4000 tra speleologi e abitanti di Casola Valsenio. Un murale davanti al bagno pubblico del Parco Pertini. Viaggi nella Terra, sulla Terra e verso lo Spazio. Sogni e incontri. Grazie a ESA CAVES per essere stata presente nella Speleopolis emersa per alcuni giorni e pronta a rimanere nei ricordi.
Massimo (max) Goldoni

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