Underground wonders

Genga, Frasassi Caves and Gola della Rossa natural park

The Gola della Rossa and Frasassi Regional Natural Park represents a territory of significant naturalistic interest, as it’s the largest protected area in the Marche Region, located between the cities of Genga, Fabriano, Serra San Quirico, Arcevia, and Cerreto d'Esi. The Park is known for its astonishing karst phenomena, which have given rise to a system of underground complexes that are of worldwide importance and interest. Among the most beautiful calcareous gorges in the Marche region, there’s undoubtedly the Frasassi Gorge, containing the famous and homonymous caves. As a matter of fact, the Frasassi caves are underground karst caves that constitute one of the most attractive natural beauties in the Marche hinterland. Considered the largest underground complex in Europe, they are characterized by a set of underground routes (approximately 30 km long), divided into 8 different geological levels. Known for their stalactites and stalagmites and centuries-old calcareous concentrations of the most diverse shapes, the Frasassi Caves are a popular destination for all speleology lovers and nature enthusiasts.

Nestled in the open space near the tortuous road crossed by the Frasassi Gorge, lies the district of S. Vittore alle Chiuse. Here, on the right side of the thermal baths complex, stands the Romanesque church of San Vittore alle Chiuse. This building was realized as a Benedictine convent church for a monastic complex existing since 1007; the church has a structure made up of blocks of white and pink stone, with a Greek cross plan inscribed in a central square, from which a dome with an octagonal base extends.

On the left side of the Frasassi Gorge there’s a wide arch, inside of which is located the Eremo di Santa Maria Infra Saxa, mentioned since 1029 in the documents of the monastery of San Vittore. This hermitage was once associated with a monastery of Benedictine nuns located on the nearby Monte Ginguno, whose traces have been lost. Born as an oratory, the building is characterized by simple stone architecture, and its interior is partly dug into the live rock. In the hermitage was venerated a wooden image of the Madonna, whose origins are uncertain and that was subjected to numerous theft attempts. Accidentally burned down in the 1940s, it was then replaced by the current stone one. Located on a hill with steep slopes, Genga still maintains intact its medieval urban dimension, enhanced by architectural restoration interventions that took place recently. Among the beauties of Genga there’s obviously the Tempio di Valadier, an octagonal structure in white blocks of travertine built in 1828 by Genga's Pope Leo XII, based on a project made by the famous architect Giuseppe Valadier. The peculiarity of the church is the domed roof covered with lead sheets, and the fact that it’s almost snap-fitted in the cave. Inside the small temple there was once a marble statue of the Madonna and Child, made from the workshop of Antonio Canova, which today is exhibited at the Museum of Sacred Art of Genga.

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