Le Cascate del Liri (The Waterfalls of the Liri; also known as Le Cascate di Isola del Liri) are comprised of two waterfalls. The first (and more prominent) one is referred to as Cascata Grande (big waterfall; also known as Cascata Verticale or “vertical waterfall”) while the other one is referred to as Cascata Valcatoio. The Liri River is said to split and reconverge thereby creating an “island” that encompassed a city that came to be known as Isola del Liri (“island of the Liri”). Each waterfall sits on each segment of the split river with other minor slides and drops happening further downstream. So given the environment the waterfalls are situated in, it became clear to us why they were urban waterfalls for all intents and purposes. In fact, it might possibly be the only waterfalls that feature prominently in an urban city’s center, while the city itself was said to have a history that dated as far back as 1100.
Now because the falls are urban waterfalls, we came to realize that modifications to the waterfall and possibly the Liri River itself had given us the appearance that the waterfalls were artificial. However, from what we were able to read and understand from the literature, the falls were indeed natural, but then transformations had been made over the years as the water from the falls as well as the favorable geology allowed its utilization to support the city’s industries as well as its need for hydroelectricity.
We were able to see Cascata Grande directly from a road bridge crossing one arm of the Liri into the city center of Isola del Liri. From the bridge, we were able to attain contextual views of the gushing 27m waterfall (see photo at the top of this page) as the Liri River was flanked by a mix of industrial buildings on the right as well as part of the historical city center on the left. Of the pair of main waterfalls in Isola del Liri, this was the more impressive and natural-looking one. We also noticed some kind of historical building above the falls where we weren’t sure if it was part of a castle or part of a hydro scheme. Since we didn’t visit it, we can’t say anything more about that building.
The other waterfall called Cascata Valcatoio was on the other end of the city center. There was an urban park where the walkways were lined with lawns and flowers, and the paved walking path persisted for about 5 minutes or so until it reached a dead-end at a building adjacent to the sliding urban flume of the Cascata Valcatoio. This waterfall appeared to be more affected by urban development (probably because it was involved in powering paper mills) so it looked a lot less genuine to us. Since our visit to Isola del Liri was rather brief, we didn’t get a chance to see if there were any historical pictures that might have shown this waterfall prior to the modifications that were made over the centuries.
The walking distance between the two waterfalls would probably be on the order of 15-20 minutes each way though it could easily take longer than that as some of the narrow alleyways in the city’s center as well as shops and cafes on the main street could easily be cause for distraction.
While we were visiting Isola del Liri, we actually were staying some 15-20 minutes’ drive further up the hill in the town of Arpino. It turned out to be a small but very charming medieval town perched atop a hillside (which turned out to be a very common characteristic of medieval Italian towns) featuring historical ruins at the Acropoli di Civitavecchia d’Arpino where I was able to get some breathtaking views of Arpino, Isola del Liri, and the surrounding countryside. Regardless of whether you’re staying in Arpino or in Isola del Liri or some other surrounding town, we thought Arpino was a pleasant surprise and well worth the time to visit.
Le Cascate del Liri (The Waterfalls of the Liri) were essentially city center attractions in much the same way that piazzas and duomos would be city center attractions in most other Italian cities. It’s for this reason that the challenge to visit these waterfalls has more to do with finding parking and navigating through urban streets than the physical exertion required to visit them. After having spent nearly 2 weeks of driving in Italy, we came to appreciate that city center attractions are really best reached by finding a large parking lot outside the city center itself, then cover the rest of the distance by walking.
From what we were able to observe, there were some limited parking along the main street between the two waterfalls (which was where we were lucky enough to find temporary parking). However, the cobblestone street section between the main street and the waterfalls themselves were ZTLs (Zona di Traffico Limitato), which were areas that were to be vehicle free except for authorized vehicles. Hidden cameras were set up in these ZTLs (which were common in many Italian cities) to nab drivers violating the rules and be subject to fines of the order of 100 euros or so.
Isola del Liri is said to be some 100km south of Rome (Roma) and 120km or so north of Naples (Napoli) by car. Both cities are linked by the A1 autostrada as well as by train. A regional train stopping at Frosinone appeared to travel less frequently than the direct trains from Roma to Napoli or vice-versa. Thus, I’d imagine public transport by a combination of trains and buses would probably take a lot of time (possibly a whole day or multiple days to accommodate the infrequent departure times).
Although we drove here from Abruzzo (in a rather long drive), we also left Isola del Liri to the A1 autostrada (en route to Terni) so we’ll highlight how driving directions would look using the A1 exit at Frosinone as the key landmark.
Leaving the A1 autostrada at Frosinone (the “Svincolo Frosinone” exit according to my road map), drive north along the SS156 for about 4km (2.5 miles) through the city of Frosinone then continue onto SS214 for about 23km (14.3 miles). SS214 eventually becomes Via Roma as you get into Isola del Liri’s city center “island,” and the SS214 eventually leaves the “island” and intersects with Via Napoli and the SS82.
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