Get to know one of the most famous waterfalls in Italy! Discover the Cascate del Toce in Piedmont among fairy-tale nature, outdoor activities, food and wine.
In the far north of Piedmont there is one of the most spectacular and scenic places in Italy: the Formazza Valley (in Italian, Val Formazza). It is a nature reserve containing countless jewels, including the Cascate del Toce waterfall, also known as “La Frua”, after the name of the small hamlet of Formazza where they are located.
As far as waterfalls Europe is plenty of interesting places. Let’s thus discover one of the best waterfalls in Italy!
In 2003 these amazing waterfalls were chosen as the nineteenth stage of the Giro d’Italia. The natural waterfalls are one of the main attractions of the valley and also the perfect starting point for hiking or mountain biking in the lush nature among streams, gentian fields, pastures and picturesque mountain huts.
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Cascate del Toce: historical notes
The waters of the thunderous Toce waterfall are those of the river Toce, once called “Tuxa”. The name is thought to derive from the river Athisone, even mentioned by Plutarch in his narratives on the barbarians.
The history of these famous falls goes hand in hand with that of mountaineering, which was first practised here in 1777 by the enthusiastic De Saussure. He was followed by the reverend and mountaineer Coolidge, the Swiss Studer, the mountaineering legend Cust and Riccardo Gerla, the so-called “The Apostle of Ossola”.
It was, however, in 1863 that the area around the Toce Falls was also developed from a tourist point of view: a certain Giuseppe Zertanna built a hotel at the top of these major waterfalls, with the aim of welcoming patrons, hikers and mountaineers. The structure was later enlarged by Architect Portaluppi, who designed the two hydroelectric power stations in Ossola. Many personalities stayed here, from the composer Wagner to Lord Byron, from Giosuè Carducci to Gabriele D’Annunzio and Vittorio Emanuele III. They fell in love with one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Italy.
The Gries Way (Via del Gries), an ancient trade route linking Milan and Bern, meanders alongside the Toce waterfalls. Since its creation in 1397, it has been a transport route for five centuries, with goods ranging from the traditional sbrinz cheese from the Bernese Oberland to wine from the Ossola region and crystals made by the Engelberg monastery. If you pass through the Gries Way in summer, you can enjoy a folkloric historical procession with a caravan of men and mules loaded with all kinds of goods.
Location & main characteristics of this famous waterfalls in Italy!
The Cascate del Toce waterfalls are located in the hamlet of Frua, in the province of Verbania-Cusio-Ossola and very close to the Swiss border. Situated at 1675 metres above sea level, they are recognised as one of the most famous waterfalls in Italy, a spectacular symbol of the Formazza valley and the Lepontine Alps.
With their spectacular 143-metre drop, the Toce Falls are the second highest European waterfalls and are among the top 10 most beautiful waterfalls in the world. Their origin is linked to the River Toce, the main watercourse of the Ossola Valley. This river gives life to Lake Morasco, an artificial basin located upstream of the waterfalls, at an altitude of 1815 metres.
The blue expanse of water is set in a traditional Alpine atmosphere, with high snow-capped peaks reflected in the lake. But, you should know that a Walser village once stood here, used as a high-altitude summer pasture. The fate of this place changed between the 1920s and 1930s, when Edison decided to build a hydroelectric reservoir, flooding the now abandoned village.
If you want to reach Lake Morasco, you have to proceed towards the top of the waterfalls and pass the small village of Riale. However, before you arrive there, don’t forget to stop at the historic hotel built by Zertanna in the 19th century. At the restaurant, you can enjoy local delicacies with a view of the waterfalls and the Formazza Valley.
Not far away there is also a picturesque church dedicated to the Madonna della Neve dating back to 1621, perfectly set in a fairytale natural environment.
What to see and do at the Cascate del Toce
At the top of the Toce Waterfalls there is a wooden bridge, partly suspended in the air, which will give you the most spectacular view of the rapids. At your feet, you will see the rushing water and there is no better place to take photos of this natural jewel.
The Formazza Valley and the Cascate del Toce waterfalls are perhaps the area’s main attractions. But there are also many spectacular places around one of the best waterfalls in Italy!
You can reach them by mountain bike or on hiking trails. In fact, you can reach Lago del Sabbione, Lago di Toggia and Lago di Castel. The latter is a perfect destination for fishing enthusiasts, as it is rich in native trout and Canadian Cristimover trout.
The Orridi di Uriezzo (Uriezzo Gorges) are 25 kilometres from the Toce Waterfall. These crevasses were created thousands of years ago and will make you feel like a Lilliputian in front of the high rocky walls. The nearby “Marmitte dei Giganti” are natural pools dating back to the last ice age, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim in summer.
On the other hand, if you visit the Cascate del Toce waterfall in winter, you can go downhill skiing, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. In the Formazza Valley, there are a total of 30 kilometres of ski slopes, located between San Michele and Riale.
You should know that Riale is considered the home of cross-country skiing. Here, in fact, there is a 12-kilometre ski run in a hollow in the shadow of Corno Brunni, which was used as a reserve run during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
Timetables and prices
The Cascate del Toce waterfalls are free of charge, but you should visit them between June and September to see them in their full beauty. In the other months, in fact, the flow of water is considerably reduced as it is channelled towards the turbines through underground pipes.
From 6 June to 20 September, perhaps the best waterfalls in Italy are generally open on weekdays, from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and on public holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. From 9 to 20 August, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Special openings take place on 2 and 14 June, 20 and 27 September (all from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), 26 September (11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.) and 28 August (8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.).
How to get there
The easiest way to reach the Cascate del Toce waterfalls and the Formazza Valley is by car. From Milan, take the A8 towards the SS33 and exit at Crodo-Valle Antigorio-Val Formazza. Then take the SS659 until you reach the hamlet of Frua and the waterfalls.
To get there by train, leave from Milano Rho Fiera to Domodossola. There you can continue by car or bus along the SS659.
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