During his Grand Tour of Italy, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited the Roman ruins of Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli and stopped to admire the Grand Waterfall of the Aniene River. He then wrote in his diary,
The waterfalls there with the ruins, and the whole complexity of landscapes, are of a class of subjects, acquaintance with which is an enrichment of our whole nature to its utmost reach (“Italian Journey”, June 16th 1787).
Waterfalls are indubitably some of Italy’s most evocative natural wonders, with many of the country’s rivers falling down loud chasms, with impressive jumps and perpetual thunder.
This was the first time that he had ever really seen overhanging rocks, rushing waterfalls, and deep ravines clothed with moss and plants; but he had had visions of such places in his youthful dreams, Goethe wrote in another of his works, “Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship”.
He felt younger while looking at them; all the pain he had suffered seemed washed away out of his soul.
To enjoy the rejuvenating, pain-alleviating effect of these natural wonders, we invite you on a tour of the eight most beautiful waterfalls in Italy.
Let us start from the far North of Piedmont, with the 143-meter-tall Toce Waterfall in Val Formazza’s Frua. It is one of Italy’s most spectacular falls, and inspired great artists such as Carducci, Wagner and D’Annunzio.
Priest and writer Pietro Stoppani (1865-1941) described it as
the most beautiful, the most powerful waterfall of the Alps.
In 1863, a beautiful hotel was built at the top of the waterfall, nearly 1,700 meters above sea level. It is still in business, after being renovated in the 1920s by great architect Piero Portaluppi.
Moving south-east by about 260 km, we reach Lombardy’s Serio Waterfalls, which are among the highest in Italy: the river jumps down 315 meters (although divided into three shorter “hops”) in Valbondione, in the province of Bergamo.
These beautiful waterfalls – which according to legend sprang from the tears of a beautiful girl, when a jealous noblewoman kept her away from her lover – can be visited five Sundays a year, between June and October.
Go back to Piedmont if you want to see the highest waterfall in Italy: the waters melting away from an Alpine glacier flow into Vallonasso Stroppia, in the Occitan Alps (in the province of Cuneo) and throw themselves down a 500-meter jump into the Maira.
The Stroppia Waterfalls – near Chiappera – nosedive from an altitude of 2,259 meters and are at the height of their magnificence in late spring.
Now let’s abandon the impervious Alpine precipices and head towards more accessible portions of central Italy, in Tuscany, and specifically in Manciano (in the province of Grosseto), home to the Terme di Saturnia, where sulfurous, 30-°C water drops down the lovely Mulino and Gorello Waterfalls.
In the white thermal pools carved into the limestone and surrounded by steam, you can take a break and rest.
Just 150 kilometers east of Manciano, the Marmore Waterfall formed by the river Velino – in Valnerina, Umbria – is used to produce electricity.
After rushed down three jumps for a total fall of 165 meters, this waterfall’s flow-controlled waters plunge into the Nera river, less than 10 kilometers from Terni.
It’s a wonderful show that the Marmore Waterfall puts on for just a couple of hours a day, described by British writer Joseph Addison (1672-1719) as more amazing “than all the water features in Versailles.”
Less than 100 kilometers from Terni, driving south and into Lazio, you come up to Tivoli (in the province of Rome) and find Villa Gregoriana, a wonderful, romantic garden named after Pope Gregory XVI (which we featured in a previous article).
Home to the Grand Waterfall of the Aniene River, if offers a gorgeous panoramic view from the so-called “Horseshoe” terrace.
Move some 200 kilometers east and enter Abruzzo, where Borrello (in the province of Chieti) is your access to the Regional Natural Reserve and WWF Oasis Cascate del Verde.
This natural waterfall starts at an altitude of 800 meters, and drops down about 200. Guided tours can be set up by emailing [email protected] or by calling +39 340 1172367.
Our journey ends in Sardinia, in the municipality of Ulassai (Ogliastra), where you can enjoy the enchanting view offered by the Lequarci Waterfalls, approximately 700 meters above sea level, located within the hamlet of Santa Barbara.
When swollen with rain, the waters of the Lequarci jump off the 70-meter-tall cliff, dissolving into a number of smaller lakes.