Cascate di Barbiano (Barbianer Wasserfalle)

Ponte Gardena, Bolzano - Alto Adige (Bozen - Sudtirol) Province, Italy

About Cascate di Barbiano (Barbianer Wasserfalle)


Hiking Distance: 6-8km round trip
Suggested Time: 2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2013-05-31
Date last visited: 2013-05-31

Waterfall Latitude: 46.60069
Waterfall Longitude: 11.5024

Le Cascate di Barbiano (Barbiano Waterfalls; also Barbianer Wasserfälle in German) are a series of waterfalls located by the town of Barbiano (Barbian).

I believe there were three main waterfalls (which was why the name uses the plural form of cascata) of which the tallest and most impressive one was the bottommost of the drops, which was said to be about 85m tall.

Barbiano_159_20130531 - The lowermost (and most attractive) of the Cascate di Barbiano
The lowermost (and most attractive) of the Cascate di Barbiano

The waterfalls got progressively smaller and less impressive the higher up the mountain I went, but then the panoramic views became much more stunning.

Speaking of the views, although the waterfalls were impressive, I thought the real highlight to this excursion was the breathtaking panorama of the Western Dolomites as well as the deep Isarco Valley (Valle Isarco).

The trail had numerous opportunities to look over pastures, to look down at castles, and to look right into some valleys and villages to the east.

Capping off the panoramas were tall mountains covered in snow, including a group of exposed pinnacle-like peaks characteristic of the Dolomite mountains.

Barbiano_123_20130531 - Looking over the Isarco Valley towards the Western Dolomites as seen from above the town of Barbiano en route to the Cascate di Barbiano
Looking over the Isarco Valley towards the Western Dolomites as seen from above the town of Barbiano en route to the Cascate di Barbiano

By the way, the Dolomites recently gained UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2009.

Barbiano – the start and end of the Barbiano Waterfalls Hike

In addition to the vistas and the serene Nature in which the hike exposed me to, the town of Barbiano itself also featured an attractive church with a leaning bell tower.

I’ve seen this bell tower affectionately referred to as the Leaning Tower of Barbiano.

Moreover, Barbiano also had some charming narrow streets flanked by chalets and vertical farms more reminiscent of Switzerland or Austria than Italy.

Barbiano_077_20130531 - The Leaning Tower of Barbiano
The Leaning Tower of Barbiano

It turned out that the town perhaps made for the best starting and ending point for the loop hike taking in all the Barbiano Waterfalls.

Indeed, the trail encompassed the vistas as well as the charming town itself (see directions below).

From what we could tell, there were no places for trailhead parking closer to the waterfalls outside the town itself.

The steep (some parts had 25% grade) single-lane roads supporting bi-directional traffic (which included trucks and lorries) further discouraged us from driving in order to reduce the amount of hiking from town.

Hiking up to the Lower Waterfall of the Cascate di Barbiano

Barbiano_094_20130531 - Looking down over the town of Barbiano while climbing up the road leading to the trail for the Cascate di Barbiano
Looking down over the town of Barbiano while climbing up the road leading to the trail for the Cascate di Barbiano

Generally speaking, the route that I took went to the lowest waterfall first, then I gradually worked my way up to the uppermost waterfall before looping back to town on mostly single-lane roads.

The entire hike took me about 2.5 hours, which I’d imagine might be a pretty average estimate of how long to devote to this hike when planning for a visit.

So from the town of Barbiano, I hiked up the steep road labeled Wasserfallweg 1-6.

There was a shrine right at the junction of the main road and Wasserfallweg 1-6, which probably made for a good landmark for identifying this small road while passing through town.

Barbiano_099_20130531 - Ascending the road leading to the trail for the Cascate di Barbiano while revealing panoramas of the Valle Isarco along the way
Ascending the road leading to the trail for the Cascate di Barbiano while revealing panoramas of the Valle Isarco along the way

As I ascended above most of the residences and farms in town, there were signs that helped guide me to a partially paved road that already started to yield open vistas of Valle Isarco and the Dolomites across the valley.

Near a bench facing the vista, there was a signposted road junction.

It was from here that I continued on the left path, which eventually got me through the perimeter of someone’s property while providing me with distant views of the largest drop of the Cascate di Barbiano.

Then, the trail rejoined the main single-lane road beyond the boundaries of the property that I had just skirted around.

Barbiano_145_20130531 - Context of the lower waterfall of the Cascate di Barbiano in the background as the trail skirted this private farm on the way up there
Context of the lower waterfall of the Cascate di Barbiano in the background as the trail skirted this private farm on the way up there

In this section of the hike, there appeared to be some disagreement between the trail signs and the local property owners regarding trespassing on private property.

In one instance, a tractor was blocking a connecting trail that was supposed to lead up to the upper waterfalls.

Further along the main single-lane road, there were more signs conflicting with the trail signs.

Indeed, it was common to see trail signs encouraging me to continue while private property signs or beware of dog signs were adjacent to them.

In any case, I continued on the path to the lower waterfall (despite some of the threatening signs by local property owners), and then I found myself on a conventional dirt trail surrounded by trees and flanking large rocks.

Barbiano_156_20130531 - One of the conflicting signs where arrows point the way to specific landmarks, but then there's a sign warning about dogs on the Cascate di Barbiano Trail
One of the conflicting signs where arrows point the way to specific landmarks, but then there’s a sign warning about dogs on the Cascate di Barbiano Trail

I also noticed some encouraging signage, which helped to reassure me that I was on a sanctioned trail and I was once again back in Nature.

The trail continued to climb as it made its way to the base of the Lower Barbiano Waterfall.

There was a spur trail that went right to its misty base, but it appeared that they took apart an old lookout deck down here.

Apparently, they want to discourage people from scrambling on the wet rocks to try to get a better look.

I can see why they’d want to do that given how a slip and fall here could be fatal if washed downstream over more dropoffs.

Barbiano_182_20130531 - A nice view of the lower of the Cascate di Barbiano from the official lookout, which was higher than the spur trail leading to its rocky base
A nice view of the lower of the Cascate di Barbiano from the official lookout, which was higher than the spur trail leading to its rocky base

The path continued ascending past this spur under some overhanging rocks before it reached a more official overlook of the lower (inferiore) waterfall.

From here, the view of the impressive 85m waterfall was probably the most satisfying of the Cascate di Barbiano (see photo at the top of this page).

I even noticed some rock cairns as well as some markings on the neighboring rocks, which further indicated that this was the official lookout.

It took me about 45 minutes to get to this point from Barbiano though I’d imagine it would typically take an hour at a more leisurely pace.

Hiking up to the Upper Waterfalls of the Cascate di Barbiano

Barbiano_254_20130531 - The trail continuing to climb above the lowermost of the Cascate di Barbiano
The trail continuing to climb above the lowermost of the Cascate di Barbiano

Next, the trail continued to ascend a combination of switchbacks and rock steps as it made its way to the middle Barbiano Waterfall.

It took me about another 15 minutes to reach this waterfall, which was considerably shorter than the lower waterfall.

However, right before the short path to the front of the middle waterfall, there was a lookout of Valle Isarco and the Dolomites in the background.

This lookout was from a higher vantage point than what I was able to see earlier on.

Continuing to ascend the trail beyond this point, it took me yet another 15 minutes to finally make it to the uppermost of the Barbiano Waterfalls.

Barbiano_259_20130531 - Context of the belvedere at the highest point of the waterfall loop hike that I took for the Cascate di Barbiano
Context of the belvedere at the highest point of the waterfall loop hike that I took for the Cascate di Barbiano

However, the segmented waterfalls here appeared to be blocked by a lot of overgrowth so I was never really able to get a clean look at them.

In any case, after another 15 minutes ascending even higher on the trail, I encountered more benches all facing yet another gorgeous panorama of Valle Isarco and the Dolomites.

This belvedere was perhaps the highest one on the Barbiano Waterfalls Trail, and it provided clean looks at the precipitous mountain scenery.

From there, the trail briefly climbed then started to descend towards the single-lane roads leading back to town.

Barbiano_284_20130531 - Partial view of the uppermost of the Cascate di Barbiano
Partial view of the uppermost of the Cascate di Barbiano

After following the signs and generally staying on the roads until I returned to town, it took me around 45 minutes to get there from the highest panorama near the third waterfall.

During the return hike, it was worth noting that I recalled hearing the natural birdsong of a cuckoo, which might indicate that they are quite common to these mountains.

Authorities

The Cascate di Barbiano (Barbiano Waterfalls) reside near the town of Barbiano in the Bolzano-Alto-Adige Province of Italy. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit the Barbiano Tourism Board website.

Barbiano_001_20130531 - When we first pulled up into Barbiano, this was the view we saw. That was a castle in the lower right of this photograph
Barbiano_004_20130531 - Looking past one of the buildings of Barbiano while making my way to the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_021_20130531 - Rain was threatening during my hike to the Cascate di Barbiano, which you might be able to tell from looking towards the rain and mist surrounding the peaks of the Western Dolomites in this photo
Barbiano_052_20130531 - Looking over more of the idyllic rural scenery from Barbiano as I made my way to the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_055_20130531 - Some encouraging sign about the Cascate di Barbiano letting me know that I was in the right place
Barbiano_063_20130531 - Another panorama as seen from Barbiano as I continued to find my way to the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_080_20130531 - Looking over a cemetery in Barbiano in context of the Valle Isarco while in pursuit of the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_092_20130531 - Hiking alongside a gravel road offering me a preview of some of the breathtaking views to be had later on in the Cascate di Barbiano hike
Barbiano_097_20130531 - Looking towards the unmistakable granite mountains of the Dolomites from the road leading to the trail to Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_098_20130531 - This partially paved road was where I thought at first that I was going up someone's driveway, but indeed, this was the correct route to take for the Cascate di Barbiano loop trail
Barbiano_110_20130531 - Looking back across the valley towards a castle on the lower right and some chalets and hamlets perched on mountains while still pursuing the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_120_20130531 - Context of a rest bench (from all the uphill hiking so far) and the panorama of the Valle Isarco fronting the Western Dolomites
Barbiano_130_20130531 - Looking up ahead towards the tall and attractive lower drop of the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_146_20130531 - The first instance of conflicting signs where the arrows told me to go one way while the white signs told me it was trespassing through private property.
Barbiano_147_20130531 - Context of someone's beautifully cut lawn or pasture fronting a panorama of the Valle Isarco and the Western Dolomites
Barbiano_153_20130531 - The Cascate di Barbiano path rejoined the single-lane road until it reached the next switchback where the trail then diverged onto this little driveway
Barbiano_155_20130531 - Cascate di Barbiano getting closer as I pursued the little driveway deviating from the single-lane road
Barbiano_160_20130531 - It was reassuring to see the red-and-white markings along with some signage essentially hinting to me that I was back on an undisputed trail to Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_162_20130531 - On the Cascate di Barbiano Trail as it crossed over minor bridges and climbed up steps
Barbiano_168_20130531 - At the misty base of the bottom waterfall of Cascate di Barbiano, where getting better looks than this proved tricky due to the slippery rocks
Barbiano_172_20130531 - The Cascate di Barbiano Trail passed beneath some overhanging rocks on its way towards the second waterfall as well as a better viewpoint of the first waterfall
Barbiano_201_20130531 - Beyond the official viewpoint of the first waterfall, the Cascate di Barbiano Loop Trail continues to climb on this series of switchbacks and ledges
Barbiano_210_20130531 - Although the uphill hiking was tiring, it was nice to enjoy the panoramas along the way during the pauses on the way to the Cascate di Barbiano's upper tiers
Barbiano_211_20130531 - Some kind of cross near the belvedere near the middle drop of the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_221_20130531 - Looking across Valle Isarco from the belvedere at the middle waterfall
Barbiano_243_20130531 - The middle waterfall of the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_255_20130531 - More colored markings on the rocks denoting the Cascade di Barbiano Trail.  I swore that these were Austrian flag colors, which might hint at the Austrian heritage of Sudtirol before it was annexed by Italy after WWI
Barbiano_289_20130531 - Finally the trail started descending after getting past the upper waterfall of the Cascate di Barbiano
Barbiano_301_20130531 - The Cascate di Barbiano trail rejoined the single-lane paved road leading back down to Barbiano
Barbiano_306_20130531 - With wildflowers in bloom and alpine scenery like this, it was almost as if I was in a scene from the Sound of Music
Barbiano_308_20130531 - Just to give you an idea of how narrow the Barbiano roads are and who uses them, here's a truck that passed by me
Barbiano_315_20130531 - The breathtaking scenery doesn't stop even as I was headed back down the mountain towards Barbiano
Barbiano_319_20130531 - Another gorgeous panorama of the Valle Isarco and the Western Dolomites as I was almost back down at the town of Barbiano
Barbiano_324_20130531 - Almost back at the town of Barbiano as the trail descended closer to the town's buildings
Barbiano_325_20130531 - Descending the wasserfallweg into the town of Barbiano
Barbiano_326_20130531 - I knew I was almost at the end when I could see the Leaning Tower of Barbiano being so tantalizingly close
Barbiano_328_20130531 - On the Wasserfallweg 1-6 street in Barbiano as I was going past some free moving mules
Barbiano_331_20130531 - Finally making it back in the town of Barbiano with its leaning tower in the center of town
Bolzano_019_20130530 - Bolzano, the provincial capital of the Alto Adige Region, was about a half-hour drive from Barbiano

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We’ll describe the driving route to Cascate di Barbiano’s starting point from Bolzano (where we were based).

From Bolzano (Bozen), the fastest way to get to Barbiano would be to take the A22 autostrada and exit near the town of Ponte Gardena.

Barbiano_061_20130531 - Looking back at the context of the town center of Barbiano, which was the town where I started and ended the Cascate di Barbiano loop hike
Looking back at the context of the town center of Barbiano, which was the town where I started and ended the Cascate di Barbiano loop hike

Conversely, you can save on the toll by taking the SS12 around 21km from Bolzano to the turnoff for Barbiano at Ponte Gardena.

The road then steeply ascends a series of switchbacks as it makes it way to Barbiano‘s town center in 4km.

Although we saw there were limited 90-minute parking spots around the restaurants neighboring the Leaning Tower of Bolzano, we managed to find free parallel parking (without the 90-minute time limit) further down the main street near the Wasserfallweg 1-6 road.

If those parking spots are unavailable, it might be possible to find additional parallel parking on the outskirts of town along the main road as well as a paid parking lot closer to the center of town.

Barbiano_332_20130531 - The parking situation in the town center of Barbiano was pretty limited
The parking situation in the town center of Barbiano was pretty limited

This drive took us roughly 30 minutes to cover the distance between Bolzano and Barbiano.

For additional context, Bolzano was 61km (under an hour drive) north of Trento, 269km (2.5-3 hours drive) northwest of Venice (Venezia), and 280km (over 3 hours drive) northeast of Milan (Milano).

Top down sweep of the lowest and largest drop before panning over to the trail


Top down sweep of one of the middle or upper tiers of the falls before doing a left to right sweep of the mindblowing panorama


Top down sweep of one of the middle or upper tiers of the falls from right at its base before panning over the brink of the next drop

Tagged with: ponte gardena, bolzano, bozen, trentino, alto adige, sudtirol, south tyrol, dolomiti, dolomites, italy, waterfall, barbiano



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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.
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