Madonie Mountains to the Coast Walking Tour

Friday, August 16, 2013

WALKING  -  WINE  -  COOKING

 

 

Sicily is the largest Mediterranean island and home to a fascinating mix of scenery, customs and  local cooking, all in this same region.   This walking tour takes us from the centre of the island from the town of Enna – through towns and villages in the Madonie mountain range down to the coast near Cefalù. 

 

This tour is based and run on the responsible tourism policy of www.sicilianexperience.com (the company organizing this tour)  where we try to help the local economy by staying and eating in small family run establishments and using local transport arrangements.  We have included a  cooking demonstration, wine tasting and cheese making, as well as a visit to the shepherd to see him making ricotta, so giving you the opportunity to see the ‘real’ Sicily from the inside.

 

You will only need to carry a day pack as our support vans will transport the luggage on a daily basis.  An added benefit from having transport accompanying us daily is that you can opt out if you so wish at any time. The walks are classified from easy to moderate and can be done by anyone who is reasonably fit.   You should, however, expect some uneven walking surfaces and some ascents and descents. 

 

The itinerary is as follows:

 

 

Day 1

Catania Airport to Enna

 

Pick up at the airport and drive directly to the town of Enna, classified as the ‘navel’ of Sicily.  Transfer 1hr.15mins.  

Time to explore the treasures of the town and enjoy the magnificent views across the countryside from the Rock, on which once stood a temple dedicated to the Fertility Goddess, Demeter and her daughter Persephone.

As we stroll down to our family run restaurant we pass the locals during their “passeggiata” (evening walkabout).   A cooking demonstration will be given before our evening meal.  A great introduction to Sicilian cuisine.

One night stay in a three star hotel in the centre of Enna.  

Dinner included

Depending on flight arrival times, it may be possible to visit the Roman Imperial Villa Casale, at Piazza Armerina where some of the best-preserved mosaics in Sicily were discovered in the late 1800s.

 

Day 2

Enna to Gangi

 

Drive to Villadoro (45mins) from where we commence walking on the old trade route (from the centre of Sicily to the coastline) towards Gangivecchio, where once the original town of Gangi stood.  At the end of the walk we have wonderful views towards Gangi the town that is perched like a tortoise shell on top of Monte Marone.

 

We drive into  Gangi where we will visit the ‘centro storico’ with its Baroque townhouses and interesting churches, typical of the Madonie ‘Baroque’ style where you will learn about the legend of the “Queen of Gangi”.

 

One night stay at AgriturismoVilla Raino a restored Baronial villa from the 1700s with tranquil surroundings, situated in the valley behind Gangi.

 

Packed lunch and dinner included.

 

( Walking time:  4hrs/13km – 8 miles, ascend 200 metres, descend 150 metres)

 

 

Day 3

Sperlinga to Gangi


Drive to Sperlinga where you have time to visit the troglodyte dwellings and Saracen castle which is set high on a buttress of rock before commencing the walk, initially on an asphalt road which eventually becomes concrete. The first hour of the walk is gradually uphill, at times uneven then downhill arriving at a farm.  The walk continues on farmland tracks through fields, eventually joining a wide track partially asphalt and concrete.  Views of Mt Etna and the Madonie Mountains.

 

Packed lunch and dinner included


Walking Time:   14 km / 8.7 miles 4 ½ hours 


   

Day 4

Gangi to Madonie Mountains National Park

 

Before commencing our walk we take a small detour to visit the local farmer where we will watch him make the local cheese.”caciocavallo”

 

We than meet Mimmo for a falconery display – a ‘must see’  as he still uses the traditions introduced by Frederick II, the Swabian Emporer, in the 14th century.

 

Afterwards we continue our walk on the old trade route, crossing a Roman bridge and up ancient mule tracks leading us through wild scenery, to the 11thC  ruined Saracen castle of Geraci Siculo where we will meet a local falconer for a falconery display – a ‘must see’  as he still uses the traditions introduced by Frederick II, the Swabian Emporer, in the 14th century.

 

Our afternoon track takes us through the Madonie range on paths with spectacular views over the mountains, across the sea to the Aeolian islands (on a clear day).

 

We arrive at Porta Mandarini (1,200 m) , where we are driven to Pomieri near Petralia Soprano  (10 mins).

 

Overnight stay at the comfortable mountain chalet.  The restaurant is part of the Slow Food Association group which supports the traditional organic cuisine based on local produce.

 

Packed lunch and dinner included

 

(Walking time: 5hrs/14.5km – 9 miles, ascend 350 metres)

 

Mimmo

                      

 

Day 5

Pomieri to Castelbuono (centre of Madonie Montains National Park)

 

We commence walking from the hotel (altitude 1346m), through woodland with 600 to 800 year old maple and oak trees. Continuing through the Madonie mountains, enjoying the spectacular views across the mountains and towards the sea.  Our walk takes us to a forest with giant 1,000 year old holly trees,  situated near a traditional thatched shepherd’s hut.  Our path finishes shortly after at the mountain refuge Crispi (altitude 1260m).

 

Transfer by van down to Il Romitaggio, San Guglielmo (a partly converted Benedictine monastery) for a light lunch and then on to Castelbuono with time for sightseeing. Castelbuono is a traditional Sicilian town crowned by the Castle of Ventimiglia.

 

After our stroll round we have time to visit an olive press where oil is made for local consumption and also for exporting throughout Italy.

 

Lunch included at San Guglielmo

 

Free evening

 

Overnight stay at La Querce, Castelbuono.  

 

(Walking time: 4hrs/10km – 6 miles, 150 ascend, 230 descend)

 

 

Day 6

Castelbuono-Isnello-S.Ambrogio

 

Leaving Castelbuono we drive to the nearby village of Isnello.  Time to stroll around the quaint medieval village before driving to the starting point of the walk in Gibilmanna (altitude 860m).  We visit the sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna there which is perched high on Pizzo Sant’ 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.

 

Continuingwalking along country lanes passing small plots of cultivated olive and citrus groves down to the toouraccommodation just outside the village of Sant’Ambrogio.

 

Early evening visit to Mimmo’s cellar we will taste his superb homemade wine.  Mimmo is very passionate about his wine making, with great enthusiasm he will explain how he makes his wine.

 

Two nights stay

 

Packed lunch and dinner included with the wine tasting.

 

(Walking time: 4 hrs/13km – 8 miles, descend 620 metres)

 

The Rock of Cefalù from Sant'Ambrogio

 

 

Day 7

Free Day:  Cefalù/Palermo or optional morning walk

 

Our optional early morning walk takes us past the local shepherd where we will watch him prepare fresh ricottacheese and have an opportunity to taste it.

 

Today you can either visit Cefalù, the famous Arab/Norman town with its majestic cathedral, important museum, shops and beautiful sandy beach or, alternatively, take the train to visit Palermo, the capital city of Sicily.

 

Free evening.

 

Making ricotta

 

 

Day 8 

Palermo airport (1 hour ) Catania (2 hours)

 

Transfer to airport

 

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