WALKING IN SICILY

Sicily is so well known for its coastline and historic monuments, but very little for its magnificent countryside, mountains and medieval towns, abandoned by their populations seeking more prosperity. With its magnificent climate one can walk from September to end of May early June. Walking is the best way to experience the different seasons that are reflected in the landscape Wildflowers in the spring, wild herbs, mushrooms, chestnuts in the autumn and the starkness of the winter. Whilst out walking one can meet along the path the older peasants attending their fields, the shepherds making the local cheese, animals grazing in the field, which all seems as though time has stood still, but knowing that in a few years this will all be history. The old peasant will no longer be here to attend to his fields and the cheese will be made in modernized facilities. I trust, however, that the animals will still be free to graze. There are lovely walks in Sicily for example Pantalica, Mt Etna, Parco dei Nebrodi, Parco dello Zingaro and Ficuzza which I would be very happy to provide information on. I would like people to get the most from their holiday and I am very happy to share my passion and knowledge that I gained throughout the years. Come and discover Sicily by foot either walking independently with the walks that are available in the rental accommodation or with local knowledgeable guides. See the 8 days tour STEPPING THROUGH SICILY. Hereunder walks in the Madonie Mountains in the areas of Cefalù, Sant’Ambrogio, Pollina, Castelbuono, Gratteri and Isnello.

Castle Rock of Cefalù – distance 4.5 km, walking time 2 hours:

Cefalù nestles beneath a majestic limestone headland known as the Rocca, towering 250m over the coastline. Frequented for religious purposes in pre-historic times, evidence has been found in the numerous caves which form honeycomb structure in the rock. The walk entails an easy stroll around town then a rewarding uphill exploration of the Rocca, an easy 250m climb, sensational panorama, wildflowers and zooming swallows, and perfect picnic spots.

top of the Rock of Cefalù

Sant’Ambrogio circular walk – distance 7.5 km, walking time 3 hours:

The walk commences in the village of Sant’Ambrogio where there are Bars you can buy water to take on the walk. Initial terrain is on the old stony mule track which commences at height 150m, continuing onto forest tracks through cork oak woods “Bosco di Guarneri” at 360m. The path contours around the mountain behind Guarneri with views across the Madonie Mountain range. On the way one can stop at the shepherd to taste the freshly made ricotta cheese, before returning on small path above the coastline back to the village.

locals enjoying the circular walk

Lancenia/Guarneri – c.da Mandrie – Ferla (intersection) circular walk – distance 5/7km, walking time 1.5/2 hours:

Drive to the beginning of the walk, option of 2 starting points for longer and shorter route. This easy and pleasurable walk takes you through woodlands, where one discovers the secluded houses nestled among the pine woods. The walk is party on country asphalt road and large wide dirt tracks. At the beginning of the walk one has views towards sea then the walks takes you, round to the back of the mountain where there’s wonderful views towards the Madonie Mountains range and the valleys below.

taking a rest in Guarneri

Sanctuary of Gibilmanna to Sant’Ambrogio – distance 8 km, walking time 3 ½ to 4 hours:

The starting point of the walk is at the sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna which is perched high on the Pizzo San Angelo 800m above sea level; said to be the first on the island to be dedicated to the Madonna. From here the walk descends on a wide path, with magnificent sea views across the coastline and the Aeolian Islands. Passing on the way a shepherd’s hut where local cheese caciocavallo is made and hung on wooden beams to age. Continuing along country lanes observing the small plots of cultivated olive and citrus groves. Finally descending to the village of Sant’Ambrogio. 

the countryside of Ferla

Sant’Ambrogio to the vineyard of Santa Anastasia - distance of 6 km, walking time 2 ½ hours (one-way):

Founded in 1100 by Count Roger of Hauteville, The Santa Anastasia Abbey initially run by Benedictine monks became the cultural and working centre of the Madonie area. They planted grapes, wheat, olives and various species of fruit trees. In the late 1980s an engineer bought the property with the idea of turning it into an avant-garde winery. Today the Abbey has become a top rate Relais. It is possible to book wine tasting for your arrival at the vineyard or lunch which is, of course, more enjoyable if you don’t decide to return on foot, as the return route is mostly uphill!!!

along the path to the vineyard of Santa Anastasia

Monte Macabubbo circular walk – distance 7 km, walking time 3 ½ hours:

Monte Macabubbo’s summit is at 1204m from where one can see the coast in the distance, the village of Gratteri below, the whole of the Madonie as far as the Nebrodi mountains are visible in the south and east. The walk begins at 834m on narrow animal track with a wild and craggy landscape on the right and beautiful panorama on the left of Monte Sant’Angelo and the Carbonara massif. The narrow track crosses the flower-covered slopes parallel to the rocks, eventually path goes above a steep valley past a shepherd hut, continues to ascend past some wild pear trees which have lovely white blossom early in the year, before arriving at the cross on Monte Grotta Grande above Isnello. The walk continues crossing a large alpine meadow before ascending on Monte Macabubbo.

the cross at Grotta Grande above Isnello

Sant’Ambrogio to Pollina – distance 14 km, walking time 4 ½ - 5 hours (one-way) extra 3 hours for the return route:

Pollina is dramatically situated atop a 730-metre rocky spur, its position provide unforgettable views across to the Tyrrenian sea, and Rocky outcrop, or Rocca, behind Cefalu, as well as to Madonie and Nebrodi mountain ranges. Pollina’s character was forged in the Middle Ages and the maze of narrow streets making up its town centre retain a charming medieval character and steeped in Sicilian history. The walk from Sant’Ambrogio with an initial ascent of 200m then descending through cultivated olive groves crossing a stream at sea level, where the ascent begins on wide track, followed by the last hour on road before arriving in Pollina to complete the 730m ascent. Time for lunch, visit the amphitheatre and stroll through the old medieval town. Return on foot or by bus.

theatre of Pietrarossa on the peak of Pollina

Sant’Ambrogio to Castelbuono – distance 12 km, walking time 4 hours:

The walk begins from the coastline to the town of Castelbuono at the base of Monte Carbone massif 1979m, with its crater-like lunar landscape extends from all sides up to the summit, which is just under 2000m the second highest mountain in Sicily. Lovely walk on tracks through open countryside with extensive views towards the mountains. On arrival in the town of Castelbuono, there is time to visit the Castle of the Ventimiglia family, the Madre Chiesa church or taste the local organic products from bars/shops in the historic centre. Enjoy the gastronomic delights of the many restaurants in the town, before returning by bus or taxi.

view as you approach Castelbuono

Castelbuono to Piano Pomo - distance 3.5 km, walking time 2 hours:

One of Sicily’s great natural wonders awaits you on Piano Pomo. More than 200 holly trees (Ilex aquifolium). The trees up to 300 years old, have grown into tight-knit clusters are unique in Italy. From November onwards these evergreen hollies are covered with shiny red berries. The ascent of 325m begins at Piano Sempria and winds into holm oak woods where you will find an ancient 800 year old moss covered oak. Easy walk and enjoyable to all age groups.

Holly trees with berries from  November onwards

Pizzo Carbonara – distance 6 km, walking time 3 hours:

Walk to the highest peak (2nd highest in Sicily) of the Madonie Mountains, in a fascinating limestone landscape. The tracks takes you through beach wood, passing lichen-laden maple, arriving at the peak of Pizzo Carbonara (1979m). On a clear day can see the Aeolian Islands and Mt Etna. Moderate – slightly strenuous along forestry tracks, footpaths and limestone terrain. Highly recommend. Ascend of 380 m. Caution do no attempt the walk if visibility is not good.

Peak of Monte Carbonara

Monte San Calogero – distance 8 km, walking time 4 hours:

Monte San Calogero, rising almost vertically 1328m from the coastline. Once at the summit, one is rewarded with one of the most beautiful panoramas in all Sicily. The ascent begins at 840m following paths through woodland, before reaching a plateau, where one can stop here and enjoy the spectacular 360° views without climbing to the top. From the plateau the route joins the old pilgrims’ path leading to the ruined chapel of San Calogero. Worthwhile visiting the small town of Caccamo with its 14thC castle of Chiarmonte which is among the largest, best preserved and most beautiful in Sicily.

Carmelina on top of Monte San Calogero

 

GUIDED WALKS– with local knowledgeable guides who speak English and Italian

 

The track of the shepherds – duration - 3 hours; level of difficulty to moderate:

Transfer to Gibilmanna. Visit to the Shrine of the Virgin, destination of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. Excursion through the woodland to an isolated area in the mountain of the Madonie. Meeting with a shepherds, demonstration of the techniques of producing Sicilian cheese: (tuma, caciocavallo, ricotta) with typical recipes we conclude with a cheese tasting. Our tour continues with a visit to a deserted oil mill from XIX century. Return by bus.

demostration of how cheese is made

The track of the Manna - duration - 2 hours, level of difficulty to moderate:

Transfer to Pollina. Visit of the picturesque Medieval village, situated on the top of a mountain. Excursion on a downhill road through ash woods and olive groves. Meeting with a local “incisore” who will show you this traditional way of collecting the Manna(used as a laxative in the old days), a culture that nowadays is dying out. Tasting of the “Manna” and others biological products. Our tour continues to the hills where we visit of an ancient restored farm from XIX century, that overlooks the vineyards of Santa Anastasia.

Giulio making incisions into the tree to produce Manna

The tracks of tradition: - 1 hour, level of difficulty to easy:

Transfer by bus to Guarneri. Our walk in woods takes us to the agricultural and educational centre of “Serra Guarneri”. Meeting with a resident of the place, a presentation of the local herbal plants and the domestic animals of Sicily. Tasting of the biological products. Excursion through pine woods and countryside to the quaint and typical village of Sant’ Ambrogio situated near the coast. Free time to stroll along the cobbled streets.

views from Guarneri

Mt Etna 3,329m:

Europe’s highest active volcano dominates the whole of Sicily. The first recorded eruption , and possibly most violent, occurred in 475 BC. Over the last 30 years there have been several eruptions but luckily no towns have been destroyed by the lava. I recommend walking with volcanologist and experienced guide, Signor Giuseppe, who speaks perfect English and has a mine interesting information on the geology of the volcano. There’s several walks around Mt Etna, if you are fit and feeling energetic I suggest walking to the crater Bocca Nuova at 3260m with Signor Giuseppe with an ascend of 1,500m.

Trek with a group to the top of Etna: Groups leave every morning during the summer months at 09.30 am, from Rifugio Sapienza, at Piano Sapienza cost Euro 60.00 (2009). Preferable if you bring your own jackets and walking boots, if is possible to hire equipment at Piano Sapienza. For further information: +39 0957914755

walking on Mt Etna with Giuseppe

 

Pantalica:

Pantalica and its 5,000 neolithic tombs and honeycomb limestone cliffs was a resting place for the ancient inhabitants of Pantalica, set on high plateau with its plunging gorges. Proposed World Heritage Site. The route takes you to the more interesting parts of the nature reserve among abundant necropolis and a landscape of incomparable beauty. A footpath follows the course of the river and other, steeper trails take you to an overlook with an incredible view of the area.

walking path in the valley of Pantalica

Cava Grande:

The Cava Grande is the deepest and most impressive gorge of the Monti Iblei. The Cassible River has cut away more than thirty meters in to the bedrock of the plateau. Ponds, waterfalls and luxuriant vegetation created one of the loveliest natural areas of eastern Sicily. Indications of ancient human habitation are visible on the lateral slopes where excavations have found troglodytic dwelling and a necropolis. 

Cava Grande

Vendicare:

Vendicare is one of the most important migration bases in the Mediterranean, it is a paradise for birdwatchers. More than 200 species of birds and with some luck you will be able to see the flamingos. More than 8 km of coastline, following the coastal path passing the pantani (lagoons), Torre di Vendicare and the Tonnara. Please contact Sicilian Experience tel: +39 0921999011, +393398876030 or +393495763215

Vendicare