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Le Grotte di Frasassi.  Spectacular subterranean caves in the heart of the Marche 

Thursday, 27 January 2022 10:00

The Grotte di Frasassi are enormous subterranean caves, and a popular destination in the Marche for tourists and scientists. The complex of these grottos is formed by a series of caves connected by tunnels.

To give an idea of the majesty of the site the main entrance, the Ancona Abyss, could easily contain Milan’s Cathedral with its volume of over two million cubic metres.

The caves opened to the public in 1974

The Frasassi caves were discovered in 1971 by a speleological group of the Italian Alpine Club who, during an ascent, felt a strong wind coming from small openings in the ground. Thanks to this amazing discovery the caves became a tourist site, were opened to the public in 1974, and since then they have gone one to become one of the region’s biggest attractions.

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Stalagmites and stalactites

Inside these karst caves visitors can admire astounding natural sculptures carved over 190 million years by water and rock. These are the world-renowned stalactites and stalagmites - the former descending from the cave ceiling while the stalagmites reach up from below.

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Rock formations with curious names

Very often these works are not just simple columns, but much more elaborate sculptures, and the speleologists who discovered them have given them curious names. The most famous stalactites and stalagmites are known as the Giants, the Camel, the Dromedary, the Bear, the Madonnina and the Sword of Damocles.

Underground lakes and endemic plant species

The caves also have lakes in which the ripping water stagnates, as well as wells which are cylindrical cavities up to 25 metres deep that collect water or carry it to lower karst floors. Down the years some 67 different species have been recorded in the caves, some of which are endemic to this underground ecosystem.

A subterranean octagonal church 

Nature has outdone itself in creating this breath-taking spectacle, but man has also made his contribution to making the area even more wondrous. In 1828 they built the Temple of Valadier, an octagonal church constructed in travertine marble with a domed roof covered with lead plates. Inside you can admire a replica of the statue of the Madonna and Child, to whom the temple is dedicated. But the Temple of Valadier is not the only human work inside the caves, as there is also the Hermitage of Santa Maria Infra Saxa which, according to historical documents, dates back as early as 1029.

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