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Friday, June 1, 2012

Cascata del Toce Waterfall



Although only visible for a portion of each year, when it is flowing, the Cascata del Toce waterfall is the second-highest in all of Europe -- 143 meters tall and 60 meters wide at its base. It is located in the Formazza valley, really just about on the border with Switzerland. 


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I visited the Toce waterfall last August, on a beautiful day at the height of the season. We went by car from Stresa, which is the easiest way to reach the somewhat remote location. The falls are included in some tour packages, so check at the local tour agencies in Stresa. The drive took about one hour, first on the highway and then on smaller and smaller roads through some picturesque villages. Finally, coming around a bend, one is gifted with the first, and maybe most impressive, view of the falls. By following this road just a little more we traveled up the hill, reaching the top, where there is a large parking area. 



The water in the falls originates in an extremely pure mountain spring in Gries Pass, a pass which connects Italy with Switzerland. Since 1930, it has been used as a source of hydroelectric power. The water is collected in the man-made Lake Morasco, and, when released at certain times during the year, the flow creates this man-made assisted, but natural, wonder. The power plant is out of sight, farther down the valley from the falls. You will pass it on the road as you come and go, a massive, somewhat Romanesque-looking structure. The large building at the top of the falls is a hotel and restaurant, built in 1863 as a refuge for hikers and travelers coming through the pass. Next to this building is a small church, la Madonna della Neve, dating from 1621.


There is no barrier, no fence, no area one must stay in. There is a bridge that crosses the water; on one side is the calm Lake Morasco reservoir; on the other, the falls descend directly over the edge. There is a wooden platform built out over the descending side, giving a very up-close and scary view of the falling water. 


Look closely below the platform and to the right. You can see people walking on a footpath along the edge. These paths go along both sides of the fall and continue all the way down to the fields at the bottom. Again, note that they have no rails and are directly on the edge. I did not do this.


I did stand on the platform though, taking this shot of the water tumbling down. Unfortunately there is no sense of height or depth, or certainly not of the roaring sound and the spray of the water. That's why you must go and see it for yourself.


Back down at the bottom, it's quiet and tranquil. There are walking paths here as well, and people picnicking in the fields. 

 If you drive here, putting Cascata del Toce, Formazza into your GPS will provide you with good directions to get here.

You'll find more about the falls and visiting this region at: valformazza.it


 The Cascata del Toce falls are far up in the northern corner of Italy; remote and very close to Switzerland.

photo credits: distance photos courtesy of Wikipedia and valformazza.it all other photos copyrighted property of stresa sights

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