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Maria really doesn't like caves so it took some arm twisting to get her to visit. Eventually I convinced her that a few days at the wonderful Raffaello Residence (click here for more) would do her the world of good. The Raffaello Residence is a haven of tranquility surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of rolling hills and enchanting villages. It's a place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and embrace the timeless beauty and serenity.
Even if we didn't go into the caves, the countryside around here is so beautiful that it is worth coming just for that. That's the way I explained it, and it clinched the deal. A week later, we were off.
I first visited over twenty years ago, and the sight of the temple inside the caves is something I'll never forget. It was one of those places I always swore I would return to someday. And I've kept to that, returning here often.
To say it is amazing, incredible, or any other adjective is a complete understatement. The best thing is to look at the great photo by Jim DeLutes at the top of this page to get an idea. Actually, all the photos on the page are by Jim.
I'll get onto the temple in a moment, but let's start with the caves...
First of all, if you're wondering where the caves are, there's a map at the bottom of the page. These are probably the best caves in Italy, and I've never seen so many stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. Maria too, once I'd convinced her it was worth entering, was left speechless, and that rarely happens.
Now I have no idea how to describe a cave to you, so the best thing is to look at the photos.
The Madonna di Frasassi: A Humble Sanctuary of Faith
Nestled against the side of a cliff, this humble church is a place of profound spiritual significance. Its walls, seemingly a part of the very cliff itself, exude a sense of quiet reverence. Step inside, and you'll feel a deep connection to the divine.
The Madonna di Frasassi is a testament to unwavering faith, offering a peaceful refuge for contemplation and prayer. Here, in the presence of ancient stone and sacred silence, one can find solace and renewal.
The Temple of Valadier: Where Nature and Faith Converge
Prepare to be awestruck as you step into the breathtaking Temple of Valadier. This architectural marvel, nestled within a vast cavern, stands as a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. Commissioned by Pope Leo XII, the renowned architect Giuseppe Valadier turned the Pope's vision into reality.
It is indeed a masterpiece of how art, faith, and nature can be blended in perfect harmony. Massive stone walls rise around you, revealing the cavern's magnificent dimensions. Bathed in soft, natural light, the temple exudes a sense of wonder and reverence.
Within the Temple of Valadier you'll find the crown jewel—an altar piece sculpted by the celebrated artist Antonio Canova. This masterpiece portrays the tender embrace of the Virgin Mary and Child, capturing a moment of divine love and grace. The exquisite craftsmanship and artistic beauty of the altar piece further enhance the temple's splendor.
While the Madonna di Frasassi embodies simplicity and devotion, the Temple of Valadier showcases the extraordinary fusion of human artistry and nature's majesty. These two remarkable sites, though distinct, complement each other, offering you a profound journey that intertwines spirituality, architectural brilliance, and the enchanting wonders of the natural world.
If you are visiting the caves, don't miss the very special Abbazia, a Romanesque-style church built in the 11th century. surrounded by mountains and breathtakingly beautiful. You walk in expecting... I don't know, really, but the huge columns stretching skyward and the white and rose stone bathed in a golden light were way beyond my expectations. The photo below shows what I mean.
The Abbazia is just a short distance before the caves; you pass by it as you head there if you are coming from Genga. If you miss it or are coming the other way, don't worry; everyone at the caves will be happy to give you directions.