The Spectacular Waterfalls at the Gorge of Ponte Alto

Water falling over the second waterfall

I love exploring waterfalls, and when I find a new one, it makes me so excited to experience its raw beauty and power. The waterfalls at the Gorge of Ponte Alto in Trento, Italy, is a fantastic find that most people would never know it’s here. The Fersina River carved this deep canyon over thousands of years, but over 500 years ago, medieval engineers built a simple hydraulics dam out of boulders that created these spectacular waterfalls. And you can see these waterfalls up close just as I did.The Gorge at Ponte Alto

How to Get There

You can reach the Orrido (Italian for ‘horrific’ – loud rushing waterfalls) easily by bus from the Trento city center and back in less than a half hour from the FS train station by the extra-urban bus. If you are driving, you can park at the Cognola sports complex in Via Ponte Alto. The Orrido is open for tours on Saturday’s and Sunday’s on the hour from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are 5€, but you can get in free with the Trentino Guest Card. A heads up for you is that there are multiple steps (222 total) and narrow staircases that could be wet and slippery, so make sure you are wearing shoes that won’t slip.

TourStaircase down to the waterfalls

To view and experience the waterfalls at L’Orrido di Ponte Alto, you must schedule a tour with a guide (this is for security reasons). The trail around the falls was deteriorating and was closed in the 1980s, and after an extensive refurbishment, it was reopened in 2015. Now you can enjoy the waterfalls and hear about all the history of how the raging Fersina River had flooded the city of Trento 26 times in the past 2000 years. The canyon separates two mountains only by 4km long. The walls are so close you could reach out and touch both sides. This narrow gorge allowed the river to get ‘very angry.’ So, Trento had to create something to protect the city from the water. Thus the dam was built. You will hear all about this and see a demonstration on how Trento resolved their issue by creating a staircase (towers) to slow down the water.gorge with Fersina River flowing through

Waterfalls through the RavineFirst set of waterfalls at the Gorge of Ponte Alto

The first set of waterfalls at 40 meters high at the Gorge of Ponte Alto are impressive. If you look closely at the first photo where these falls come over the first dam, it looks like two faces looking at each other. Do you see them? There is a walkway and a platform above the falls for you to capture this photo. Try to shoot in shutter priority mode, to get the misty waterfall look that I achieved above. It helps to have a tripod, but in a pinch, I just rest my camera on a railing to get the shot. Play around with the time and take multiple shots until you get the one with the desired look you are trying to achieve. As you walk along the trails, you can admire the lush green vegetation against the red rocks and even some scattered water dripping from higher up.

Largest Waterfall at the Gorge of Ponte Alto

With the mist flying up, you will have to watch your camera lens but, the coolest shot is right above the second dam where the falls drop over 100 meters straight down. What is very surprising to me is that the wood at the dam doesn’t look warped or deteriorated at all. I would think all that rushing water it would dip in the center at least. Maybe chalk it up to some brilliant engineers. There is a platform for you to view the water right as it goes over the dam, which can be genuinely frightening or exciting. The water is rushing by so fast; you can almost get a little dizzy from watching it too long. Remember to hold onto your camera/phone. You wouldn’t want to drop it here. If you are afraid of heights, you don’t have to go to the very top platform and just observe it from the edge.the dam at the second waterfall

Right at the edge of the second waterfallWater falling over the second waterfall

Behind the FallsThe cave behind the waterfall

The highlight of the tour is the opportunity to go behind the largest waterfall. There is a steep spiral staircase to climb down. The steps most likely will be wet, and there is water dripping down the walls and ceiling. Protect your camera from the water and the mist that will be falling all around you once you step behind the falls. It is deafening back here and wet. It reminds me a little of the behind of Niagara Falls. Have you been there?Behind the second waterfall at the Gorge of Ponte Alto

Summary

This deep cavern has been here for over 500 years and if you are in the Trentino area of northern Italy stop on by. Come see the waterfalls that 40,000+ visitors a year come to see in Trento, Italy. Trento has a lot of activities to do and experience. And the spectacular waterfalls at the Gorge of Ponte Alto is a definite must-see while you are here.

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Further Reading

If you would like to see more of my nomad travels, check out my post on my first month of traveling full-time: One Month of Nomad Travel. If you are coming to Italy for a visit, check out these posts:

Thank You to the Visit Trentino and Traverse for offering this opportunity to tour the Gorge of Ponte Alto. As always opinions are 100% my own.

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