Italy’s Highest Waterfall
Located in a lush Italian valley just outside of Valbondione in the Lombardy region, the three drops of the Cascate del Serio, or Serio Falls, can only be seen a handful of times each year when the waters are released from the reservoir at its summit.
The first mentions of Cascate del Serio, Italy’s highest waterfall, are found in 16th century travel narratives, like that of Giovanni Maironi da Ponte, who characterized them as “a place to recover from the bitterness of life.” And as with many things in Italy, there is of course a legend associated with Cascate del Serio.
As the story goes, a woman fell in love with a shepherd who was already engaged to be married. The woman was so jealous that she kidnapped the shepherd’s fiancée and locked her away in a castle above the falls. Cascate del Serio were her tears as she cried for her beloved.
The 1,000-foot-high falls once ran down the south side of the Barbellino Plateau in a constant flow. Yet in the early 1900s, as the textile industry was flourishing in this part of Italy, a dam was built to supply hydroelectric power to the Seriana Valley, cutting off the water supply from the Serio River to the falls. The dam created the Lago del Barbellino, the largest artificial lake in the province of Bergamo.
The falls were dry until 1969, when an agreement between the commune of Valbondione and ENEL, the National Electric Energy Corporation, was made that the dam would be released just once each year for people to enjoy their power and beauty. Today, the dam is released five times each year. The dates of the releases are set in advance and usually take place between June and October.
Seeing the thunderous water come crashing down the mountainside as the dam is released involves hiking. The easiest and shortest option is to park in the village of Valbondione and follow the road through the village to the trail for Cascate del Serio. It is easy to find because so many people come from all around Italy to see the falls unleashed. The trail is about two miles one-way to the lookout point directly across from the falls.
On the specified five days a year, the falls of Cascate del Serio are unleashed for about 30 minutes. To see this amazing site, check out the 2015 dates at www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com.