Friday, November 6, 2009

Europe’s Finest Cave? (Frasassi Cave, Italy)


Only thirty years ago, two kilometres south of Venice (and a hundred kilometres south of the mosaic travel wonder of Ravenna), Italian cavers stumbled across an extraordinary wonder of the world. Considered by many to be Europe’s finest show cave (though Skocjan Cave in Slovenia is stunning), shining their torches into the first huge cavern must have taken their breath away.

The cavers named the massive cave hall the Ancona Abyss after their nearby home city and from the seemingly endless pitch black hole that they bravely abseiled a descent of two hundred metres. Today an artificial tunnel enters the huge cavern at ground level. Having grown over millennia from dripping water, the huge stalagmites that jut twenty metres into the air are dwarfed by the room able to hold most of the world’s cathedrals.

This room contains unusual formations called palm trunk stalagmites formed from the water dripping from such a height that the drip splashes vigorously creating a roughened exterior like that of a palm tree.

Through the five rooms on the tour, the cave regular uses soft blue lights to complement the standard lighting to highlight the incredible purity of the formations. While coloured lighting in caves is often gaudy and kitsch, the tasteful lighting in Frasassi highlight a number of delicate formations and doesn't detract from the experience.

The tour is littered with the typically imaginative names for formations including Niagara (last photo), Fairy Castle (right) and Organ Pipes that highlight the finest and most unusual of a treasure trove of cave decorations.

A carpet of calcite crystals lies perfectly flat marking thousands of years of growth in an undisturbed lake, the surface marking the height of the lake. The lake level has since dropped leaving a crystalline floor, delicately thin and sparkling as only nature could create.

The third room includes numerous small stalagmites reflected perfectly into a crystalline lake and is appropriately name the Hall of Candles (top photo). The backdrop of this lake are narrow column, albino white in the colour of pure limestone and untainted and with no discolouring by any mineral element. Most traditional cave formations have hints of brown from iron, green from copper and various other shadings from other mineral impurities picked up as the water flows through the soils inside or surrounding the caves.

An hour later, the final cavern, the Neverending Hall, contains a circular path that loops back onto the main path. Visitors peer deep into the Earth trying to view more remarkable formations as the cave fades to an inky blackness, the last vestiges of lighting soaking into the walls.

The late discovery of Frasassi Cave has aided its beauty with early lanterns and candles not tarnishing the glistening limestone and early visitors not sampling the delicate formations. Over a million years with small deposits of limestone from every drip and trickle of water has created a treasured wonderland of formations, reflections and decorations on an unimagined scale.

Other Cave Posts
Caverns, Crooks and Castles (Slovenia)
Underground Fantasy (Skocjan Caves, Slovenia)
Crystal Wonderland (Western Australia)
Waterfall Hidden in a Mountain (Switzerland)

Source: Photos

20 comments:

Cecil Lee said...

Wow, you have been to so many caves around the world! You must be a cave lover! I've never been to any one of them, the only cave I've been to is our Batu Cave in Malaysia... :(

eunice said...

I also wanted to say "WOW!"
I've been to a few caves before, mostly are small ones in Malaysia. My favourite is still Werfen ice caves in Austria. :)

Mark H said...

@cecil: I adore limestone caves (and also waterfalls) and seek them out when travelling. i have probably been to over 100 show caves around the world, not including Batu Caves.

@eunice: Werfen is superb and I plan to write that up one day. Most unusual but does not equal the remarkable formations of Frasassi (or Skocjan) in Europe.

BarbaraW said...

I love caves and no two are alike. Wish I had known about this one when I was in Italy, but your photos make me feel like I had seen it in person.

vacation deals said...

wow!!!!!!!!!!!!
stalagmites and stalactites...
they are wonderful..
nice to look at and to personally see it...
love the shots...

Nisha said...

This is very nice. I have been to some caves in Australia and in India but never knew about it.

Donna Hull said...

This cave reminds me of Kartchner Cavern in Arizona which was discovered in the 1970's but kept a secret for many years because it is a "live" cave. Now it can be toured but under vigorous circumstances. Is this
Frasasi Cave still alive? In any event, your photos of it are beautiful.

Mark H said...

@barbara: I adore caves as well. Their mystery, their differences, their stunning works of nature

@vacation deals: Thank you

@donna hull: Frasassi is very active. I think they have left a lot of it inaccessible to the standard visitor but it is one of the most stunning I've seen, so I ma glad that they have opened some of it up to the public.

car hire rio de janeiro said...

Thats nice one! I've been to a few caves before, mostly are small ones in MalaWerfen is superb and I plan to write that up one day. Most unusual but does not equal the remarkable formations of Frasassi (or Skocjan) in Europe.ysia.

cheap flights said...

Very nice article, the photos are very good, your cave search will not comes to an end Regards cheap flights

Rancho Santa Fe Homes said...

There are so many wonder's in this world. Cave's are one of the best places which attract tourists. I have never been to Frasassi cave in Italy.
Rancho Santa Fe Homes

Italy SIM Card said...

This is nice information. When i was there people feel happy like to share about local places. Post office was one of them. Really this is nice one if you are going to Rome and want to collect post stamps.

Mark H said...

@car hire rio: Stunning cave - one of the best I've seen

@cheap flights: I'm always on the lookout for more caves

Mark H said...

@rancho santa fe: Caves are a highlight though they are often awkward to get to.

@italy sim: Thank you

Anonymous said...

I am doing research for my university thesis, thanks for your great points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

- Kris

Mark H said...

@anonymous/Kris: Glad I could help. I hope you get to see this magnificent cave one day.

Anonymous said...

found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

Anonymous said...

Superb blog post, I have book marked this internet site so ideally I’ll see much more on this subject in the foreseeable future!

Anonymous said...

found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

Car Hire Baltimore said...

For me being Irish it has to be Doolin Cave with massive overhanging Stalactites, but me I like all caves

 
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