TRAVEL

Madonie

Take a trip through the peaks of the Madonie mountain range, enjoy a long stroll amidst giant hollies, arvulu cruci cruci (the Sicilian Fir whose Latin name is abies nebrodensis) and admire the breath-taking views across to Mt. Etna and the Aeolian Islands.

Immerse yourself in the charms of the Madonie and this natural park where you run the risk of falling into a trance as you inhale the warm scents of Mother Nature as she awakens, set off on a lovely relaxing walk and listen to the whisper of the trees as they rustle in the wind, take a break on a swing and perhaps see a fox, a fallow deer or watch an eagle circling in the clear blue skies above.

This is what the Madonie is all about: spectacular mountains waiting to be conquered via the network of numerous trails in the spring and summer as well during the winter months for an unforgettable excursion on skis. These trips are unique, between Pomieri and Piano Pomo, discovering the giant hollies, from Pomieri to Casa Lapazza, along the Sp54 between Petralia Sottana and Piano Battaglia travelling along the trails number 4 and number 15 in the direction of Piano Pomo where you will be able to admire the unique giant hollies that reach up to 15 metres in height with such thick foliage that very little light is able to filter through.

The oldest specimens are reckoned to be around 350 years old. Following the trail takes around 7 hours.

Then there is the route that takes you to Pizzo Carbonara after a really long hike that starts from Battaglietta where there is a karst depression along the slopes of Mount Ferro. Piano Battaglia is just a stone’s throw away and is where the Byzantine and the Arabs troops encountered each other in a merciless battle that took place in 831 AD. The Muslims advanced and the Christians ceded.

The easiest walk is 6 kilometres long and takes about 6 hours, the height difference, even if it is only 331 metres, needs to be carefully watched so that the paths are not confused as they are not always easily identifiable amongst the rocks that reach up to the summit of Carbonara.

You can also walk to Isnello or Castelbuono but these are much higher up.

But Pizzo Carbonara, which is an area of high mountain pastures in Zone A of the Madonie Natural Park, is the kingdom of the basilisk (a native mushroom) and of the beech tree. It is a karstic (limestone) plateau which was formed during the Triassic period some two hundred million years ago.

Despite being at a height of almost two thousand metres, it is quite easy to come across corral, sponge and mollusc fossils. Then there is the Zottafonda valley from which you can easily admire Mount Ferro (1,905 metres), Pizzo Antenna or Pizzo Principessa, (1,977 metres) where there is a large sinkhole in which, during the winter months, such a large amount of snow accumulates that it can last until the end of the summer.

It is also worth visiting the shrine dedicated to the Madonna dell’Alto which is right in front of the village of Petralia Sottana and is the highest Marian shrine in Europe and also Mount San Salvatore from where you can enjoy spectacular views of Mount Etna. You can also reach the heart of the Madonie Natural Park on horseback via the bridle-path number 11 which travels from Baita del Faggio towards the Old Oil Mill by crossing the massif of Mount Cervi (1,568 metres above sea level) with its beech woods which alternate with wide clearings, pastures and stony ground.

In the district of Gorgo Nero, just a few kilometres from the historic centre of Petralia Sottana, there is an Adventure Park which is suitable for both adults and children. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of fun activities which include acrobatic and orienteering types of exercises and educational workshops where you can learn about geology and the natural habitat.

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