Adventure Le Marche: Le Grotte di FrasassiJonathan Zeiger
This article brought to by Centanni Wines.
Some of the most awe-inspiring scenes that we get to witness are those from within the Earth. Caves are a special type of place that draw wonder in creative minds, and stoke adventure in the hearts of explorers. Today we’re off to such a place in The Marvelous Marche. Take a walk with me through Le Grotte di Frasassi.
Have you ever been inside a massive cavern? One so big you can’t see the ceiling? It’ll make your jaw DROP. That’s exactly what happened to me the first time I saw the caves. I couldn’t help but stare up in bewilderment, mouth agape at what I was (or wasn’t) seeing. As your gaze peers upward, the walls of the great cavern disappear into the black abyss. The Abyss Ancona, as the room is called, is large enough to fit the Taj Mahal.
Let that sink in for a moment.
The Abyss was discovered in September 1971, when a young speleologo named Rolando Silvestri, of the Gruppo Speleologico Marchigiano Club Alpino Italiano di Ancona, found a small entrance
on the northern slope of the Monte Valmontagnana. This small entrance led to a small room, where they felt strong drafts coming from holes in the walls. They knew there was more to be uncovered. Looking up at the surrounding mountains from the cave entrance
After a few days of excavating, Rolando and his friends slipped through a narrow opening to come to the edge of darkness, a vast empty space. They through a rock into the void, and quickly became aware of the width and depth of the area before them- nearly 600 feet long, 400 feet wide and 650 feet high. The spelunkers soon returned with proper equipment and began their descent. This “Big Cave of Wind” was the first relevant discovery for excavators, and it made news quickly. From the Abyss Ancona, they were able to find a labyrinth of interconnecting tunnels and rooms that span over 8 miles!
Don’t worry, your tour doesn’t go that far (though I’m sure given the chance some of you would be down to cruise through that whole thing). In total, the tour of the caves takes about 1 hour, where you’ll get to see all sorts of wonders.
As your gawking moves about the ginormous room, to your right you’ll see the Crystallized Lake in Paradise Corner. Here you’ll see the vast “lake” that transformed from a body of water into a bed of calcium carbonate crystals. On the lake bed are such formations as the “Devil with Candle”. Along the walls begin the “bacon strips”, which you’ll find throughout the tour.
From there, as you walk along the path, you come to a group known as The Giants, huge stalagmites (that’s with a G =ground, stalaCtites, C =ceiling) with 6-15 foot diameters and growing as high as 60 feet! Get ready to put on a smile, here you’ll have the chance for a photo with the Giants that can be purchased at the end of the tour (personal photography is not permitted, so be sure to soak in those views).
Next up are the Niagara Cascades, a grand spectacle of white crystals that look as you might imagine. The path continues through the 200 Hall (named for it’s length of 200 meters), where you’ll get to see Witch Castle and Barbara Hall before coming to the Obelisk.
The path takes you even deeper, coming through the Sala Infinito to view the Gran Canyon, the Canne D’Organo and the Sala Candeline.
How Do I Get There? What’s Around Le Grotte? I thought you’d never ask. Le Grotte are located at the mountain village of Genga. You can get there by driving out to the mountains from Ancona on highway SS76 towards Roma. The drive takes about 40 minutes, and you get beautiful scenery the whole way (who am I kidding, you get beautiful scenery in the entire region). When you do get to Genga, you can take in the sights of the ancient castle village. The village and Le Grotte are within the Gola della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Park. Outdoor adventurers can explore the majestic mountain paths in over 22,000 acres! Nearby is also the Abbey of San Vittore.
If you are seeking a place to eat, don’t bother buying from the tourist traps in the Grotte parking lot. The place you’ll want to eat is La Cantina. They specialize in beef dishes that Chef Mattia Gabbianelli cooks up to perfection.
It’s an adventure well worth the trip. When my sister and I were on an excursion through Le Marche last fall, we had to make the drive. It had been on my list after exploring in Arizona and randomly learning that Frasassi is a Sister Cave to Kartchner Caverns (another awesome cave system south of Tucson you should definitely check out)!