The Cascata delle Marmore (Marmore’s Falls) are the highest falls in Europe, 165 meter (541 feet) high and delivering thousands of cubic meters per second.
Of its 3 sections, the top one is the tallest, at 83 meter (272 feet). However, these fascinating falls are not the work of nature: they are artificial, built in 271 B.C. by the Romans who wished to put an end to the floods in the valley. They build what is certainly among the most spectacular public hydraulic works – artificial falls that directed the waters of the River Velino over the Marmore cliff into the River Nera, 165 meters below. The result is here for us to admire today, one of the most fascinating and peculiar “natural” sights.
Most of the time, the water in the canals above the falls is diverted to a hydroelectric power plant, so the flow in the falls themselves is reduced to the level of a creek. To control the operation of the power plant, and to satisfy visitors, the fall is turned on according to a set schedule, achieving a spectacular effect at full flow. An alarm is sounded first, then the gates are opened, and in a few minutes the small creek is transformed into a full-sized river rushing into the void below.
The hydro-electric plant in the lower valley is certainly worthy of notice; it was implemented in the first half of the 20th century to exploit the waters of the Cascata delle Marmore and is now inactive, but it represents one of the best preserved examples of water-related industrial archaeology.
A path along the falls allows the visitor to hike up to the top of the falls. Along the way, a tunnel leads to an observatory just next to the falls, where a visitor is guaranteed to get soaked. A safer observatory near the top affords a grandiose view of the falls and of the Nera valley below.
A wide variety of water sports is being offered in the immediate vicinity of the Cascata delle Marmore. Read more about the rafting, hydro speed tubing, canoeing and canyoning possibilities in the section “Activities”.