Parco delle Madonie
Sicily Villas near and in the Madonie mountains »
Almost the whole mountain range of the Madonie Mountains was declared Regional Natural Park in 1989. It represents a unique mosaic marked by areas rich in water and very dry surfaces, dotted with sinkholes and caves typical of the karst areas, monasteries, hermitages and rock churches rising on the most remote rocks of the mountains, old mills and farms often built over the remains of older roman villas near the rivers. The highest peaks reach an altitude of almost 2000m: Pizzo Carbonara is 1979m high, Monte S. Salvatore is 1912m high and Monte Ferro is 1906m high.[ + ]
The north side - The town of Collesano lies on the Tyrrhenian side of the mountain range, at the foot of the rocky massif of Grotta del Signore. It developed in the XXII century around the imposing Norman Castle, whose ruins are still visible in the distance, becoming an important feudal centre under the Ventimiglia noble family. A typical mountain town, Collesano boasts charming landscapes and important works of arts by Antonello Gagini, Pietro Novelli and by the so called Zoppo di Gangi (pseudonym of two artists from Gangi: Gaspare Vazzano and Giuseppe Salerno).
Not far from Collesano, the village Isnello is renowned for its splendid churches and a series of caves with a speleological and paleontological relevance: they have preserved ruins of ancient necropolises and important archeological finds. The most famous cave is the Abisso del Vento, a karst sinkhole which is 230m deep. Isnello is referred to as the capital of embroidery. The annual exhibition of “Filet” and embroidery shows the splendid works made by the local capable women.
A scenic panoramic road leads to Castelbuono through the valleys of the massif Carbonara (the second highest peak after Mount Etna on Sicily). The mountains offer many different routes to follow on foot or horse riding and discover the amazing beauties and its hidden charms. Within two hours it is possible to reach the refuge Francesco Crispi in Piano Sempria and the beautiful wood of Giant Holly in Piano Pomo.
Proceeding by car 25 km southwards on the SS 286 it is possible to reach Geraci Siculo. It is a beautiful village perched on the mountains at about 1000m above sea level, renowned for its springs (visitors can take water from the water-trough outside the village) and for the “Falconiera”, an exhibition of hawks which follows the rules of the treaty De arte venandi cum avibus or Art of Falconry (written by Frederick II in the XII century). Geraci Siculo was a bone of contention between Arabs and Normans for its strategic position and the capital of the earldom of the Ventimiglia noble family.
The south side - Come to the intersection between SS286 and the SS120 the visitors can opt for either the road towards Gangi- Sperlinga or the road towards Pizzo Carbonara and Petralia. Although Gangi is not a village of the Park, it is nearby and worth a stopover. It is a delicious village perched on Mount Marone still maintaining its ancient medieval look. It is marked by a maze of narrow lanes, endowed here and there with a fine view, leading to splendid monumental churches. The Baroque main church (Chiesa Madre) lies on the main square near the Ventimiglias’ Tower (now a belfry). In the presbytery the church preserves the splendid picture of the Last Judgment by Giuseppe Salerno, better known as the Zoppo di Gangi.
15km further on the road reaches Sperlinga, renowned for the cave dwellings which are still visible in the distance and its splendid fortress firmly rooted to the base rock to which it clings. The fortress can be reached through a steep staircase cut into the bedrock. It overlooks the village and boasts a wonderful panorama over Gangi, the Nebrodi Mountains, Madonie Mountains, Erei Mountains and Mount Etna.
For those loving nature rambles, the surroundings of Petralia offer many opportunities to walk in the mountainside: for example, the so called track of the pilgrims leading to the Santuario della Madonna dell’Alto (1817 m) is one of the most scenic tracks. The track starts from the Borgata Nociazzi, about 3 km far away from Castellana Sicula.
Last but not least there is the village Polizzi, which was given the name of “generosa” (generous) by Frederick II. Polizzi is renowned for its churches and its culinary heritage. The most important church is the Church of Saint Jerome, designed with a central plan by the great Jesuit architect Angelo Italia and endowed with a splendid Baroque portal. It preserves the painting Madonna with Child by Giandomenico Saggini. As for the cuisine, the traditional “sfoglio”, a pie stuffed with fresh cheese (tuma) mixed with sugar, chocolate and cinnamon and the “granita” with wild strawberries are delicious.
The SP 119 leads to the renowned Piano Battaglia winter resort. The name recalls the battle between Arabs and Norman for the conquest of the plain in 1069. It is well known as starting point of many nature excursions. From Piano Battaglia a scenic tracks leads to Pizzo Carbonara (1979 m high) the highest peak of the Madonie Mountains range.
Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottana are two of the most beautiful and well-preserved towns on the Madonie Mountains. Perched on a rocky spur at the altitude of 1147m, Petralia Soprana
dominates a vast territory. Indeed it is one of the towns of the Madonie Mountains which boasts the most ancient origins. It was ruled by Arabs, Normans and in turn by the Ventimiglia, Moncada and Cordona noble families. The small town core shows a medieval layout with a maze of narrow streets and stone houses. It boasts the monumental church Chiesa Madre with a portal dating back to 1400 and a portico from XVIII century with binate columns. The Church of Madonna di Loreto
was built over the ruins of an ancient castle on the upper part of the town. It is marked by two belfries with polychrome cusps. A few meters far from the church the belvedere terrace provides a magnificent view over the valleys. The road linking Petralia Soprana with Petralia Sottana runs trough a pine wood, where the former monastery of Padri Riformati can be admired. Nowadays it is converted into a congress center and a university.
Petralia Sottana boasts an astonishing wealth of monuments and churches and a breathtaking panorama. The Baroque Chiesa Madre built over a pre-existent XV century core and the marble polyptich by Giandomenico Gagini in the Church Trinità alla Badia are well worth a visit. The clear mountain air and the timeless atmosphere provide for the particular charm of these towns, where traditions are deeply innate in the spirit of the locals. In the summer there are many religious and non-religious events which attract curious and tourists. The most colorful is the Ballo della Cordella, recalling the ancient popular dances. Emigrants and young people come back to their native villages enlivening the squares and the streets. The mountains are crowded once again with people.
Trekking and Sports in the area of the Madonie Mountains
The Nature Park of the Madonie Mountains, covering a territory of almost 40000ha and including 15000 ha of woods, hills, pastures, gorges, rivers and peaks reaching the altitude of 2000m, is one of the most beautiful and unpolluted areas of the island. It offers many different routes to follow on foot, mountain bike or horse riding and venture into this astonishingly rich and varied ecosystem.
We will provide you the necessary information for the discovering of the amazing beauties of the Madonie Mountains. The tracks and the refuges are not usually crowded, and the visitors can enjoy their time immersed in the outstanding scenery of the mountains.
On the contrary the winter resort Piano Battaglia is crowded with skiers in winter, when the aerial lifts of the three ski pistes are available. Piano Battaglia offers the opportunity to practice alpine skiing, cross country skiing and the absolutely new sport called orienteering. The Nature Park promoted on October 2005 the first training course for this new sport, also called the sport of the woods. Petralia Sottana offers a covered swimming pool available all the year.
Sicily Villas near and in the Madonie mountains »