This territory includes 15,000 hectares of woodland where the greatest variety of plants in the Mediterranean can be seen, including some examples that cannot be found in any other part of the world. The Madonie mountain range is divided between the valley of the Pollina river to the east and the northern part of the Valle dell’Imera to the west. To the north, the boundary is a large stretch of coastline, running from Campofelice di Roccella to Pollina, while the southern extreme is characterised by the sulphurous highlands of the Nisseno area. It is no coincidence that some people refer to this area as the botanical garden of the Mediterranean. Indeed, apart from the sea views, this area, while covering only 2% of the region’s overall territory, contains around 50% of the island’s species of flora.
Unique examples, such as the Nebrodean fir (an old name used in the Madonie region) flourish alongside other more typical central European vegetation: holm-oaks, cork trees, holly trees, oak trees and beech trees. The area is also home to Sicily’s oldest rock formations, including calciferous hill-sides, carbon gorges, Karstic dolinas and vertiginous peaks, all of which create the unmistakeable skyline and geomorphic structure of the Madonie.
Thanks to the area’s special characteristics, in 1989 the Natural Reserve of the Madonie Region was established. Its 40 hectares include 15 different Communes:
- Castellana Sicula
- Geraci Siculo
- Petralia Soprana
- Petralia Sottana
- Polizzi Generosa
- San Mauro Castelverde
- Sclafani Bagni
These towns are all important agricultural centers not only thanks to the characteristics of their surrounding countryside but also to the varied and harmonious coexistence of mountainous areas and seaside towns, a perfect of example of the latter being Cefalu’. This area also include:
In a context characterized by harsh mountainous area that tower over Sicily’s sea and deep valleys furrowed by torrents, there are still signs of mankind’s millennial presence in the area, and some of the area’s present day activities have been passed down through generations over thousands of years. The area’s underground world is also of great interest and the so-called “Water Paths”, Karstic formations of caves and cavities, are home to a labyrinth of subterranean rivers.
There are numerous architectonic treasures not only in the towns themselves but also where you might least expect them, emerging from the countryside and the woods. One only has to think of the great solitary ruins of the Castello dei Ventimiglia in Geraci Siculo, or the imposing castle of the Princes of Ventimiglia in Castelbuono. Signs of man’s millennial presence in the area can also be found in the grotta of Vecchiuzzo near Petralia Sottana, in some caves and abysses near Isnello and Gratteri and in the pre-Hellenic archaeological discoveries of La Rocca, the promontory that dominates Cefalu’ and its beautiful Norman Cathedral. The territory is also home to numerous religious buildings, monasteries, hermitages and rocky churches that are often totally isolated on the top of mountains. A good example of this is the ex Benedictine convent, better known as “Gangi Vecchio”, in Gangi. There are also numerous churches containing works by the famous local artist, “Zoppo di Gangi”.
The hills on the northern side of the Madonie are characterised by widespread plantations of ash trees whose “manna” (sap) is used as an ingredient for the production of local confectionary (www.parcodellemadonie.it).
Accommodation in the Madonie is to be found all year round.
Given the heterogeneity of the territory, the protected area is divided into four zones, each with its own distinct characteristics:
Zona A or the integral reserve, where the environment’s natural characteristics are totally protected;
Zona B or the general reserve, characterised by highly esteemed natural ecosystems where pre-existing activities and buildings are allowed to remain, though new projects are not allowed;
Zone C or the protected area, in which it is possible to carry out activities aimed at improving and promoting tourist activities in the territory;
Zone D or the control area, where all activities are permitted as long as they are in conformity with environmental regulations and the aims of the Park.
Equipped Forestry Areas
• Piano Zucchi (Isnello)
• San Foco (Castelbuono)
• Pianetti (Cefalu’ –Localita’ Gibilmanna)
• Zappaiello (Gangi)
• Santa Maria (Lascari)
It is possible to make naturalistic excursions from these areas.
Handicrafts / Majolica Ceramics Itineraries
Sport and Free Time
• Ski lifts, Piano Battaglia
• Snow bulletins, Rifugio Marini tel. 0921/49994
• The High Madonne crossing (Km. 17 dsl. m. 1.500)
• Monte Cervi crossing ( Km. 17 dsl. m. 837)
• Club Alpino Italiano – Petralia
• Club Alpino Italiano – Polizzi
• Club Alpino Siciliano – Palermo
Courtesy of AAIPT Provincia di Palermo, Palermo Official Tourist Board www.aapit.pa.it