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Translated Jeff Matthews

Conca della Campania is a small town of around 1300 persons in the Province of Caserta in the Campania region, about 40 km (25 mi) northwest of Caserta. As is often the case even with the smallest communities in these parts, it keeps jealous guard on its secret—in this case, the waterfalls and watermills.

The hamlet of Conca is within the confines of the Roccamonfina and Foce [mouth of a river] Garigliano Regional Park; it might even go unnoticed, the few dwellings are along Provincial Road 14, which winds and twists its way among the hills and woods of that area and is, in effect, the “inside road” through the entire urbanized fabric.

The sunny square of Conca della Campania is the hub of local commercial activity—a butcher's, a tobacco shop, a pharmacy and the faded signs of an ancient bar, now closed, perhaps because the proprietor has passed away or perhaps because there is just not enough business to stay open. This is what we found on a sunny morning in the summer of 2014.

Finding our destination was not an easy task since the Caianiello exit of the Milano-Napoli Highway of the Sun has virtually no further posted indications of how to get anywhere else! Luckily we had our handy satellite navigator to keep us from having to constantly consult those unwieldy fold-out paper maps, so we found what we were looking for.

From the square, you take the narrow, steep road (with the pompous name of via Roma!) leading steeply down from the tobacconist's. It's a good idea to stay in your car thus far since parking spaces in the square, itself, are lacking. Continue on for about 300 meters; you'll pass a church and find a second church, where you can park.

Finding the trail, itself, is not hard. A few meters back from where you left your car, on the right-hand side, is an arch that marks the beginning of the trail. An excavated down-hill section leads to the narrow valley that flanks the western border of the town. You immediately hear in the distance the sound of the rushing waters of the Maltempo river (a tributary of the Volturno) flowing at the bottom of a gully, still hidden by thick woods. Right from the beginning of the trail, in these limestone rocks of the ancient extinct Roccamonfina volcano, there are many crevices as well as artificial caves ripe for exploration. Keep going down on the trail; it is well marked by a wooden guide railing. You'll finally be down at the upper part of the river. There is a small area where you can rest; it's equipped with a few wooden tables and benches; there is also a small stone bridge with barely legible trail markings that indicate that this is entrance to a ring-trail to everything there is to see on this excursion: the falls, the water-mills and various underground spaces.

Starting off from these trail signs, it's a good idea to go counter-clockwise; thus, after crossing the picnic area, proceed downhill along the trail to the first crossing. Go left; along that stretch the fragrance of the water will increase as you get closer to the falls, and you are soon at a water drop. You'll see it suddenly once you get over a few rocks. The small waterfall (about 10 meters in height) drops into a pool, splashing over on the way down a number of outcroppings that are apparently part of an ancient lava block.

Retracing your footsteps, go back to the crossing and this time follow the right-hand trail to a small wooden bridge. It will lead over to the left side of the stream and from there the trail starts back up the other slope to the narrow gully. The trail follows a series of steps to the first water mill. The structure consists of an initial underground space where you can still see the mill-stone and a second service space that has partially collapsed. Between those two sections, lower down, you find the water conduits that provided hydraulic energy to run the mill. They are also evident on the outside. A number of structures (canals and small galleries) were dug into the rock to carry the water into a large pool before the water then returned to the Malempo river. As the trail continues up, you find a second mill and some artificially dug service spaces. Even further up, there is another branch-off on the right; this new trail, abandoned and almost overgrown with vegetation and small earth-slides, leads to a large pool more than 10 meters deep. From the vantage point of the trail, you can't really make out where that pool then leads. Following along the main trail and hugging a high stone wall, you are back at your starting point by way of a characteristic small stone bridge that takes you over to the right-hand side of the water.

This is obviously the “classic” trail, but you can enrich and expand it along the many secondary paths that criss-cross the woods.

The following link will take you to the section of our Gallery folr hiking and trekking where you will find the photos we snapped during the outing. We shall soon have a video up as well as a technical page with GPS details.

Conca della Campania – The Waterfalls and Mills

Enjoy your hike - from NUg!

For more information visit: Roccamonfina & The Devil's Footprints

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21 August 2019

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