We had already heard of San Fele and its waterfalls. And for some time we had planned to plan a trip to this corner of unspoiled nature of Basilicata, an ideal destination for two and four-legged walks.
Ideal destination for 2 and 4-legged walks
Dense woods of chestnut, beech and turkey trees with tall stalks, the Bradano torrent that runs clear between jumps, ponds and mills: the territory of San Fele captures the beauty of its nature and its landscape characterized by waterfalls.
The Waterfalls are named after “U Uattenniere”, which in the local dialect indicates the Gualchiera, a machine used in ancient factories, built close to the waterfalls to exploit the power of water that, when falling on wooden blades, knits that beat the woven wool. With this process it became the most resistant woolen cloth.
The power of water was also used for the operation of ancient mills, whose remains still present today are able to tell the economic and social history of these areas.
Thanks to the commitment and dedication of a group of people, led by Michele Sperduto, president of the “U Uattenniere” Association, 5 of the ten routes that coincide with the jumps that the torrent makes in reaching the Atella river flow can now be reached then merge into the Ofanto river. And we, Michael and Otto, we faced all five in the company of President Sperduto who immediately won us his stories.
Not enough woods, the landscape, the historical suggestions to make this trekking unique, you can indeed count on an exciting story. So Michele led us, almost by the hand, first towards the “Falls de i nnammuruate” and then to that “de u Uattenniere”, entertaining us with the stories of when he was a child and, secretly from his parents, he came to play and go swimming in the fresh and limpid waters of the stream. Here he learned to swim: the sea was too far and only those who already had driving license and car could reach it. So Michele and his friends the cool in the hot summer days they found them plunging into the river and playing among the waterfalls and then lay down to sunbathe on the flat rock in front of the waterfall called “re chiane”.
Near the waterfall that gives the name to the association there are the remains of the gualchiera used until the forties of the last century, a pre-industrial hydraulic engineering work that tells a fundamental part of the history of San Fele.
On our tour we were lucky enough to meet a group of torrentists and it was fun to watch them as they faced the jumps of the falls thanks to rope descents, dives and slips into the water.
The third waterfall that we admired, after a path uphill towards the village, is the one with the highest jump, called “u Vertone”.
At this point it was necessary to visit the headquarters of the Association, which manages the routes and organizes walks on a voluntary basis. Here the 1:4 scale model is shown which faithfully reproduces the Gualchiera of San Fele. Michele tells us that it was possible to reconstruct both the machine and its operation thanks to the memory of Mr. Donato Faggella, nephew of the last gualcatore who as a child his grandfather carried with him on the river. From his sketches on paper and then from a cardboard model, the reproduction of wood present in the premises of the association was obtained.
In the village, on our walk to the castle, we have identified the barber shop where even today Mr. Faggella carries out his activity and we took the opportunity to greet him.
But let’s go back to the waterfalls and woods. Those around San Fele seem to be those of fairy tales, with a thousand shades of green and the silence interrupted only by the rustling of the wind between the leaves and the birds’ verses between one branch and another.
At “Pozzo di Nitti”, a picnic area equipped inside the Bosco Squadro of San Fele, with toilets, tables and barbecues for grilling, we have eaten our snack based on local bread and cheese: let’s not forget that Filiano and his famous Pecorino are a stone’s throw away. We breathed deeply while Otto had fun running through the stems of trees and flowers and mosses of the undergrowth.
In the afternoon we faced the other two waterfalls, routes recently opened to the public and of medium difficulty: the “Falls de u Puaravise” and “de i ggemelle”.
What did we like best? The last one, formed by two parallel falls of water that plunge into a small lake and which must protrude on the rocks to appreciate in its entirety and to immortalize in the irrevocable snap memory.
Also worth visiting is the village of San Fele, gathered between the slopes of Monte Castello and Monte Torretta. The climb to the ruins of the castle-fortress built by the will of Otto I of Saxony is hard but rewarded by the splendid view of the panorama of the whole Vulture.
Among the villages of the village the most interesting is Pierno, in which stands the Abbey dedicated to the Virgin Mary: according to legend, the church was founded in 1139 by the initiative of St. Guglielmo da Vercelli illuminated by the discovery of a wooden statue of the Madonna right on the mountain Pierno. The patron saint of the village is instead San Sebastiano who freed the town from the plague. But St. Fele also has a saint of his own: he is Giustino De Jacobis. His feast occurs on July 30th and is certainly the most heartfelt and participated.
Did you feel like a trip out of town in these uncontaminated places rich in history? Book as we did one of the comfortable houses of “La costa del Sole”, a stone’s throw from the waterfalls and the oldest town in the country where there are the Church of Santa Maria della Quercia and the Frascella buildings, an imposing architecture located below Monte Castello with a Norman-style tower belonging to the ancient church of San Sebastiano, which collapsed after the earthquake of 1456, and Faggella, now the Town Hall.
The earthquakes have not spared the village over the centuries: the last, that of Irpinia in 1980, left homeless 634 people, or about 10% of the population of the time and still today many houses remain witnesses, with the cracks in the walls and windows without glass as empty eyes wide open on nothing.
La Costa Del Sole
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 33 – San Fele (Potenza)
Info: +39 347 9450167