We are in the Park of Vejo along the course of the Cremera river, the magical tributary of the Tiber that we will travel from its sources and then go up a side branch to the discover the mysterious Falls of Hell (Cascate dell’Inferno).
Then we will descend its course to enter the intimate Franca Caves and finally we will go with the river towards the Tiber to reach Ponte Sodo.
The extraordinary feature of Vejo Park is the incredible mix of “wildness” (the so-called Wilderness) and the work of man. The landscape to the west and north of Rome despite having an orography and a complex morphology, and therefore being uncomfortable, has been frequented for millennia by man. And the countless remains, in particular Falisci, Etruscan and medieval, testify.
The source of the Cremera is considered the rock wall from which descends the waterfall that collects the rivulets of the upper flow, located in the valley between Campagnano, Formello and Sacrofano. You arrive passing through a fantastic gallery of plants that has formed naturally at a certain point of the ravine, in an extremely appealing environment.
From the start, with the view from below of the sanctuary of the Madonna del Sorbo high on the cliff overlooking the river, it is an ever deeper immersion in nature. There are no paths and you have to go up the river to find the view, continually wading where the walls of the gorge force you to pass from one to the other bank.
Then there is the splendid landscape at the confluence with the gully that comes from the Cascata dell’Inferno (Waterfall of Hell): with cascades everywhere. This secret place just a couple of steps from Rome, takes its name from the fact that the cows that were watering at the gorge fell from the waterfall and died.
But the “source” of the Cremera changes its position according to the rains and the season. During the dry season it starts with a set of drops falling from the walls while in the rainy season it is possible to recognize the rivulets (or torrents) that feed the river and also the fountain of Sacrofano, at the crossroads between Formello, Campagnano, and Sacrofano.
Following one of these torrents that feed the river you have a real surprise and you meet the gully of Torraccia, just below the village of Formello, going down a steep mule track, in the woods to the Valle del Sorbo.
If you stay on the path that passes over the stream, the landscape is usually very beautiful, as always happens when you walk in these areas. But if you try to get down on the banks of the gully, everything changes: you dive into an enchanted environment, made of large fallen rocks needing regular jumping, in rapid running water, until you get to the point where the Torraccia gully meets the Cremera river.
And here the landscape becomes alienating, with the smooth slab on which lie the waters of the Cremera, that go to meet those of the Torraccia in a whirlwind of waterfalls.
And it’s not over. The Torraccia gully reserves in its side valley its most hidden secret: a medieval fountain and the overlying Etruscan tunnel/ aqueduct both still active! The tunnel still today drains the water towards the fountain!
Let’s go back to the Cremera and to its passage in the valley, between one gorge and another, we arrive at the impressive ruins of the unfortunately crumbling medieval mill next to the equally appealing Cascata della Mola. Just from this Mill Waterfall, the river, after a couple of miles in the open field, falls pouring into the gorge.
And almost no one continues to walk along the banks of the Cremera, beyond the waterfall, up to the grotto known locally as Grotta Franca and to the rocky promontory on the summit, just below the last houses of Formello.
The problem is in fact that crossing of the river. on the way out and back, is quite difficult as the water is always quite high (except August and September).
But if you decide to get wet, unless you wear the uncomfortable galoshes of a fisherman, you will go into a part of the river that has a wild look, like that at the Waterfall of Hell, with even traces of the trail!
Returning to the Cremera and its wonders you end up with the Ponte Sodo, the tunnel excavated by the Etruscans to let the water of the Cremera escape during the floods, so that it does not go back to flood the Vejo esplanade. The place, about 1.5 km as the crow flies from the archaeological area, is absolutely magical.