Today we bring you to a fairy place, a small paradise enclosed by intense turquoise waters and rocky cliffs. We are in Stifone, a hamlet of Narni, in the province of Terni. Here a handful of stone houses washed by the Nera River, where a few dozen souls live, appear crystallized over time. You can breathe peace and quiet, you hear the slow flow of the river and the birds in the trees. A pleasant place of which few, perhaps, know the existence. A further demonstration of the hidden beauties of enchanting Italy.
Nera and Velino
Stifone rises between the gorges of the Nera, the river that starts from the Marche to become the largest Tiber’s affluent. It is striking for the color of its waters: an intense turquoise caused by a particular concentration of minerals. It is said that the river is nothing more than the mutation of a nymph, called Nera, by Juno. In fact, the beautiful nymph fell in love with a shepherd boy.
Jupiter’s bride could not tolerate this relationship and, as a punishment, turned the young woman into a river. Velino, the shepherd, wandered in vain in search of his lost beloved. And, when he learned of the tragic story, he threw himself off the cliff where he saw the beautiful Nera for the first time. The goddess Feonia was moved and decided to make Velino a waterfall, that of the Marmore, thus uniting the two lovers forever.
Stifone as a painting chosen by the Romans
It seems that nature has given its best in painting this picture. Between the blue of the river and the green of Umbria few stone houses emerge. About forty people live there. But this place, which has fascinated writers, landscape architects and painters, has played an important role in the past. Here, in fact, there was a port and a shipyard. The navigability of the Nera has been known since the days of Strabo and Tacitus. And the Romans chose it to build boats, even of considerable size. In addition, loads of timber, bricks and even food left from the port of ancient Narnia for Rome. Some sources even speak of a regular transport of people. Maybe, but it’s ongoing assessment, this basin was involved with the Punic wars. The remains of the ancient port are still visible today although the archaeological area is not yet fully enhanced.
The Silori family gave life to the historic center around the fourteenth century. Belonging to the privileged class of Narnese society, they built houses on the banks of the Nera for farmers and artisans employed by them. Crossing its narrow streets you can still observe the ancient washhouses fed by spring water.
Mills, fullers and hydroelectric plants
Stifone’s economy revolved around the water. Many, in fact, were the mills in operation. Here in 1707 there was also a papal ironworks, that is, a refinery dedicated to the treatment of minerals extracted from the surrounding rocks. Wool processing was another of the craft activities to which the styphonists were dedicated. Between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries the fullers were flourishing. Fulling was carried out using the power of water: the wool was compacted to create fabrics.
This art that was handed down from generation to generation can be found in the registers and statutes of the Guilds of the Wool Guild. We can proudly say that Stifone saw one of the first Italian hydroelectric plants born. Inaugurated on November 10, 1892, it allowed a hundred countries in the area to finally use electricity. It was born from the studies of the Stifonese engineer Aldobrando Netti, a great friend of Marconi and a member of the Kingdom of Italy from 1921 to 1925.
Hoe to reach Stifone
This enchanted place, which seems to have come out of a storybook, is located a short distance from the highway and the railway. It can be reached by car, taking the SP1 provincial road that leads to Narni. Or on foot, stopping by car in an open space from which the cycle-pedestrian path of the Nera Gorges begins, the result of a project to recover the disused railway section, which started in 2016.
The 6 km long dirt road route runs alongside the river. It is the perfect place for a jog, for a bike ride or for a quiet walk, breathing deeply into the pure air of this pristine corner. To bring the visitor back to reality, a modern bridge beyond which you reach the small village. So, we strongly recommend you to put Stifone on the list of villages to visit.
Photos by Serena Villella