Cascate del Dardagna

Parco Regionale Corno alle Scale / Madonna dell'Acero / near Lizzano in Belvedere /
Emilia-Romagna Province, Bologna Region, Italy

Rating: 2.5     Difficulty: 3
Cascate del Dardagna

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Le Cascate del Dardagna (The Waterfalls of the Dardagna) were a series of intermediate-sized waterfalls tumbling in succession for a reported cumulative height of 200m or so. I don't think there was a safe way to see the entire waterfall in one go, but the trail went alongside the entire waterfall providing the opportunity to experience at least three of its main tiers from up close.

What stood out about this waterfall experience was that the entire hike truly felt like I was back in Nature. Nestled in the mountains of the Appennino Bolognese (Bolognian Apennines), the trail was serene and uncrowded as it was dominated by trees and the sounds of rushing water (coming from the Dardagna River as well as tributaries feeding it). Under the jurisdiction of the Parco Regionale Corno alle Scale, it was also refreshing to see signs saying "Rispetta La Natura" (Respect Nature), where it seemed this respect was evident during the hike.

In fact, while most of Italy appeared to be developed in some way shape or form, places like this really stood out to us. With the falls being within a reasonable day trip from the more famous cities such as Florence (80km), Bologna (70km), Modena (70km), and even Pisa (120km), the Nature would provide a nice contrast and mix up with the crowds and the historical sites that the urban centers would feature.

The first main waterfall on the Dardagna The hike began from the Santuario di Madonna dell'Acero (the Sanctuary of Madonna of the Acero), which was an intriguing building right at the trailhead within the hamlet of Madonna dell'Acero (see directions below). From there, I hiked up along a wide and unpaved road that could only be driven by authorized vehicles as the road weaved between a few buildings. After a gate, the path then flattened out and started to descend amidst more naturesque forest scenery.

At each trail junction, there were numbered red-white arrow signs, and I basically had to remain on the trail 331 to continue towards Cascate del Dardagna. The gradually descending and narrowing path crossed a couple of bridges (I recalled one had a small cascade by it) before the trail eventually started to climb steeply alongside the rushing Dardagna River.

After a few more minutes of uphill hiking on the trail perched on a narrow ledge above the Dardagna, the trail then crossed a bridge before a cascade on a separate tributary feeding the Dardagna. Not long after that bridge, I eventually encountered the first and bottommost of the Dardagna Waterfalls (roughly 30 minutes from the trailhead).

The second main waterfall on the Dardagna This 15m tall bottom tier was probably the most photographed of the waterfall's sections as it had a somewhat vertical drop with the falls itself being segmented or split. Although there was a bridge across the Dardagna leading to another trail (which I didn't take), the waterfall trail that I stuck with continued further upstream in a much steeper and narrower ascent (though there were steps and handrails to assure me that I wasn't doing anything terribly dangerous).

After another 20 minutes of climbing above the first waterfall as well as some other steep intermediate tiers, the trail then approached the second waterfall. This one was probably on the order of 10m, and it also had a somewhat segmented appearance like the first waterfall. There were also lots of foliage and large rocks in a fairly flat opening right in front of the falls, which made it possible to scramble a bit (with care) for a closer look.

Next, the trail then ascended more steep steps, but after five more minutes of this, the trail terminated at the base of the third waterfall. This particular falls was probably a little taller than the first waterfall I saw, but it possessed a more conventional mountain cascade shape (see photo at the top of this page) while also providing an interesting panorama of the downstream scenery over the top of the second waterfall. I'm sure this would've been a pretty neat place to take a breather and maybe even have a picnic lunch, but it was also happened to be hailing so I had to hasten my visit.

Since the majority of the hike was downhill back to the trailhead, I went much faster on the way back. Although I'd imagine this hike would typically take two hours round trip, I ended up taking about 100 minutes doing this hike solo under some threatening weather conditions.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

We managed to visit Cascate del Dardagna before dropping the car off (one-way rental from Naples) in Florence, which was one of the most beautiful cities we've seenWe managed to visit Cascate del Dardagna before dropping the car off (one-way rental from Naples) in Florence, which was one of the most beautiful cities we've seen
While it might be overly ambitious to visit the Leaning Tower and Cascate del Dardagna in a day, if you use Florence as a base, you can do both on separate daysWhile it might be overly ambitious to visit the Leaning Tower and Cascate del Dardagna in a day, if you use Florence as a base, you can do both on separate days
If you're based in Florence or anywhere else in Tuscany, visit the town of Siena, which is also up there with Florence as Italy's most beautiful cityIf you're based in Florence or anywhere else in Tuscany, visit the town of Siena, which is also up there with Florence as Italy's most beautiful city
Julie and I were totally charmed by the beauty and historical significance of Florence as parts of the city felt like it was a living outdoor museumJulie and I were totally charmed by the beauty and historical significance of Florence as parts of the city felt like it was a living outdoor museum
The limited parking and trailhead for Cascate del DardagnaThe limited parking and trailhead for Cascate del Dardagna

This building right at the trailhead of Cascate del Dardagna is Il Santuario di Madonna dell'Acero (Sanctuary of Madonna of the Acero)This building right at the trailhead of Cascate del Dardagna is Il Santuario di Madonna dell'Acero (Sanctuary of Madonna of the Acero)

Looking downhill from the sanctuary towards some green mountainsLooking downhill from the sanctuary towards some green mountains

Walking up past the ZTL sign and onto the trail for Cascate del DardagnaWalking up past the ZTL sign and onto the trail for the falls

Going past another ZTL sign as the path narrowsGoing past another ZTL sign as the path narrows

A gate preventing vehicles from continuing past this pointA gate preventing vehicles from continuing past this point

Following the red and white arrow signs to stay on the path for Cascate del DardagnaFollowing the red and white arrow signs to stay on the path for Cascate del Dardagna

It's definitely back to Nature on the trail to Cascate del DardagnaIt's definitely back to Nature on the trail to the waterfall

About to traverse a bridge splitting a cascadeAbout to traverse a bridge splitting a cascade

Another small cascade that the trail passed byAnother small cascade that the trail passed by

The trail started to ascend steeply and along the Dardagna River at this pointThe trail started to ascend steeply and along the Dardagna River at this point

The narrow trail alongside the DardagnaThe narrow trail alongside the Dardagna

Another small cascade, but this one was near the first main waterfall on the DardagnaAnother small cascade, but this one was near the first main waterfall on the Dardagna

The bridge crossing before the first main waterfall on the DardagnaThe bridge crossing before the first main waterfall on the Dardagna

The first main waterfall on the DardagnaThe first main waterfall on the Dardagna

The steep and narrow trail beyond the first waterfallThe steep and narrow trail beyond the first waterfall

Looking down alongside Cascate del Dardagna from higher up the trailLooking down alongside Cascate del Dardagna from higher up the trail

The trail continued to get steeper and narrower above the second waterfallThe trail continued to get steeper and narrower above the second waterfall

Looking down over the tip of the second waterfall just in time to see a faint rainbow as the sun had just peeked through the cloudsLooking down over the tip of the second waterfall just in time to see a faint rainbow as the sun had just peeked through the clouds

The third and uppermost of the main waterfalls on the DardagnaThe third and uppermost of the main waterfalls on the Dardagna

Looking downstream over the top of the second waterfall from the base of the third waterfallLooking downstream over the top of the second waterfall from the ba se of the third waterfall

Making my way back down the trail while the weather was starting to hail againMaking my way back down the trail while the weather was starting to hail again

Descending alongside a cascade on a tributary of the DardagnaDescending alongside a cascade on a tributary of the Dardagna

Finally returning to the trailheadFinally returning to the trailhead

Given the sheer amount of things to see in Florence and in Toscana in general, basing yourself in this city (which felt like a Renaissance art museum come to life) makes perfect senseGiven the sheer amount of things to see in Florence and in Toscana in general, basing yourself in this city (which felt like a Renaissance art museum come to life) makes perfect sense

The Piazza del Campo in Siena (just highlighting the fact that there's lots to see and do in Toscana)The Piazza del Campo in Siena (just highlighting the fact that there's lots to see and do in Toscana)

The elaborate interior of the Duomo in SienaThe elaborate interior of the Duomo in Siena


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweeping along the trail until it ends at the lowermost of the Dardagna Waterfalls


Left to right sweep of the middle tiers of the falls


Right to left sweep of the uppermost waterfall starting downstream then ending at the falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

First of all, I have to really thank the kind folks at the Rifugio Segavecchia for providing me with a detailed map as well as very helpful hints on the driving route I should have taken to get to the Cascate del Dardagna. They were also very patient with my Italian during the entire conversation. Our GPS had put us on the wrong road that ultimately led us on a very narrow single-lane road which ended at this mountain lodge. It ended up being a fairly costly 40-minute detour, but at least with their help, our waterfalling experience along with this writeup became possible.

Anyways, we'll describe the correct route we should have taken in the first place.

From Florence, we took the A11 autostrada towards the Pistoia exit. Then we headed north on SS64 (SS = Strada Statale or what might be considered a state highway) towards the town of Silla. We then turned left onto John Fitzgerald Kennedy Road, which became SP324 (SP = Strada Provinciale or provincial road). We then followed this road towards the town of Lizzano in Belvedere.

The main road continued through Lizzano in Belvedere, then we deviated from the main road at Villagio Europa towards Vidiciatico. After continuing on the main road passing through Vidiciatico and then La Ca, we then took a road towards Madonna dell'Acero.

Although we saw there was a parking lot along the main road near a fairly hidden visitor center, we actually found additional (albeit very limited) parking next to the Sanctuary of Madonna dell'Acero. The hike began from there.

To give you a sense of context, Madonna dell'Acero was 102km (roughly 2 hours drive) north of Florence, 120km (about 2.5 hours drive) northeast of Pisa, 105km (2 hours drive) northeast of Lucca, 177km (about 3 hours drive) north of Siena, and 82km (about 2 hours drive) south of Bologna.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



Click here for the full World of Waterfalls map





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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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