We’d enjoyed another charming morning at Cequara Rosara. Various members of the tribe had been swimming, played table tennis, tried their hands at archery. I had mostly supervised the swimming, which largely consisted of fixing goggles and dispensing sage advice, “NO, we do NOT hold people’s heads under water. Try practising somersaults away from the concrete steps.” Other than that I lay peacefully in the shade noticing the abundance of geckos, listening to the far off braying of donkeys (not being of an agricultural background, I’m not sure what use donkeys are as domestic animals, but this place has them, they like to come and say hello at the kitchen window, which is adorable or intimidating…depending on your personal feelings towards donkeys), and admiring the mountains and big puffy white clouds. This place is a little slice of heaven.
However your own slice of heaven becomes even more divine, when you leave it and get to gratefully return several hours later. With that in mind, we once again bravely hauled the junior tribe members out of the pool, and prised them off the couches, before jauntily setting off for Cascate delle Marmore. (We tried using GPS this time, which was fine up until it wasn’t and we had to turn around and went back in the other direction for 20 minutes.)
The Cascate delle Marmore are the unique man-made waterfalls in Umbria. The water flows from a natural source and the landscaping is all natural rock and vegetation, but the waterfalls – and this is the really brilliant part – can be turned on and off!
They initial waterfall came into being in 271 BC. The Velino river was feeding into wetlands around the city of Reiti which was causing an abundance of malaria carrying mosquitoes. Head honcho Roman at the time was a man called Curio Dentato (did his parents really name their son Curious Teeth??) who decided to combat this by diverting the waters from the Velino river to the lower river Nera and create an almighty waterfall at the same time. The problem with this was that the burgeoning river Nera then threatened to flood the city of Terni. Unsurprisingly this became something of a bone of contention between the two cities “Stop being selfish, we’re all dying of Malaria! Uh ciao? We’re like, all drowning!”, and over the centuries new canals were added in various attempts to solve the problem but all that really did was make the waterfalls bigger. A new canal complete with regulating valve to switch the water on and off was put in during the 1500s which greatly helped the situation, although flooding still occurred, until eventually the issue was fully resolved in the late 1700s when architect Andrea Vici was commissioned by the pope to make a few modifications to the leaps below the falls.
“Oy, Andy, sort this bloody flooding out will you? It’s been a load of monkeys working on it for f*@!ing eons. Doesn’t ‘ave to be anything fancy, just a couple of bleeding slopes and a nice little rock pool here an’ there. Call it a sodding feature, I don’t give a rat’s arse, just fix it.”… is what I imagine the pope said..if he had been from South London.
Today the waterfalls are magnificent: 164ft of tiered cascades, proper big gushing white water – no piddly little trickles here! As well as viewing areas from the front of the falls, there are number of hikes that range from short, flat walks at the bottom of the falls, to intrepid treks up to the very top, and skin-soaking explorations into caves and grottoes behind the falls. Sadly we couldn’t do the bigger hikes because the waterfall was closing for the night, just as well since the junior tribe members were threatening mutiny, “I HATE WALKING,” and we had expended our tactical resources on getting all of them into a group photograph, facing forward and, if not exactly smiling, at least maintaining a neutral expression.
The waterfalls shutting off is rather soothing. It goes from a torrential downpour to silky sheets of water gliding over rocks and moss, the noise suddenly disappears into nothing and you notice things other than the water, such as the abundance of green ferns, the coi carp in the ponds, the coffee shop across the street with pastries for 2 euros.
The only drawback to the falls is that you do have to pay 10 euros to see/access them and of course there are lots of other people around. It’s a mega tourist pit-stop complete with T-shirt souvenir stalls, snack stands, cafes and thankfully toilets (the sounds of running water, you just can’t help yourself). If I were doing it again I’d go earlier in the day when the falls are being switched on, and do the hikes with a little less people and a lot more time. Oh gosh, let’s be honest if I were doing it again I’d go really early and hop the fence before there was anyone around to ask me for money