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La Cascata delle Marmore Posted by on Oct 28, 2008 in Geography, Travel

Hidden away in Umbria, the green heart of Italy, a wonderful discovery awaits you: La Cascata delle Marmore (The Marmore Falls).


The Legend of the falls

Once, a beautiful nymph called Nera fell in love with Velino, a handsome shepherd. But the goddess Juno, wife of Jupiter, was jealous of the lovers and transformed Nera into a river.

Poor Velino the shepherd, in order not to loose his love, threw himself from the towering cliffs of Marmore into the Fiume Nera (River Nera).

Velino’s leap from the cliffs was destined to repeat itself for eternity in the form of the waterfall, which can still be seen to this day.


The true Story

In fact the true origin of the waterfall is far more prosaic.

Over two thousand years ago the river Velino formed a vast area of stagnant marshland around the city of Rieti. This area of wetland was a breeding ground for diseases, including malaria.

In 271 B.C. the Roman consul Curius Dentatus ordered that a canal be built that would divert the stagnant waters towards the cliffs at Marmore, thereby creating the world’s highest man made waterfall.

Over the centuries, lack of maintenance to the original Roman Canal meant that further work had to be done in order to prevent the palude malsana (unhealthy marshland) from reforming.

Nowadays the water in the canals is diverted to power a hydroelectric generator, and the waterfall has become a part-time tourist attraction.


An entrance fee is charged to the area around the falls so that you can watch The Cascata delle Marmore, or Velino the shepherd if you prefer, leaping down the cliffs, and I can assure you that it is worth every cent! It is a truly magical experience, especially on a baking hot day in August when the cloud of water vapor in the valley refreshes and revitalizes you before you trek up the steep sentiero (footpath) that takes you the 165m (yes that’s 541 feet!) to the top of the falls.

If you decide to visit the Cascata delle Marmore try and get there just before the canal is opened. An alarm is sounded and the gentle trickle of water is transformed within a few minutes into a thundering torrent.


For more info. on how to get there, opening times, and admission charges follow this link to the official site.


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