Monday, 2 August 2010

Hidden Havens: Valle Acquasanta

With sharp ridges, steep hills, and repetitive undulations being a feature of this area, finding a flat trail is unusual. But that's essentially what the path to the Acquasanta waterfalls and gorge is, with just a few rises and falls at either end of it. Better still, in these hot days of summer, the majority of it is through the cool of the forest, with tall beeches providing shade and respite from the beating sun.

Wildflowers appear in colourful clusters, the trees range heavenward in their impressive strength and grandeur, and - in the latter half of the walk - waterfalls roll down rock walls and scree banks, offering refreshment and cooling stations, not to mention the beauty spell that cascades seem to cast on our human sensibilities.

The main destination for most walkers are the waterfalls towards the end of the trail, and they're well worth the effort - streams fall down the steep hills in veils in one spot, and gush down in a singular channel in another. But beyond them lies the gorge itself, which - due to its narrowness and height - has been used in the past as a natural cantina, the sun barely (if ever) reaching in to warm its stones. You can reach the gorge through a tunnel cut into the rock, and then - if you're drawn on - clamber up the river's rocky bed into the narrowing gorge, which twists and turns to its sheer-sloped beginnings. You'll need shoes for wading, and a strong constitution - the water is very, very cold.

With all this wonderful water around, it's no wonder that an aqueduct has been built here, and for much of the way you'll follow its course, the raised concrete blocks and flagstones making for easy walking. Every now and then you can see into its channel, the cool, clear water running invitingly below, happily wending its way down to the town of Bolognola. Its quite an engineering feat, cutting through sheer rock walls in places, and disappearing under steep forested slopes in others. But it's had its impact on the landscape, particularly at its source and down in the valley below, and one wonders how it would be if left to its own (natural) devices. That said, it's a wonderful hike, and is good for the whole family, although at around 3-4 hours round trip, might be a bit long for the young ones.

Directions: Just behind the church in the main (middle) section of Bolognola, there's a brown signpost for the Cascata di Acquasanta - follow this road, keeping left and go through the small borgo to the end of the road, where there's a small parking lot. The trail is obvious just beyond the parking lot, heading down into the forest.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article

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