Go to my journey

I declare that I have acquired the information provided in the informative report on the privacy rules and I give my consent for the purposes indicated below:


Forgot password? New user? Sign up

Cascata delle Marmore Waterfalls

Go to my journey


“Horribly beautiful! but on the verge,

   From side to side, beneath the glittering morn,

   An Iris sits, amidst the infernal surge,

   Like Hope upon a deathbed, and, unworn

   Its steady dyes, while all around is torn

   By the distracted waters, bears serene

   Its brilliant hues with all their beams unshorn:

   Resembling, mid the torture of the scene,

Love watching Madness with unalterable mien.”

This was written by one of Britain’s most famous poets, Lord Byron, in the 19th century, in his epic poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, inspired by the breathtaking Umbrian waterfalls that have awed people for centuries who stand at the spot where the Velino River gushes into the larger Nera River. It is so beautiful it’s almost frightening. The Cascate delle Marmore  can be considered record making waterfalls. They are 165 m high (500 feet), the highest in Europe and they also hold the record for the highest artificial fall of water. In fact, what at first sight seems a natural wonder conceals centuries of technological genius and study.

The waterfalls were actually ‘created’ by the Romans in the 3rd century BC; they dug a canal ordered by the consul Curio Dentato- called Cava Curiana, after him – to drain a swamp, having the water flow in direction of the natural Marmore falls. This name most likely came from the kind and shape of the calcareous rocks there, very similar to white marble, that outcrop abundantly from the woods that surround the falls. The Cava Curiana  canal and the river system it connects to was for centuries a bone of contention between the towns of Terni and Rieti because of the frequent flooding by the Nera River, that at times would swell and overflow its banks. Modification works were done over time in favor of one town or the other, but the problem was never definitively resolved. The disputes often turned to battles and the Terni population decided to build a fortress on the mount, the Rocca S Angelo (St Angelo’s Fortress), where they could see if anybody from Rieti came to alter the canal. The fortress, which still overlooks the falls (visible and open for visits) was the scene of many battles over the years in an attempt to conquer the dominating position.

The river capacity continued to grow unchecked forming a powerful waterfall much mightier than the one we see today. Meanwhile, attempts were made to keep it under control; even Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, one of the architects that worked on St. Peter’s Basilica, tried various solutions while he was staying in Terni supervising the works on the Palazzo Spada. Several canals were dug to carry water away and the Cava Curiana canal was deepened. But nothing worked to stop the enormous surge of water that crashed into the Nera River basin. Two thousand years after the first falls were created passed before the problem was eventually solved. In 1787 the architect Andrea Vici, through the construction of lateral ‘barriers’, changed the angle of the fall of the last drop-off thereby eliminating the overflow of the gush that had mainly been the cause of the difficult management of the river when at capacity. Nevertheless, the power of the falls was still quite impressive – enough to fascinate Lord Byron – who visited the falls twenty years later. He described its might and compared it to love that dominates madness.

In the following years with the advent of industrialization, the power of the falls was again put under better control when a hydroelectric plant was built to provide energy to many factories that already in the mid-1800s were operating in the territory. Today the two rivers are totally under control and target hydraulic works make sure the river will never dangerously overflow again, but the awe one experiences when viewing the falls has remained unchanged. Stendhal, too, another famous literary figure who came to admire the waterfall, also left a witness account, narrating that it was one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

From the lower platform the view is completely blocked by the foamy falling water and spray. The experience will affect all your senses: besides the beautiful view, the impetuous roar and the scent of the surrounding woods and wet vegetation, the force and speed with which the water crashes onto the rocks breaking it up into miniscule particles flying through the air that come to light on your skin. If you visit the falls at night, you will see it magnificently illuminated, offering a remarkable scene.

The site is open to tourists; opening hours vary according to the season. There are many trails that vary in length and difficulty that connect the various scenic outlook spots; for example, the historical Observatory with a balcony in a safe, strategic position built in 1871 for those lucky enough to pass by there. Some of the trails lead up past all four levels of the falls to the upper platform and to the so-called Campacci– large meadows with chestnut trees provided with picnic tables and camping areas from which one can admire the spectacular view. Through Exploring Umbria you can book nature tours – on foot or by bike – with expert guides, or book an adventure to go ‘canyoning’ or rafting on the Nera River. Because of the presence of the falls, the environment has a unique ecosystem with rare plants and animals that one is not likely to see in other parts of the surrounding area. The water, rich in calcium carbonate, has sculpted and eroded the porous rock of the cliffs forming caves in and near the waterfalls, some of which can be visited. If you hike up the falls to the upper platform, you can see the ruins of old hydraulic plants and some canals built over the centuries in an attempt to harness the power of a waterfall whose history mingles nature with history, unresolvedly entangled. Today we can still hardly believe that it came, in part, from our own hands.

Successfully added to favourites.

Please provide us with more info to help us create your itinerary together: your preferred dates, number of people and your mood.