If the best things in life are free, maybe this summer you should reconsider the way you enjoy your surroundings. Have you ever tried wild swimming? It’s an exciting way to explore freshwater lakes, secluded lagoons, little pools and rivers, hidden waterfalls and caves often surrounded by grassy banks, woods and pretty natural bays. A simple way to experience the wonders of the world in an incredibly natural and ancient way.
You will never forget a wild swim – says the environmental consultant and zen seeker Tessa Wadley in her book, The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming. – It may not be possible to get out to wild waters every day and I will never stop swimming in pools but I believe that, like garlic foraged from your local woods, water is best when it is wild.
While you will always find hidden emerald spots wherever you go, Italy would be probably the best Country to go to for absolute beginners. Not only for its wonderful landscapes but also because you will not be discouraged by the cold temperature when dipping your toe into the water.
Our favourite 5 free wild swims to kick off with
From the emerald-green plunge pools of Sicily and river beaches in Campania to the secret hot springs of Tuscany and amazing waterfalls of the Dolomiti or even the hidden shores of Lake Como and Garda, we are sure you will find a reason for unleashing your inner dare-devil in such beautiful surroundings.
Wild Swimming Italy by Michele Tameni uncovers the prettiest places to swim out in the wilderness. Perfect for family explorers or romantic adventurers, this handy travel book combines beautiful photography with all the practical information you’ll need to get off the beaten track, including maps, directions, grid references and walk-in times, and recommendations for canoe trips, campsites and tavernas.
Pozze Smeraldine, Dolomites
Regarded as one of the most beautiful places in Italy for a swim, the emerald green pools of Tramonti di Sopra, along the course of the river Meduna, are a very special place located in one of the wildest natural settings of the Dolomites. To get there, just walk along a path, for a few minutes, which starts from Tramonti di Sopra and leads into the Natural Park of the Friulian Dolomites. Along this stretch of the river, water collects in deep pools and white rocks provide a perfect platform for diving into its crystal-clear emerald-green water.
Piscine dell’Auro, Le Marche
Well known as the right spot for families, in the magnificent Metauro Valley, the river flows from one waterfall to the other, in a series of easily accessible natural pools. The rocks are great for sunbathing and the water is warm and pleasant. Don’t miss La Cascata Del Sasso on the Metauro River: this waterfall is one of the 10 largest in Italy and is a favourite spot for fishermen, too. Just 10 minutes upstream to the west, on the edge of the medieval town Mercatello Sul Metauro, you will find two pools to swim in and a great area for a pic-nic.
Terme del Bullicame, Lazio
Just outside the ancient city of Viterbo in northern Lazio, the Terme del Bullicame, mentioned by Dante in The Divine Comedy, are a complex of hot thermal free natural pools. The water, coming from a small crater, has a temperature of about 58C and it flows through a series of small channels to some ponds carved into the rock (here water is a bit cooler). Remember to bring sunscreens and soft drinks with you, as there are very few trees around and not much shade.
River Farma, Tuscany
The Torrente Farma Nature Reserve is located between Monticiano and Roccastrada and includes the central stretch of the beautiful valley that the mainstream of the Merse River flows through, as well as the upper part of the Lanzo, a long stream that flows into the Ombrone near Paganico. During its journey along the beautiful hill landscape, the river forms some spectacular place, like the Canaloni, where water flows inside an awesome small canyon of volcanic rock or near Solaia, where a quiet bend form two wonderful natural pools where swim and relax under the shadow of the bush. The valley is perfect for excursions, hiking, family outings and a swim in the river.
Cascata Capelli Di Venere, Campania
Just a short distance from the spectacular Amalfi coast, nearby the town of Casaletto Spartano, you’ll find breathtaking rocky canyons with freshwater pools and bubbling streams nestling amongst the mossy greenery. Flowing over a cave entrance, the Cascata Capelli di Venere, a waterfall named the “Hair of Venus”, is a great spot to swim. Here, you will also find dedicated picnic and camping areas.
Once back home, keep swimming
For those braver ones who want to turn an experience into a hobby, there is always the chance to join a local group or a big association like The Outdoor Swimming Society, in which the different outdoor swimming activities in the UK and across the globe can come together.
Founded in 2006 by director Kate Rew, with the senior guides Oli Pitt and Kari Furre, it counts 27,000 members and it provides a space within which a community of independent spirits can share the joy and adventure of swimming outdoors, and put the fun back into swimming. The OSS aims to represent the interests of all different kinds of outdoor swimmers by providing inspiration, connection and a community. They provide information about places to go outdoor swimming, and about events as well as help people to connect, and share projects, and ideas.