Grotte di Frasassi: Italy's Most Spectacular Caves

Sun, 02/16/2014 - 03:00

One hour from Ancona, in the Marche region, is the town of Genga; with a population of less than 2,000 people, the Gengarini are literally standing on top of one of Europe’s most spectacular sights: Grotte di Frasassi.

You can easily imagine yourself to be in a Jules Verne novel as you travel through the Frasassi caves, Italy's largest and most famous complex cave system. Dating as far back as 180 million years ago and extending for 35 km, this subterranean world of calcareous rock formations first opened to the public in 1974, and visitor numbers have just passed the ten million mark; that’s an impressive average of 256,400 people each year.

Just over 13 Km of the caverns have been fully explored and of this 1.5km has been turned into a public gallery of vast proportions. The caves have an average humidity of 90% and a constant temperature of 14°C, making the tour quite pleasant as you are escorted along spacious pathways into the crystalline paradise complete with theatrical lighting to enhance your experience.

One attraction that never fails to attract gasps of wonderment is the breathtaking Grotta Grande del Vento, Europe's largest single cavern; in fact, so vast is this cave that it could easily accommodate the Duomo in Milan. During the tour, in which you can request an English, Italian, German or Spanish speaking guide, you will see remarkable formations of stalactites, dominating stalagmite columns and pools of clear, still water. You’ll visit attractions such as the Ancona Abyss, a 180m long and 200m high cavern that houses a chaotic jumble of natural towers, a crystallised lake and a pure white flow of calcite called Niagra.

During March to October there are six set tour times each day starting at 10.00 am with the last tour commencing at 5.00 pm and for €15.50 you get a 75-minute guided tour through a wonderland of natures’ masterpieces. (Concessions are available.) From Nov. to Feb. there are three daily tours at 11.00 am, 3.00 pm and 4.00 pm. For information and to enquire about disabled access, telephone +39 0732 97211.

Other nearby attractions include the 900-hectare national park, the Benedictine Abbey of San Vittore and the art museum at Genga castle and most definitely well worth seeing is the Temple of Valadier; a beautiful travertine-covered, octagonal church built in 1828 by Roman architect, Giuseppe Valadier.