About Cascata del Diborrato
Cascata del Diborrato is a popular waterfall in the Parco Fluviale dell Alta Val d’Elsa (protected since 1997) below the town of Colle di Val d’Elsa, which is between the well-visited Siena and San Gimignano.
While the waterfall’s name suggests that there’s only one waterfall or cascata, there are actually several of them of varying sizes on the Fiume Elsa (or Elsa River).
That said, I believe the main one that is being referred to is the one pictured above, which has about a 15m drop and is perhaps the most vertical of the bunch.
We also saw another waterfall that was a sloping two-segmented cascade directly beneath the San Marziale Bridge at the far end of the adventurous Else Trail (or Sentierelsa).
Speaking of the Sentierelsa, it’s the popular 3km one-way through hike (or 6km round-trip) along the Else River involving river crossings while experiencing many more features and formations (including more travertine waterfalls) along the way.
The hike begins from the Ponte di Spugna (or Spugna Bridge) to the north and ends at the Ponte di San Marziale (or San Marziale Bridge) to the south.
Since we were time limited, it turned out that we didn’t have to do the entire Elsa Trail to experience the Cascata del Diborrato.
Thus, we’ll describe our experience in this write-up strictly as an out-band-back hike from the San Marziale side.
Experiencing the Sentierelsa from the San Marziale Bridge
From a public car park near the San Marziale Bridge (see directions below), we walked back to the main street called Viale dei Mille.
Crossing the busy street, we then walked south towards the San Marziale Bridge itself, where we briefly checked out an attractive sloping cascade right below us.
Then, we backtracked to the front side of the bridge, where the Sentierelsa descended shortly past some private property signs (they’re meant to keep people away from parking or obstructing their driveway).
Descending on the trail, it bottomed out in an area that already seemed like a different world of the town of Colle di Val d’Elsa above, where we were surrounded by trees and along the banks of the Elsa River.
From here, we could get an angled look at the base of the waterfall we had seen earlier, though technically this was not the actual Diborrato Waterfall.
So we continued downstream for about 250m to a somewhat wider clearing where the River Elsa was wide and somewhat calm before going over the brink of the actual Diborrato Waterfall.
In addition to some locals fishing by the banks of the Elsa River, we also saw an unsigned spur path leading to a view of the brink of the Cascata del Diborrato.
Although this view was sanctioned, it left a lot to be desired, and so naturally I went looking for a way to improve the view.
Viewing the Cascata del Diborrato
Unless you have a drone, it didn’t appear that there was a sanctioned way to view the front of the Cascata del Diborrato.
Although there appeared to be a cell tower across the river above the top of the opposing cliffs, there didn’t appear to be a trail nor a lookout, and I suspect that the lack of people probably meant that area was off-limits to the public.
So I backtracked to the main trail and then continued descending some steps leading to a fork in the trail.
To the left were more steps that were now ascending while there was a path on the right descending to a fenced barricade indicating something about a rafting put in point.
Beyond this fence to the right, there was a trail of use clinging to the banks of the Elsa River besides the base of the travertine cliffs, and it eventually dead-ended against a fairly deep part of the river and some giant boulder.
That boulder obstructed views of the side of the Diborrato Waterfall, and in order to see it, I had to do one of three things…
- swim in the River Elsa to get right in front of the falls
- do a risky wade (or swim?) onto a rock outcrop that looked tantalizing close
- do a risky climb onto the obstructing boulder itself
All of these options were by no means recommended nor sanctioned, and I ultimately decided on doing the third option, which was to unsling my day pack, then do some rock climbing maneuver to get on top of that boulder.
Once there, I managed to take the photos you see on this page though I definitely had to be very mindful of the dropoffs and the slippery footing.
Since our visited happened in the cold month of November, swimming wasn’t an option (and I no longer had a GoPro anyways though I probably oculd have used my Dicapac to protect the smart phone and document the falls with it).
It’s said that swimming isn’t recommended here, but I’m aware that numerous people have actually done the swim to get in front of the Cascata del Diborrato for that satisfying frontal view in the warmer months between say April-May and September-October.
In hindsight, I probably could have also tried to get onto the rock outcrop (option 2) for a slightly different view around the boulder that I scrambled onto, but I opted not to do that.
And as for trying to go further downstream to see this waterfall further on the sanctioned trail along with a preceding intermediate travertine cascade, well, that view was blocked by lots of cliffside foliage.
I’d imagine you’d probably have to swim to even get in front of that intermediate cascade.
So, you see, even though the Elsa Trail was straightforward and actually getting to the Cascata del Diborrato was pretty easy, getting a satisfying view of it involved some degree of risk.
It’s the main reason why I didn’t score this waterfall as high as it could have been, but I’d also argue that the main appeal of the entire Elsa Trail adventure is the adventure itself and not so much this waterfall.
How we could have done the entire Sentierelsa Trail
Although we only experienced perhaps 20% of the entire Elsa Trail, we saw signs actually encouraging you to do the whole thing as a one-way through hike.
The way to pull this off would be to start off on either end of the trail (whether it’s Ponte di Spugna to the north or Ponte di San Marziale to the south) and then take a bus back to the starting point.
Even based on the limited experience that we had, the trail contained a series of more inviting travertine cascades, suspension bridges, river crossings, grottos, and even history (e.g. hydraulic engineering restored during the ruling Medici era).
Maybe one of these days, we’ll come back here to experience the whole thing, but as you can see from this write-up, it’s an option that you’ll want to devote about a half-day for.
Regarding our visit, we pretty much cut to the chase, and we wound up spending about 75 minutes away from the car (could easily be shorter) before continuing on with our day.
Cascata del Diborrato resides near the town of Colle di Val d’Elsa in the Siena Province within the Tuscany Region of Italy. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the Tuscany Tourism Board website.
We’ll describe the driving directions from Siena since I’d imagine that’s the major geographic landmark and starting point for many people (even though we came from further away at Bagno Vignoni near San Quirico d’Orcia).
So from Siena, we’d drive northwest along the regional road (SR2) for about 5km towards the Raccordo Autostradale (an expressway continuing to the northwest of Siena).
Once on the expressway, we’d then drive another 15km to an exit for Colle Val d’Elsa Sud (SP541), where we’d then continue west for about 3km to the San Marziale Bridge.
This is about 100m after the first exit of the roundabout leading onto the Viale dei Mille, and shortly after this bridge, (about 150m beyond the roundabout), we then turned left onto a small street just past the Galea Ristorante Pizzeria.
At the next three-way intersection, there’s a car park to the right, which charged for parking between April and October, but since our visit happened in late November, the pay-and-display machines were not operational.
Overall, this drive would take about 30 minutes.
It took us a little under two hours to drive from Bagno Vignoni (near San Quirico d’Orcia) to the town of Colle di Val d’Elsa.
For context, Colle di Val d’Elsa is about 27km (about 30 minutes drive) northwest of Siena, about 16km (also about 30 minutes drive) southeast of San Gimignano, 55km (about an hour drive) south of Florence, about 69km (over an hour drive) northwest of San Quirico d’Orcia, 87km (about 1.5 hours drive) northwest of Montepulciano, 101km (about 1.5 hours drive) southeast of Pisa, and 256km (about 3 hours drive) northwest of Rome.
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