The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns.
Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.
In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, three members of a local speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Grotte del Fiume (Cave of the River). Then in 1966 a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long beside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a major new discovery took place. A group of young men found a narrow opening from the River Cave to the hillside above where a strong air flow came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. The group worked for about one month to widen the narrow entrance and in the following August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path).
There the young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.
The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a wider passage from the small opening. He eventually was successful; after the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem then however, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the Abyss Ancona and the Cave of the River, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.
The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.
The Caves can be visited only by guided tour. Visitors arrive at the Frasassi Caves Ticket office and Parking area which is located about one km from the entrance of the caves. Timed tickets are bought for the guided tours. Also at the Ticket Office, the adventure tours can be reserved.
Every 10 minutes a group of about 50 people, together with a professional guide, will enter into the caves. Visitors are taken to the caves entrance by bus as there is no parking available at the roadside where the caves entrance is located. The bus journey is approximately 5 minutes long. To get in, you will walk through an artificial tunnel of about 200 meters, crossing several watertight doors, that allow to maintain a constant internal temperature (which is of 14°, so it is also essential to wear a sweater even in summer).
Guided tours are available in Italian year round (except Christmas Day) but in the summer months tours are also done in English, German and French. But on any tour, you can ask for the audio guide in your own language which is provided free, and you still go along with the Italian Group Guide.
The time of the visit is printed on the ticket. In summer there is sometimes a wait for your group, but there are shops and coffe and drinks outlets at the Ticket Office.
There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes.
A walk of about 1 hour and 15 minutes accessibile to everybody at a temperature of 14 degrees constant all the year round. We recommend to use comfortable shoes and a sweatshirt during the summer months.
The second option is called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.
The Blue Route is suitable to everyone because there are not many difficulties to face and it represents the first step to enter in the speleological world. The visit includes brief climbings, drifts, narrow passages and slides. It is important to pay attention to the disconnected and sometimes slippery ground. The alternative itinerary begins from the "neverending hall", the last hall of the classical touristic visit, and goes on with the narrow passage of "Tap" to join "the four sisters hall". A long tunnel leads to the "Finland hall".
"Ready to get dirty!! The next obstacle to overcome is a long drift where mud is the king!! Dirty but happy we arrive in the "Camping out hall". Just a little bit of rest, two souvenir photos and ready again to go on. Every kind of techniqueo is accepted to cross this passage: the most common technique is the so called "of backside". Now we are in the hall of Gentile da Fabriano and at the wells of Lucia where there is a beautiful detail: Leopard skins. We are already at the end of our itinerary. Now, going by another way, that you will discover as soon as you will come to visit us, we start the return itinerary.
The second adventure itinerary is the Red Route and is more difficult than the first one. To take part you should be an experienced caver and love adventure. This itinerary begins from the Neverend Hall. After the first few meters barring the way there is a chasm 30 m deep called "Falconara well". You will cross it with safety-catchs on (through a climber’s rope), passing on the left and preferably not looking down, the first obstacle has been overcome!! Now we are at "low drift".
Look out for your head as the ceiling is very low here. There are 30 metres to negotiate on hands and knees and then after clambering up and down over rocks there is another obstacle to cross: to climb up 10m along a slippery tunnel called "splits slope". Always with safety-catch on and helped by the guides we are ready to climb and sweat. Passing through a long passage we reach to the halls of “stage”, of “molar tooth” and of "the elephant". Do you like narrow passages? Well, here you will meet one. After thirty metres of narrow passage called Catacombs we are at the end of our tour.
The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time.
The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.
Your holiday in Marche starts here...
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Frasassi Caves Site
How to get to the Frasassi Caves from the Cantinone
Getting there: easiest by car, take the SS76 highway in the direction of Roma. After 12kms, exit at Genga (15 minutes by car from the Cantinone). Also accessable by train you need to get off the train at Genga – San Vittore Terme station and the station is alongside the caves Ticket Office. GPS coordinates: N 43 ° 24,243 E 12 ° 58,554
Opening Hours and Ticket Prices
Opening times: the Frasassi Caves are open daily, except from 10th to 31st January. From 1st March to 31st October, they are open from 10am to 5pm. From 1st November to 28th February, they are open from 11:30am to 3.30 om on weekdays and from 10am to 5pm on Sundays and bank holidays.
Grotte di Frasassi
60040 Genga – Ancona (Marche)
Tel 0732 90090 / 0732 90080
Free Toll Number (only if you are in Italy) 800 166 250
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