Grotta Grande del Vento

Grotte di Frasassi


Useful Information

The (Genga Gorge) with the cave entrance.
Sala dei Duecento (Hall of the Twohundred), at the end of Abysso Ancona.
Location: Leave Autostrada A14 at exit Ancona Nord, follow Superstrada (dual carriagway) towards Rome for 45km to exit Genga/Sassofarrato. 61km from Ancon, 50km from the Autostrada. Well signposted. (43°23'59.67"N, 12°57'38.24"E)
Open: All the year except 01-JAN, 12/4 and 12/24, Nov-Feb Mon-Fri at 11, 15. Sat 11, 12:30, 15, 16:30. Sun, Hol, 9:30, 11, 12:30, 15, 16:30, 18.
Mar-Sep daily at 9:30, 11, 12:30, 15, 16:30, 18.
Aug daily continuous tours 8-18:30, all 10 minutes. 20-JUL to 25-AUG late tours at 21 and 22:30
Fee: Adults EUR 10.50, Children (6-14), Military, Speleologists, members of CAI, Disabled, Seniors (65+), Students EUR 8.50.
Groups (20+, only after prenotation): Adults EUR 8.50
Cave Trekking tours: Blue Tour (easy) EUR 26, Red Tour (difficult) EUR 36.
V=350,000/a [2000]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: T=14°C, L=13,000m.
Guided tours: D=60min, L=1,500m. Lang=Italiano - Italian English Français - French Deutsch - German
Photography: no
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Grotte di Frasassi, Largo Leone XII°, I-60040 Genga, (Ancona), Tel: +39-0732-97211, Fax: +39-0732-972001.
Grotte di Frasassi, Consorzio Frasassi, I-60040 Genga, Ancona, Tel: +39-0732-973039 or 973001, Fax +39-0732-973397.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1971 discovered by the Speleological Society of the Marche C.A.I. from Ancona.
1974 opened to the public.

Description

Abisso Ancona (Ancona Abyss), named by the speleologists from Ancona, which entered the cave at the ceiling of this huge hall and first had to climb down in complete darkness.
Sala delle candeline, some pure white stalagmites in a concealed chamber.
Sala delle candeline (Hall of the Candles).
cave lakes in the last part of the tour, the Sala dell'infinito (Hall Without End).
a detail of the palm trunk stalagites.

The Grotta Grande del Vento, the Great Cave of the Wind, is the most beautiful show of Europe. Okay, this is just my opinion, but I am not the only one who thinks so, and by the way: I have seen a lot of show caves in Europe.

Sometimes the beauty is explained with its late discovery. There is no long history with centuries of visitors with burning torches and candles producing soot. But this is only part of the story. The cave is extremely big, the limestone very pure, the sinter grows fast and forms extraordinary speleothems of any kind. The special geology with sulfuric springs in the lower level gives the cave an additional boost, with solution by sulfuric acid and the formation of gypsum based minerals.

After the cave was discovered, it was rather immediately developed. This was done very careful and the lighting was set up by the well-known set designer Cesarini from Senigallia. A bit strange is the repeated use of blue light, which is rather unusual. Normally coloured light in caves is kitschy. But the extremely bright formations get a really bright shine with this blueish light.

The cave is often called Grotta di Frasassi but its name is actually Grotta Grande del Velto (Great Wind Cave). There is a story behind this, which is rarely told, but we find it funny and so we will reveal at least a part. Not far away, on the other side of the Italian peninsula lies Pisa. In the mountains behind Pisa, like Frasassi lies behind Ancona, is a cave which is known for a long time as Grotta del Vento (Wind Cave). It was discovered in the sixties and opened to the public in 1967. Its actually the second most impressive cave of Italy, but it was the most impressive cave at this time. And the cavers were quite fond, and probably a bit annoying telling about their great cave on congresses and meetings. So when this cave was discovered five years later in the neighbouring state by another caving club, they made a sort of statement by calling it also Wind Cave, but with an additional Great.

The name Wind Cave is both appropriate and unfortunate in both cases. Both are wind caves because they cover several hundred metres of altitude difference and have several entrances. The cave then acts like a chimney, in winter cold air is sucked in at the lower entrance because the warm cave air rises at the upper one. In summer, the heavy cold air flows out at the bottom and draws in warm air from above, which cools down in the cave. Nevertheless, the name is unfortunate, precisely because there are so many wind caves and the name is therefore not suitable as a proper name. It was prone to cause confusion. And finally the new cave became known as Frasassi Cave. Again quite unfortunate, as the long known cave on the opposite wall of the gorge is already called Frassasi. It has two churches in its entrance and was named after the older one, a church infra sassi (built into the stone), which later became frasassi. So now we have two wind caves and two frasassi caves. In hindsight it would have been much better to simply call the new cave Grotta di Genga, after the nearby village.

The visit to the cave starts at Genga Statione, about two kilometers from the cave entrance. Here is the "bigletteria" (ticket office) and the parking lot. When you paid for your ticket, you have to wait for the bus. Of course, if you prefer to walk, it is only two kilometers, about half an hour, and there is a well prepared path with modern art and sulfuric springs for the last kilometre, from San Vittorio to the cave entrance.

The artificial entrance tunnel brings the visitors into a huge chamber with big stalagmites in the middle, looking like dwarfs in this enormous void. This is Abisso Ancona (Ancona Abyss), named by the speleologists from Ancona. The natural entrance to the cave is much higher up the limestone cliff and the passage behind this entrance meets this hall close to the ceiling. The explorers had to abseil an 80m drop into the vast, dark chamber, where normal caving light was not able to even show a glimpse of the wall. So after leaving the shaft of the first few meters, they were hanging in the darkness, right in the middle of nowhere. The first of the group had no way to see the floor, until he hit it. And of course, after each expedition, they had to climb up the rope again. So, from their view, this definitely was an abyss. Today's visitor would say it is a huge hall, as he enters it at the bottom.

The stalagmites in Abisso Ancona are typical Speleothempalm trunk stalagmites. The water falling from the high ceiling has a high energy, which results in this different shape of the stalagmites, looking like palm trunks.

After leaving the Ancona Abyss, the visitor enters a main passage of the cave with enormous amounts of speleothems. In the Sala delle candeline, a number of rather small, slim and pure white stalagmites stands in a calm cave lake. At the bottom, the formations are covered with Speleothemdogtooth spar, calcite crystals that grew in thousands of years under water in a clear, absolutely undisturbed cave lake. The upper boundary of the crystals is absolutely horizontal, as it marks the water level of this ancient lake. The crystals grow only under water, so all growth stops immediately at the surface of the water.

Some of those pure lakes still exist, and the calcite crystals are still growing. Others are mostly dry, but horizontal layers of crystals mark the original water level. And what looks like a plain floor, is only a thin crust of calcite, so fragile it would break in, if touched by a human foot.