Orrido di Ponte Alto is a very narrow canyon with two scenic waterfalls that dive right into it, located at a very short distance from the center of Trento, in the lovely region of Trentino, in Northern Italy. If you happen to visit Trentino in the summer, you should make it a point to go.
In this post, I will share some background information on Orrido di Ponte Alto and share some useful tips to plan your visit and make the most of your time there.
Some Background Information About Orrido Di Ponte Alto Gorge
Trentino is packed with beautiful waterfalls. I had visited the one over Rio Ragaiolo, where there also is a suspended bridge, in the winter – you can read more about it on my post “A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole.” However, Orrido di Ponte Alto is more than just a waterfall.
The canyon of Orrido di Ponte Alto has been carved by the waters of the Fersina stream over the course of thousands of years. Fersina is a river that springs from Erdemolo lake, an Alpine lake located at 2600 meters above sea level in the Mocheni Valley, and a tributary to Adige river.
Fersina heads to the valley where Trento is located, from an area located at around 1800 meters above sea level and it does so in a very short distance – thus gaining a lot of force in its descent and thus posing a great threat to Trento as it caused frequent flooding, submerging the city, damaging the houses and the agricultural land around it.
It was in the 1500s that the local population started attempting to control the flow of the water, building two different dams which were intended to slow down the river and hold at least part of the debris it carried to the valley.
Throughout the centuries, several works have been done to control the river.
The first dam on Fersina was built in 1537 upon orders of Bernardo Clesio. This was entirely made of wood and just 20 meters high – in today’s term, it may be considered quite rudimentary, but back in the day when it was built it was a truly revolutionary work. The dam was meant to stop all the material carried by the Fersina river to the valley, and prevent it from causing damages.
This dam worked for a period of 6 years, but after a period of heavy rain the damn was destroyed and all the material it held was flushed down to the city of Trento, causing enormous damage.
The dam was then built again – higher and stronger. However, once again it was destroyed after a few years, once again leaving Trento unprotected.
The fight between the city of Trento and the Fersina river continued throughout the centuries. More consolidation works were undertaken even during the Habsburg Empire – leading to the latest version of the dam which dates back to 1850 and which is entirely built of stone.
The dam caused the creation of two beautiful 40 meters high waterfalls, which jump directly from red rock cliffs and create gorgeous sound and light effects.
With all this information, it’s easy to see how Orrido di Ponte Alto is a place of striking natural beauty as well as of historical importance.
Visiting Orrido Di Ponte Alto Gorge
Orrido di Ponte Alto is very close to Trento. It’s an easy and quick day trip out of the city, so it would be a pity to miss it when in town. It’s an easy place to visit, suitable even to families with children (though keep in mind that the trail isn’t suitable for strollers). There isn’t an actual trail – it mostly is steps. The site has been closed from the 1980s until 2017, when major renovation work made it once again safe to visit.
What to expect when visiting Orrido di Ponte Alto Gorge
As soon as you arrive at Orrido di Ponte Alto, you’ll spot a flight of stairs going down. This go deep into the gorge carved by the mighty Fersina river. But before going down, you’ll be meeting a guide that will give you plenty of information about the dams, their historical importance, and which will lead you safely around the site.
The first part of the visit of Orrido di Ponte Alto consists of an in depth explanation about river and the dams built to slow down its course. After that, you will head to a first panoramic point, which overlooks the first waterfall that flows right under the beautiful bridge, right by the first dam known as Controserra Madruzza. It’s a really beautiful sight, especially when after heavy rains the waterfall is flowing in all its power.
From there, you’ll go back on the trail and then continue walking down, along the river and towards the second dam. That’s when you’ll be able to fully appreciate how the river has carved the rock, giving it interesting shapes and beautiful colorings.
Finally, you’ll get to the best part of the visit, close to the oldest dam, and you will be able to go all the way above the river and admire the second waterfall from above, and the river as it impetuously goes through the narrow gorge.
But this is not the last stop. Indeed, the guide will open a small door from where you’ll head to a narrow, spiral staircase that takes you to a small balcony from where you’ll be able to observe the waterfall from behind. It’s not really easy to explain what I mean. You will be basically standing behind the waterfall, admiring water as it goes down, listening to its deafening sound.
That’s the ending point of the visit, from where you will walk back up to the entrance following the same trail.
Practical Information To Plan Your Visit To Orrido Di Ponte Alto Gorge
How To Get To Orrido Di Ponte Alto
Orrido di Ponte Alto is located at just 4 km from Trento. The best way to get there is by bus. You can take bus n. 9 from Piazza Dante (right by the train station) and get off at Cognola Scuole. It will take about 20 minutes. From there, it is another 10 minutes walk until you get to what looks like a restaurant (see picture above).
You can also get there by car, in which case you’ll have to park at Cognola sports complex in Via Ponte Alto.
Guided tours of Orrido di Ponte Alto Gorge
For security reasons, you’ll only be allowed to visit Orrido di Ponte Alto on a guided tour. There is no need to book in advance. Guided tours leave every hour between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM every Saturday and Sunday from March to November, and between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM from December to February.
Groups of maximum 22 people are allowed at once. If you are visiting during high season, I recommend heading to the starting point a bit before the tour is supposed to start to make sure you have a spot, or else you may have to wait for a full hour for the next tour.
For group tours and tours during other days of the week, bookings are required.
The visit lasts between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on the group and its speed.
You can visit Orrido di Ponte Alto for free if you have a Trentino Guest Card. Otherwise, admission costs are €5 euro for adults, and €3 euro for children between 6 and 12 years of age. It’s free for children under 6 years of age.
Recommendations upon visiting
Make sure to be dressed appropriately. You won’t really need hiking boots, but as there are lots of stairs and the water sprays everywhere, it may be slippery in places, so a pair of actual walking shoes are better than flip flops or sandals. Once you get all the way down the gorge, it gets quite chilly (especially once you go down the spiral staircase to see the waterfall from behind). You may want to carry a rain proof jacket or a poncho to cover up and keep you dry then.
As in most other places in Trentino, dogs are welcome at Orrido di Ponte Alto. But keep in mind that they may be uncomfortable with the noise and the metal trail. I saw no dogs when I visited.
Further readings about Trentino
If you are planning a trip to Trentino, make sure to read my other posts:
- Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer
- A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino
- A Concise Guide To Mezzano Di Primiero Trentino
- Five Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino
- 10 Perfectly Good Reasons To Ski In Val Di Sole
- A Winter Guide To Val Di Sole
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Tourism Board of Trentino, Trentino Marketing and Traverse Events during my last trip to Trentino, and wish to thank them for putting together an incredible itinerary and for welcoming me ever so kindly. Needless to say, all the views expressed in this post remain my own.