Cascate del Dardagna

Madonna dell'Acero / Lizzano in Belvedere, Emilia-Romagna Province, Italy

About Cascate del Dardagna


Hiking Distance: 3-4km round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5-3 hours

Date first visited: 2013-05-26
Date last visited: 2013-05-26

Waterfall Latitude: 44.14045
Waterfall Longitude: 10.81344

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.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_097_20130526 - The uppermost of le Cascate del Dardagna
The uppermost of le Cascate del Dardagna

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.

Further adding to the atmosphere were trees and the sounds of rushing water, which came 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).

Certainly, it seemed like this respect was evident during the hike.

Florence_385_20130527 - The Cascate del Dardagna are not far from the famous urban centers like Florence (Firenze) as shown in this picture
The Cascate del Dardagna are not far from the famous urban centers like Florence (Firenze) as shown in this picture

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 Hike to the Cascate del 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.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_008_20130526 - The Sanctuary of Madonna dell'Acero (il Santuario di Madonna dell'Acero) at the trailhead for le Cascate del Dardagna
The Sanctuary of Madonna dell’Acero (il Santuario di Madonna dell’Acero) at the trailhead for le Cascate del Dardagna

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 le 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 River, the trail then crossed a bridge before a cascade on a separate tributary.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_028_20130526 - The well-forested and serene scenery along the Dardagna River en route to the Dardagna Waterfalls
The well-forested and serene scenery along the Dardagna River en route to the Dardagna Waterfalls

Not long after that bridge, I eventually encountered the first and bottommost of the Dardagna Waterfalls (roughly 30 minutes from the trailhead).

Experiencing three of the Cascate del 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 River leading to another trail (which I didn’t take), the waterfall trail that I stuck with continued further upstream.

That trail involved a much steeper and narrower ascent, but there were steps and handrails to assure me that I wasn’t doing anything terribly dangerous.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_049_20130526 - The first of the main waterfalls belonging to the Cascate del Dardagna
The first of the main waterfalls belonging to the Cascate del Dardagna

After another 20 minutes of climbing above the first Dardagna 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.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_070_20130526 - The second main waterfall belonging to the Cascate del Dardagna
The second main waterfall belonging to the Cascate del Dardagna

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).

It also provided 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 during my visit so I had to make haste.

Since the majority of the hike was downhill back to the trailhead, I went much faster on the way back.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_093_20130526 - Looking down over the top of the second of the Dardagna Waterfalls from the end of the trail in front of the third of le Cascate del Dardagna
Looking down over the top of the second of the Dardagna Waterfalls from the end of the trail in front of the third of le Cascate del Dardagna

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.

Authorities

Cascate del Dardagna (Dardagna Waterfalls) reside near the town of Lizzano in Belvedere in the Bologna Region of the Emilia-Romagna Province of Italy. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the Bologna Tourism Board website.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_004_20130526 - This building right at the trailhead of Cascate del Dardagna is il Santuario di Madonna dell'Acero (Sanctuary of Madonna of the Acero)
Cascate_del_Dardagna_010_20130526 - Looking downhill from the sanctuary towards some green mountains before I started the hike up to the Dardagna Waterfalls
Cascate_del_Dardagna_002_20130526 - Walking up past the ZTL sign and onto the trail for le Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_013_20130526 - Going past another ZTL sign as the path narrows on its way up to the Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_014_20130526 - A gate preventing vehicles from continuing past this point en route to the Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_018_20130526 - Following the red and white arrow signs to stay on the path for Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_019_20130526 - It's definitely back to Nature as I was surrounded by tall trees and fresh air on the trail to Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_021_20130526 - About to traverse a bridge splitting a cascade on a tributary feeding the Dardagna River further downstream
Cascate_del_Dardagna_023_20130526 - Another small cascade that the trail passed by that also spilled into the Dardagna River further downstream
Cascate_del_Dardagna_025_20130526 - The trail started to ascend steeply and along the Dardagna River at this point en route to the Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_032_20130526 - Another small cascade, but this one was near the first main waterfall on the Dardagna River
Cascate_del_Dardagna_033_20130526 - The bridge crossing before the first main waterfall on the Dardagna River. You can kind of see that first of the Cascate del Dardagna in the background in this photo
Cascate_del_Dardagna_044_20130526 - Checking out the first main waterfall of the Cascate del Dardagna on the Dardagna River
Cascate_del_Dardagna_055_20130526 - The steep and narrow trail continuing beyond the first of the Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_062_20130526 - Looking down alongside Cascate del Dardagna from higher up the trail on the way up to the second waterfall
Cascate_del_Dardagna_067_20130526 - Frontal look at the second main drop of the Cascate del Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_075_20130526 - The trail continued to get steeper and narrower above the second waterfall on the way up to the third Dardagna Waterfall
Cascate_del_Dardagna_077_20130526 - 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 clouds
Cascate_del_Dardagna_090_20130526 - The third and uppermost of the main waterfalls on the Dardagna
Cascate_del_Dardagna_101_20130526 - Making my way back down the trail after having my fill of the third Dardagna Waterfall. Meanwhile the weather was starting to hail again
Cascate_del_Dardagna_103_20130526 - Descending alongside a cascade on a tributary of the Dardagna
Firenze_064_20130526 - 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 sense
Siena_120_20130525 - The Piazza del Campo in Siena (just highlighting the fact that there's lots to see and do in Toscana)
Siena_015_20130525 - The elaborate interior of the Duomo (Cathedral) in Siena

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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.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_007_20130526 - The parking lot near the visitor center and the Madonna dell'Acero Sanctuary
The parking lot near the visitor center and the Madonna dell’Acero Sanctuary

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.

Cascate_del_Dardagna_104_20130526 - Looking back down at the limited parking lot for the Cascate del Dardagna Trail
Looking back down at the limited parking lot for the Cascate del Dardagna Trail

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.

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

Tagged with: emilia, romangna, bologna, florence, firenze, madonna dell'acero, lizzano in belvedere, italy, waterfall, dardagna, corno alle scale



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.