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Madonie: 5 days of dream ecotourism


The Madonie are a mountain massif located in northern Sicily located about 110 km east from Palermo.

It is an area where nature is the absolute protagonist, ideal for trekking and mountain bike excursions. The tourist district in addition to the Madonie Park includes Cefalù, between the most famous seaside resorts of Sicily and the Archaeological Park of Himera, which was an important Greek colony, founded in 648 BC.

Last week I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in the Madonie so that you can personally appreciate the numerous opportunities offered by this beautiful area of ​​our country.

The first place I visited was Caltavuturo, where I met the guide Tommaso Muscarella who with his 4 × 4 Land Rover led me to discover the surrounding area. First stop Terravecchia, where you can see the remains of the Terravecchia Castle, built in the 9th century and from where you can enjoy an incomparable view of the Madonie which extends to the sea (opening photo of this article).

The climb in the Land Rover was truly spectacular: despite having already made several off-road tours, in the desert or in other decidedly inaccessible territories of the world, I do not think I have ever overcome a slope associated with a bumpy territory like the one overcome to get from Caltavuturo in Terravecchia. Here is a photo of me during the climb and one of the ruins of the Terravecchia Castle.

The tour in the company of Tommaso, a person of disarming sympathy, continued towards Sclafani Bagni, a spa area where we relaxed in a natural pool and then take the Land Rover back to reach the Wood of Stone, where time seems to stand still, in a surreal atmosphere, with huge plants whose roots draw impossible geometries.

From time to time we interrupt our journey to greet some passers-by, because obviously Tommaso knows everyone, absolutely everyone, including a sprightly old man walking around with his stick with whom we exchange a few jokes in Sicilian dialect.

The Wood of Stone, Sclafani Bagni and a meeting in Caltavuturo

If you want to contact Tommaso to organize a day in a Land Rover like the one I experienced, you can contact him from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tommaso.muscarella

To spend the night we choose theIl Vecchio Frantoio farmhouse, A farm managed by Corrado Cipolla, located in Scillato, Contrada Firrone and perfectly integrated into a forest of centuries-old olive trees, within the Madonie Park.

Il Vecchio Frantoio offers simple and genuine products, almost entirely at zero km, and obviously a special mention deserves the extra virgin olive oil, produced at ... "zero meters" ":-) Truly delicious!

First half of my second day in the Madonie and the Commenda of Polizzi Generosa built in 1177. The church of which some ruins remain today (under a photo) dominates the valley below and was one of the richest commendas of the entire Sicilian territory owned by the Military Order of Malta and, in 1450, seat of the Order Gerosolomitano, a knightly order that undertook to protect pilgrims going to the Holy Land and subsequently to assist the sick.

After visiting the Commenda I had the opportunity to visit the Giovanni D'Angelo's ceramics workshop (www.ceramichedangelo.it) which allowed me to personally try my hand at the lathe in the realization of a terracotta pot! A truly fun and rewarding experience: my first creation was certainly not a masterpiece of art (photo below) but I am quite satisfied with the result, so much so that I ask Giovanni to send me the vase after having baked it in the oven on the next scheduled date.

La Commenda di Polizzi, me at the lathe and the result of my work

Stage following the Madonita Environmental Museum, also in Polizzi Generosa, where the different ecosystems of the Madonie Park have been reproduced, ideal for learning about the flora and fauna present in the Park.

In the neighbor Petralia Soprana I had the pleasure of visiting the House of the Marquis Pottino of Echifaldo, a precious building dating back to the second half of the 1800s, with original and well-preserved furnishings and everyday objects. The view of the village and the surrounding countryside is beautiful, which can be enjoyed from the terrace on the top floor. Here is the short video I shot ... judge for yourself ...

If you want to book your visit, you can contact theItimed Cultural Association.

Before leaving Petralia Soprana, I was also able to visit the House of the Painter of Petralia, a B&B holiday home located in the historic center, which guarantees a warm Sicilian welcome: the typical cake that was offered to me by Antonella Italia who manages the structure was truly “remarkable”! :-)

The Painter of Petralia that Antonella wanted to pay homage is Vittorio Cerami, elementary teacher and sailor of the Royal Italian Navy, who remained among the few survivors of the famous and disastrous naval battle of Cape Matapan fought during the Second World War. Even today in the house you can see some paintings by Vittorio Cerami and a collection of books on the battle.

You can contact Antonella through her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/La-casa-del-pittore-di-Petralia-1413192442234130/

A few kilometers away, I then reached Petralia Sottana, where I visited the Antonio Collisani Civic Museum, which includes two sections, the first with the archaeological finds of the precious Collisani collection, which allows you to go back over the centuries with artifacts of the populations that have followed one another in the Madonie, the second, called Geopark, which allows you to learn numerous notions of geology, with particular emphasis on the territory, through interactive installations.

Perched on a hill in a dominant position over the village is the Church of Santa Maria alla Fontana rebuilt in 1615 on the remains of an ancient mosque. Perhaps because it was often used for funeral wakes it is known among the locals as a place of appearance of ghosts.

Last visit to Petralia Sottana, at theChurch of SS. Trinity (or Badia) with the adjacent Dominican cloistered monastery. Precious pieces of the church are the immense marble altarpiece with a polychrome background, made by the sculptor Giandomenico Gagini around 1543 which tells the life of Christ and the ancient baroque register organ, built in 1751 by Baldassarre Di Paola and Ignazio Faraci.

A room in the House of the Marquis Pottino, the Church of Santa Maria alla Fontana and the ancona of the Church of SS. Trinità or Badia

After a day dedicated to culture and traditions, the evening and especially "the night" were much more adrenaline! :-)

We have indeed reached the Madonie Adventure Park (official website www.parcoavventuramadonie.it), where I was able to immediately try my hand (for the first time at night unlike other similar parks in which I had previously been) in some acrobatic routes located among the trees of the Madonie the 2 and 10 meters!

The routes include the overcoming of breathtaking "Tyrolean", Tibetan bridges, swinging logs, crazy walkways, suspended tunnels and other fun games. All in maximum safety, i.e. with safety harness and helmet with front light and always under the watchful eye of the Park staff.

... and for the night, the "highlight", for the first time in my life I slept in a tent suspended between the trees at about 5 meters high! Unmissable experience and what I recommend to everyone! :-)

In the morning I wake up "fresh as a rose" and a new round of routes (of increasing difficulty) and then try my hand at the "powerfan": you go up on a platform located on a plant about 10 meters high and jump into the void with a special harness connected to a pulley that slows down and softens the jump a few meters above the ground. Definitely adrenaline! :-)

To finish, a nice archery session always in the relaxing scenery of the woods of the Madonie Adventure Park!

Madonie Adventure Park: the tents suspended between the trees, awakening, flying among the trees, in precarious balance.

After the Adventure Park, a relaxing walk awaits me among the Madonie meadows and the karst “overhangs” that offer incomparable views.

For lunch we reach the Marini C.A.I. (www.rifugiomarini.it) al Plan of the Battle where a well-deserved lunch awaits us, always and rigorously based on local products, among which two types of cheeses associated with honey produced in the area “excite me”.

The Marini Refuge is located in an ideal position for trekking and mountain bike activities and in fact in the afternoon, accompanied by an Eco Biking guide (ref. 329 - 792 38 34) we spent a couple of hours among the meadows, the woods. and ... the rocks! :-) Here in a short video three moments of the trekking and the ebike route.

The ebike I used was a Lombardo E-Sestriere with Bosch gearbox: passed with flying colors! You can rent it from Eco Biking.

After the bike ride we headed to Collesano, where we visited the Targa Florio Museum, accompanied by the director Giuseppe Valenza. The Targa Florio is one of the oldest car races conceived, financed and organized by Vincenzo Florio, a Palermitan from a wealthy family fascinated by sports cars. The museum offers visitors a wide repertoire of relics: period photos, overalls, gloves and other historical pieces of great value.

For dinner and an overnight stay on the third night in Madonie We have choosen Casale Drinzi (www.casaledrinzi.it), an exclusive farmhouse about 1 km from the center of Collesano.

The fourth day in Madonie it allowed me to brush up on an ancient passion of my childhood: that for astronomy. We have indeed visited the nascent Madonie Astronomical Park, to Isnello. This is a decidedly ambitious project still under construction which will include a planetarium with a latest generation digital projector (we have already been able to test a demonstration video that confirmed the considerable potential), a wide-field telescope and a series of dedicated workshops and educational installations. to host school groups and researchers from all over the world.

From astronomy we return to immerse ourselves in tradition and nature, by visiting Scratchers, a quaint village surrounded by nature that is gaining a fair reputation even abroad thanks to some documentaries that have brought it to the attention as a destination for a holiday dedicated to relaxation and ecotourism.

Following an uphill path in the woods, about 2 km from the center of Gratteri, I reached the Grattara cave, with an elegant arch that opens onto an overhang. Nice walk but if you go there I recommend paying attention in the last meters, especially if the ground is wet, because the path is narrow and the slope in case of slips… “remarkable”.

After the nice walk, we stop at a farm near Gratteri to treat ourselves to a nice grilled meat at zero km, welcomed with the usual Sicilian hospitality that immediately makes you feel as if you were at home.

It is time to go back to the sea and we arrive at Liscari just in time for a walk along the seafront at sunset, and then continue towards Cefalù where theSea Palace Hotel with its cozy swimming pool. After some relaxation and a dinner with buffalo mozzarella, risotto with shrimps and Argentine meat (30 Euros for a high quality dinner that would have cost at least twice as much in Milan!) We set off towards the center of Cefalù where the spectacular illuminated Duomo.

The rest of the historic center is also suggestive with narrow avenues with stone paving, where you can occasionally see evidence of the past: an ancient stone wash house, cellars with containers for collecting oil and other suggestive corners.

One last lemon sorbet and we set off on the way back to the Sea Palace (just over 1 km from the center of Cefalù).

The Madonie Astronomical Park, the Grattari Grotto and the Cathedral of Cefalù

I arrived on the fifth and last day of my stay in Madonie and the awakening at the Sea Palace couldn't be better: blue sky and sea view!

The last morning is dedicated to history and culture with the visit of the Archaeological Park of Himera and to the Antiquarium where the Phiale Aurea is kept, a solid gold disc that had the function of collecting offerings. To get even more into the atmosphere of the Ancient Rome period, three actors offer us the re-enactment of Cicero's speech against Verre, the famous Verrines, in defense of Stenio from Mérida.

The view from my room at the Sea Palace in Cefalù on the swimming pool and the sea and the ruins of the Temple of Victory in Himera

The Madonie in the 5 days in which I was able to visit them they really left me a great memory, for the beauty of the area, for the multiplicity of experiences I could try but above all for the great hospitality of all the people who welcomed me making me feel like if you were in my house.

So I hope to come back soon perhaps with an itinerary even more focused on trekking and ecotourism so that I can also follow the "rhythms of life" of the Madonie which are certainly less hectic than those I had to follow to condense so many beautiful experiences into a few days.

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Other related articles that may interest you: Ecotourism: discovering the Madonie Park


Video: Petralia Sottana - Piccola Grande Italia (December 2021).