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The hidden Abbateggio waterfall in the Maiella

Walks in the Maiella, Abruzzo: Part 2

The Cascata di Cusano waterfall near Abbateggio, Abruzzo
If it didn't take a bit of effort to reach the waterfall then you wouldn't have it all to yourself. No lazy influencers here!

The immutable fact of tourism these days is that the easier a place is to reach, the more tourists you will find when you get there. We saw only one other couple as we waded along the river and scrambled over rocks for 30 minutes to get to the Cascata di Cusano so that's perhaps a big hint that it’s not exactly a walk in the park to reach this waterfall.

The olive grove where the path to the Cascata di Cusano starts
Park your car when you see this olive grove and follow the well-trodden path down to the river

In fact there are no signs telling you where to park, the path down to the river is unmarked, it’s not immediately obvious whether you turn right or left when you reach the river and it’s difficult to know exactly how far you have to wade through the water. The hidden Abbateggio waterfall really is quite well hidden and is situated at the foot of the Maiella massif in Abruzzo which doesn’t attract many tourists even in summer so all of the above explains why the reward for a little bit of effort is that you won’t find the irritating selfie-stick people here.

The path down to the river Cusano waterfall near Abbateggio, Abruzzo
Once through the olive grove there's a short path down through the woods to reach the river Cusano

But that's the mission of My Kind of Italy, to introduce you to places that are far from the madding crowd, to borrow a phrase first coined by Thomas Gray in 1750 in his wonderful poem 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard'.

The Cascata di Cusano is not exactly Niagara Falls or the Cascata delle Marmore near Terni, but I enjoyed this experience more than Marmore when we went there a year ago because the crowds at Marmore were suffocating and it detracts from the whole experience when there are long lines everywhere. Our tolerance for crowded tourist sites diminishes with each passing year which is why Abruzzo is of such interest to us.

The river canyons on the way to the Cascata di Cusano
The water level in the river will normally be quite shallow in the middle of summer

The first thing to realize about the Abbateggio waterfall in the Maiella is that you are going to get very wet. Good footwear is essential because you will be scrambling over rocks and wading through water so this is no place for flip-flops.

In a dry Abruzzo summer the river should not be very deep, knee-high at most, but to access the waterfall area you will need to put your camera and phone etc in your rucksack and hold it over your head for a few yards because the water level there is chest height. Then you can put all your stuff down on the small shingle beach and have a swim in the refreshing clear water around the waterfall itself.

The river canyons on the way to the Cascata di Cusano in Abruzzo
At various points along the river you will have to scramble over slippery rocks as you go through the canyons

I’m a fit 66 year old but as agility declines with age I’m not sure I’d want to negotiate all the rocks at 70 or older so bear that in mind. But I’m sure children would find this an exciting adventure as long as you don’t end up having to carry them.

The deeper section of the river just before reaching the Cascata di Cusano
This is the very short section where the water gets deeper as you go through the narrow gap to reach the. waterfall

The obvious risk here for any age group is that you stumble over a rock and sprain an ankle or worse and then I’m not sure how you get back to your car because it’s certainly not an easily accessible location. This is not a place for accidents so anyone with agility or mobility problems should give it a miss.

The final section on the river before reaching the Cascata di Cusano
At the end of the brief deep section you reach a shingle ledge that faces the waterfall

How to reach the Abbateggio waterfall in the Maiella:

Abbateggio is just off the main Maiella road SS487 after you've passed through San Valentino in Abruzzo Citeriore. Once through Abbateggio the road bends sharply to the left and then there is a short straight section (opposite the arrow on the map below). After a few yards you will see an olive grove on the right-hand side and perhaps even a couple of cars parked by the side of the road. There is no sign here at all but this is the place to stop and you'll notice that there is a well-worn path down through the olive trees towards the river.

The Maiella Park hiking map showing Abbateggio
The north sheet of the official Maiella Park hiking map (1:25,000 scale)

Follow the steep path through the woods down to the river at which point you turn right and follow the river upstream as best you can for 20-30 minutes until you see the water emerging from a gap between the cliffs on the left.

This is where you have to wade through chest-high water for about 10 yards or so until reaching a small bank of shingle with the waterfall directly in front of you.

The river canyon on the way to Cascata di Cusano, Abruzzo
Lacking proper footwear Elena decided to go barefoot on the return journey but I wouldn't recommend it

Having mentioned the Cascata delle Marmore at the top of this page, here is a photograph of these impressive waterfalls near Terni in southern Umbria close to the border with Lazio. But they are best visited out of season because on a late August weekday it was extremely congested with queues everywhere.

Cascata delle Marmore


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