Italy might be better known for its beautiful cities and coastline, but there is a hidden Italy of gorges, waterfalls and spectacular wild river scenery. Michele Tameni, author of Wild Swimming Italy, picks his favourite secret swimming spots
Le Gole dellAlcantara, Sicily
Sicily, an island shaped by the repeated eruptions of Mount Etna, has some of the most wonderful landscape in the whole of Italy. At Alcantara, in the north east, there is a deep incision in the volcanic rock cliffs where the mountain has been split open, allowing the river to flow through it. The walls are made of incredible basaltic prisms, stacked one on the other, which rise to a height of 25 metres. The water is clear and cold, and the sun filters into it creating beautiful light patterns on the dark walls.
Getting there: GPS (37.879981, 15.173282).
About 50 miles east of Ancona, in the heart of the countryside, you can hike along an amazing steep canyon where you can swim in several pools. Beautiful rocks frame the green of the forest, and as you go upriver there are more lakes to plunge into in the deep rocky channels.
Getting there : GPS (43.5445, 12.6288)
Just a few metres from its source, the river Arzino emerges in the lush beech forest in a series of waterfalls, with large pools for a dip. Carry on a few kilometers downstream and youll find spectacular gorges where you can swim between white curved rocks, beautifully crafted by the river. The water is incredibly clear with a luminous blue hue - perfect for snorkelling. To warm up after swimming, theres a huge sloping rock next to a large pool and a pebbly beach where you can sun bathe.
Getting there: GPS (46.2803, 12,938)
Grotta Urlante, Emilia Romagna
The Howling Cave, near the perfectly preserved city of Premilcuore, 78 kms south east of Bologna, is named for the loud roar created by the waterfall that plunges into it. As it flows under an old stone bridge, part of an ancient Fiorentine road, the river suddenly cascades into a spectacular chasm. The cave below has two pools deep enough to dive into from the surrounding rocks. After the cave there is a beautiful lake with an even higher ledge for diving. The Foreste Casentinesi National Park that surrounds it is one of the largest woodlands in Italy.
Getting there: GPS (43.96713, 11.76145).
Hidden away in a lush forest, youll come across these wild, emerald pools where you can swim and dive from a small, man-made springboard. If you walk for about 100 metres from here along the river and youll find a beach enclosed by large rocks.
Getting there: GPS (43.0834, 11.2561)
Lago di Gramolazzo, Tuscany
In the stunning natural setting of the Parco Naturale Alpi Apuane, this lake has easily accessible sandy and grassy beaches, and a pretty campsite which lets you set up camp between the water and the forest.
Getting there: GPS (44.1632, 10.2470)
Wild Swimming Italy: by Michele Tameni, charts over 200 wild swims in the most beautiful rivers, lakes, waterfalls and hot springs of Italy, Published 26th May, and available for £16.99 from wildthingspublishing.com