De Marmitte dei Giganti in Pesaro-Urbino
One of the most spectacular pieces of nature in the Marche can be found near the town of Fossombrone in the province of Pesaro-Urbino, where emerald-green water flows through a steep canyon. Over thousands of years, the Metauro River has created the San Lazzaro gorge with 30-meter-high rock walls and deep pools called the Marmitte dei Giganti or the Giants’ Pits.
The Giants’ Pits (or Devil’s Pits) are deep depressions in the rocks created by river erosion in places once covered by glaciers. The pits were carved out by whirlpools created by the flow of melting glaciers. In these whirlpools, the flowing water reached speeds of up to 200 km per hour and, at the same time, exerted intense pressure that carried away sand and gravel.
At least, that’s what the geologists say. More likely, they are pots or large pans used by giants to cook soup from wild boar and other wild animals. Anyway, that’s how it is told in local folklore.
Visit the Marmitte dei Giganti
The Marmitte dei Giganti is located near the town of Fossombrone. The gorge is visible from the bridge that crosses the river. To get a closer look, walk down a narrow and steep path into the canyon from the road. An even better way to see the Marmitte is to explore the canyon by boat.
Kayaking on the Metauro River
We decided to take a kayak tour with ′Happy River, with Natalia as our guide. She doesn’t speak English, which wasn’t a problem for us.
Our guide awaits us in a parking lot near the river. Together we descend to the canyon on a steep, narrow path. Down at the riverside, we receive a paddle, a life jacket, a helmet and a kayak. The helmet is necessary for protection if some rocks come tumbling off the cliffs.
We can choose from a one-, two- or three-person kayak. A double kayak it is!
San Lazzaro gorge
Once boarded, we kayak down the river, which starts wide in the first part, then tapers to a few narrow passages with 30-meter-high rock walls on both sides (see Instagram video). After approximately a fifteen minutes tour, a small waterfall makes it impossible to continue the route by boat. The only way to continue exploring the gorge is on foot, over the rocks, to the devil’s pits.
We are lucky it is 23°C in March. Warm enough to jump into the water, according to Natalia. That is, warm enough for us. She remains on the shore, and after 2 seconds of reflection, I decided to do the same. After all, someone has to take photos of my companion jumping from a high rock into the swirling water. He is soon carried away by the current but luckily survives the jump and the cold water.
After we have cooled down sufficiently and subsequently dried up, we peddle back to the starting point. Then another hike up the hill. We leave the gorge an hour and a half later, a few tenners poorer but a fantastic experience richer.
Practical info Urbino
There are, at most, a handful of visitors at the Marmitte dei Giganti during the low season. However, it will be jam-packed when half of Italy flocks to the water to cool off in the summer.
This excursion suits anyone with good mobility, from teenagers to families with children. The kayak is easy to manoeuvre, even for those with no experience. The water flows calmly.
- Clothing: bathing suit or shorts, beach shoes or sneakers (no flip flops) and dry clothes for after the excursion
- A bag for everything that should not get wet (smartphone, car keys, wallet…)
- Bottle of water
- Sunscreen and cap or hat
How to get to Marmitte dei Giganti in Fossombrone?
Go to “via Marmitte dei Gigantiin Fossombrone (between the town of Fossombrone and the hamlet of Calmazzo). At the beginning of the road, there is a white and red sign, ‘Le Marmitte’. After a few hundred meters, another sign on the left indicates the short descent to the Marmitte dei Giganti.
We stayed in a rural B&B, La Poiana, with a super-friendly hostess who provided a delicious breakfast with homemade cake and sweet rolls. Delicious but fatal for a beach body. Guests can use the kitchen. The supermarket (Super Coal) in the village of Canavaccio sells delicious foccacia and antipasti.
The B&B has beautiful mountain views and plenty of space.
Urbino is a delightful university town 20 kilometres from Fossombrone.
The Marmitte dei Giganti near Fossombrone is one of many in Italy. At Lake Garda (Nago) are similar pools. However, these pits are in the mountains instead of a river.
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