In the small village of Jenga, not far from the magnificent Tempio del Valadier, there is another place of rare beauty, the greatness of which can truly leave you speechless. We are talking about the Frasassi Caves, a remarkable system of underground karst caves formed more than a million years ago as a result of the flow of the Sentino River. We are located in the Gola Della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Nature Park, surrounded by nature that deserves to be explored in every corner.
The Frasassi Caves stretch for more than 20 kilometers of narrow tunnels and large caves, which today, thanks to the great work of speleologists and architects, can be visited even in a very small part. In this article, we will give you all the information you need to organize your visit to the Frasassi Caves in the best possible way. You will find information about their history and how to get there and what to see. If you want to visit them almost in solitude, we advise you not to visit them at the height of the season and on weekends.
Visiting the Frasassi caves: all useful information
The discovery of the Frasassi caves dates back to September 25, 1971, when the Grande del Vento grotto was first discovered. However, the first major discovery in this area occurred on June 28, 1948, when a group of cavers led by Mario Marchetti discovered the Grotto del Fiume. In the following years, the grotto groups of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) Ezi and Fabriano conducted many other studies and discoveries, until, in 1966, another branch more than 1 km long was discovered inside the grotto del Fiume.
A little history!
The year of the greatest discoveries, however, came only 5 years later, in July 1971, when a group of young people from Yezi found themselves in front of a small hole from which a significant airflow was coming out. It took about a month to widen the passage, later named Strettoia del Tarlo, which was first crossed on August 1, 1971. More than 5 kilometers of new cavities, tunnels, mines, and large tunnels were opened to young people.
Soon, on September 25, 1971, an important discovery took place. That day, caver Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance while crossing the northern slopes of Monte Vallemontagnana. With the help of friends, he managed to widen the passage and enter a small room. After initially being disappointed in this small discovery, they found many holes from which streams of air were coming out. Thus, they began to dig the ground for several days, until they managed to enter a narrow passage and slip to the edge of a huge void. They threw a stone into the void to try to understand its depth, and by measuring the time of the fall, they estimated a height of more than 120 meters. However, at that moment they had to arm themselves with the appropriate equipment to be able to penetrate the well and reach its bottom. A few days later they managed to descend into a huge cave.
News of the discovery spread through the press, glorifying the Frazassi caves. In the following years, various studies of the Jesi speleological group and the Ancona group were investigated, respectively, in the Grotto del Fiume and the Grotto Grande del Vento. Speleologists were sure that the two caves communicated with each other, and the purpose of their research was precisely to find a connection. On December 8, some cavers from CAI Fabriano succeeded, who named the passage Condotta del Fabrianesi. Since that day, the two caves have turned into one huge labyrinth of underground cavities with a length of more than 13 kilometers.
By the end of 1972, the Frasassi Consortium was born to protect and improve the territory and farms. They built an artificial tunnel with a length of more than 200 meters, built with respect for the environment and without the destruction of concretions, which today leads to the entrance to the Grande del Vento grotto. Inside, they have paved a path about 600/700 meters long that runs between different environments. Thus, the minimum conditions were met to allow tourists to visit the cave, which officially opened to the public on September 1, 1974.
Visiting the Frasassi Caves
The visit begins with the passage of the entrance turnstiles, which will lead you to the beginning of the artificial tunnel. After passing through the tunnel, where the guide will tell you the history of the formation of caves, you will find yourself in the Abyss of Ancona, the first part of the cave discovered by cavers. This huge cavity, one of the largest in Europe and the world, has a length of 180 meters, a width of 120 meters, and a height of 200 meters, and can easily accommodate the Milan Cathedral. Walking among thousands of stalactites and stalagmites, you will also notice a huge landslide, the result of movements and collapses that have occurred for thousands of years and gave rise to the abyss.
The route continues past a Slice of Pancetta, a curious white-pink wavy stalactite resembling a piece of pancetta. In the lower right corner is the Angolo del Paradiso, a small crystallized lake after saturation of the water basin with calcium bicarbonate. Next to the lake is Fairy Castle, named after stalagmites resembling spires and peaks.
Curious: inside the karst caves you can admire the curious natural sculptures formed over millions of years thanks to the work of water and stone. Water transfers carbon dioxide into limestone rocks, starting a chemical process that results in the formation of calcium bicarbonate. During the excavations, which lasted several millennia, small amounts of calcium carbonate pass from one side to the other, forming several curious natural formations. These are stalagmites, columns that develop from the bottom up, and stalactites that develop from the top down.
In the center of the room are the Giants, an impressive group of thousand-year-old stalagmites, considered the most important of the caves. They have a diameter of 2 to 5 meters and a height of 1.5 to 20 meters. From here, if you look at the dome of the hall, you will see a small natural hole through which the first cavers descended in 1971.
At the end of the hall is Niagara Falls, a huge white stream of pure calcite. Here the Ancona Abyss ends with a noticeable lowering of the ceiling. From here you will get to Room 200, the name of which is given because of its length of about 200 meters. The first bizarre formation you will encounter is the Castello Delle Streghe (or Castello Rosso), whose formations tend to be reddish. One of them, formed on a rock that fell out of the vault, consists of many stalagmites similar to spires. One of these stalagmites, growing up, reached the stalactite, connecting and forming a column. With a little imagination and with the help of a flashlight, the guide will show you how the formation resembles the profile of a witch.
Continuing the way, you will reach the Sword of Damocles, the largest stalactite with a height of 7.40 meters and a diameter of 150 centimeters, located on the vault and barely visible. In front of you, in the center of the room, there is an Obelisk, a stalagmite 15 meters high, formed on a rock that fell out of the vault. After the obelisk in the lower left corner, there is a well leading to Barbara’s Room.
Then you enter the Grand Canyon Hall, the name of which comes from the fact that you cross several cracks, at the bottom of which there are completely flooded cavities. These cavities reach the water table, which is at the same level as the Sentino River, which flows outside the caves. There are two wonderful and very special formations in this room. The first are organ pipes, concretions with lamellar concretions that resemble an organ and owe their name to the fact that when struck from the outside they emit different sounds.
The second one is the Sala Delle Candeline, located on the edge of a pond, which got its name from a lot of small cylindrical stalagmites. These stalagmites are surrounded by a stone ring, and together they resemble candles placed on a saucer.
The next room you will meet is the Sala dell’ORSA, which got its name from a boulder that, thanks to thousands of years of water erosion, took the indeterminate shape of a bear. Inside the room, there are many wells, at the foot of which you can see small lakes of intense blue color and vertical pipes through which sulfurous waters rose.
The last room you visit during the tourist route is the Sala del infinito, so named because it has an irregular round shape, and during the first research the cavers lost their orientation. They found themselves circling the hall several times before finding the exit as if they were walking on an endless road.
A visit to the Frasassi caves is accompanied by a guide, passes along an equipped trail with a length of 1500 meters, and lasts about 75 minutes. The temperature inside the caves is constant at 14 C, but if you are cold, we recommend taking warm clothes with you. Sneakers are also needed, as the path is slippery at times.
If you want to take part in a speleological visit, you need to bring a tracksuit, terry socks, rubber gloves, a change of underwear, everything you need for a shower and a hairdryer.
Small dogs can be taken with you for free, exclusively in a carrier/bag or on your hands. Free boxes for large dogs are available at the ticket office parking lot, which you can use if you have a ticket.
Inside the caves it is strictly forbidden to smoke and touch, break, or steal pieces of limestone concretions. Unfortunately, for hundreds of years, there have been cases of theft and damage to stalactites and stalagmites. We remind you that these losses are irreparable.
How to get to the Frasassi Caves
The Frasassi Caves can be easily reached both by car and by public transport. If you are traveling by plane, the nearest airport is Ancona – Falconara Airport “Raffaello Sanzio”.
If you are traveling by car, you should follow the A14 motorway (Bologna Centrale) to the Ancona Nord exit. Then you need to turn onto the SS76 Ancona – Roma highway and exit Genga about 25 minutes by car from the motorway exit.
If you travel by train, you need to get to Ancora first, and then by the Ancona – Rome railway to the Stazione Genga – San Vittorio Terme stop. You can also reach the Frazassi Caves by bus with a regular service (Autolinee Senesi), which connects them to major cities in the area, such as Ascoli Piceno, San Benedetto del Tronto, Porto San Giorgio, Porto Sant’Elpidio, Civitanova Marche and Porto Recanati.
Where to park
The main and largest parking lot of the Frasassi Caves is located at the Localit La Cuna – Genga station, Italy. Here you will also find ticket offices for visiting caves and camping places. From this parking lot, you can reach the caves on foot, walking about 1.3 km, or you can use a free shuttle that will take you to the entrance of the caves.
The nearest car park is the San Vittore car park, located at the entrance to the village of San Vittore Delle Chiuse, a short walk from the caves. We advise you to come early in the morning to find a place, as it is small and often very crowded. In this case, you will have to buy a ticket online or go to the La Cuna ticket office first.
What to see in the vicinity of the Frasassi Caves
There are so many places worth visiting in the Marche, but if you only have one day, we recommend that you limit yourself to visiting the Frasassi Caves and two other wonderful places in the vicinity. We are talking about the impressive Tempio del Valadier and the village of Jenga, the historical center of which is a small pearl.
Tempio del Valadier
Tempio del Valadier is a small octagonal church in neoclassical style, located inside a cave. The landscapes in which she is immersed are truly beautiful. That it is only necessary to go up to the temple. The route is easy, although uphill, its length is only 700 meters. Put on comfortable shoes, take water and sunscreen with you, and hit the road to this little pearl.
Abbey of San Vittore and Jenga
Don’t miss a visit to the magnificent Abbey of San Vittore, built in the Frasassi Gorge between the 10th and 11th centuries. Inside the former monastery the abbey is the Paleontological and Archaeological Museum of Speleo, the entrance to which is included in the ticket to the Frazassi caves.
Then take a walk through the beautiful historical center of Jenga and its medieval castle surrounded by mountains. Immerse yourself in its alleys and visit the Museum of Sacred Art, which houses many finds from the area, from the prehistoric Venus Frasassi to the Madonna and Child from the workshop of Canova from Tempio del Valadier. Entrance is included in the ticket to the cave.
Sassoferrato and Sentinum
If you still have time, make a stop also in Sassoferrato, about 14 kilometers from the caves, and visit its historical center, full of museums and churches. Also take part in a guided tour of the nearby archaeological site of Sentinum, an ancient Roman city. Here, in 295 BC, the famous Battle of the Nations took place, and then the fight between Marcus Antonius and Octavian.