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Parks of Sicily cycle route

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A wild journey, capable of exciting and at the same time putting oneself to the test. An itinerary among parks, mountains and nature reserves. A track that is rideable but needs to be tamed. If you are looking for an unforgettable bikepacking experience on high-altitude gravel roads and dirt trails, the Parks of Sicily cycle path is the one for you.

 
Sicily parks cycleway Life in Travel
 

Parks of Sicily cycle path: the routes

The project of the cycle path of the Sicilian Parks was born last year to promote cycle tourism in the mountainous areas of the Sicilian hinterland thanks to an intuition of Massimo Scalia of Etna Bike Tribe.etna panoramic

In reality, there are multiple routes: there is the more classic and simple Standard itinerary; there is the Expert one for those who want to go further; there is the Visconti-Alberati route followed by the two home athletes and there is theMTB routewhich we followed most of the time, with some variations.
No matter what your choice, know that each of these itineraries will leave you breathless.Malabotta climb

For more details on all the routes of the Sicilian Parks cycle path, access the official website www.cicloviaparchisicilia.it

The MTB route of the Sicilian parks cycle route

In September we tackled the mountain bike route of the Sicilian parks cycle path, cycling from Etna to the Nebrodi, passing through the Alcantara park to conclude with the climb in the Madonie. Four parks, as many different ecosystems and an uninterrupted route as a union.093 monte soprano sfida

Etna Altomontana track

A few years ago we had already crossed the Sicily's hinterland by pedaling some roads in the mountainous parks of the island.

The most particular and one of the most evocative is certainly the Etna Altomontana track which surrounds the western side of the volcano, allowing hikers, bikers and cycle tourists to move from south to north or vice versa.

Also in this case, our starting point is the Sapienza hut, just below 2000 m above sea level. Hordes of tourists flock to go up to the summit craters with the ski lifts.Altomontana Etnea track

We leave the crowd by going down a few hundred meters along the provincial road 92 towards Nicolosi. Piano Vetore is the starting point of the Altomontana Etna track. Leave the asphalt and enter the woods on the right and pass a couple of poles that are not always open.

The track enters the Etna park, in a continuous alternation of lava flows, high altitude forests and prairies. A first climb gently takes you back up to one of the numerous bivouacs on the slopes of the volcano.parks of sicily by bicycle

The smoking cone puts on its show to our right as we move forward, now downhill. The nosedive modifies the environment, the beeches replace the pines, the broom is still in bloom, the secondary craters turn grey. A rougher section than the previous ones takes us through the 1981 flow, on stones that are still sharp and young. The ascent has already begun a while ago when we reach the passo dei Dammusi, the last effort on the Altomontana slope.pista altomontana etnasicilian parks cycle path

From here to the Ragabo refuge it is a downhill walk but by now the last light of the day is greeting us and so we decide to follow the road to reach Linguaglossa (the official MTB route follows an enduro trail which cuts the road straight across).
The stars illuminate the celestial vault and the colossus of stone and fire rests before us. As our host told us: "Last summer Etna smoked a nice cigar, now he's finished it and is taking a break before the next."

The Alcantara Valley and the Malabotta Forest

We leave Linguaglossa along the old railway to Castiglione di Sicilia which we had already followed years ago. Wonderfully set among the rocks, it offers unique views of the village despite being neglected and without maintenance.old railway linguaglossa castiglione

The dive into the Alcantara valley it takes us along the river which has carved unique canyons in the lava flows of Etna downstream. We go upstream until we reach a well-preserved Byzantine cuba before moving towards Mojo Alcantara. The route away from traffic follows dirt roads and secondary roads between dry stone walls and vines.valle alcantaracuba bizantina

Passing through Malvagna, we begin the ascent that will lead us to the heights of the Bosco di Malabotta. The road is initially wide and asphalted, then gives way to cobblestones and finally to bare earth. The slopes increase, the surface is rough and ruined by the rain and we are forced to go downhillella and push our steel horses loaded like mules.salita malabotta malvagnasalita malabotta sterratosalita malabotta panorama

The views open up as we go up and Etna shows itself in all its grandeur in front of us. Only in the last kilometers do you enter an airy holm oak forest. Centenary colossi rise towards infinity, the road flattens and we pedal between the branches of these gigantic pillars whose branches stretch out to protect us from the still strong September sun's rays.

We go up the plateau skirting the megaliths of Argimusco when the sun is now hiding on the horizon and the long ups and downs towards Floresta becomes a slow welcome to the moon.etna sunset

The dinner between caponata and black pig salami is a sweet torture from which we cannot escape.

The Nebrodi Ridge

The next day the turquoise sky accompanies us towards the west. Portella Mitta is the gateway to the Nebrodi Ridge. We take the road, initially asphalted, which runs along the top crest of this mountain range which cuts longitudinally through the province of Messina.dorsale dei nebrodi panoramicdorsale dei nebrodi bici

Together with the Peloritani to the east and the Madonie further west, the Caronie (as the Nebrodi) constitute the Sicilian Apennines, an island continuation of the spine reliefs of the peninsula.< /p>

The bituminous surface soon gives way to the natural surface that follows the mountain profile in a continuous leg-breaking ups and downs.nebrodi by bicyclenebrodi crest by bicyclenebrodi by bicycle

The beech forests alternate with large clearings, passing alongside high altitude humid environments unique in Sicily. The Lake Biviere and its panoramic shores anticipate the Lake Maulazzo and the Portella Femmina Morta where it crosses the state road 289 which joins Cesarò to San Brother.

Continuing along the ridge you can come across pigs rooting everywhere. Your legs start to feel tired when you reach the Caserma Mafauda and then find the asphalt again and reach the provincial road just before the Portella dell'Obolo.
The sunset looms over us and since we don't have a tent we decide to leave the ridge without completing it until Mistretta: we dive downhill until we reach Capizzi for a well-deserved rest.dorsale dei nebrodi laghi

Monte Soprano and the Sambughetti reserve

The sun still shines on the land of Trinacria. A mile-long cannoli is the right energy to face the day, but before leaving Capizzi an intoxicating scent attracts us like the Pied Piper did with the rats. We enter through a narrow door into a hot and narrow oven, in no time at all our saddlebags are full of pizza and bread which we will devour when needed.capizzi

We finally manage to leave the town perched at the foot of the Nebrodi to embark on an unknown road which first sinks into thedepth of the valley and then rises equally suddenly on the opposite side. Once again the asphalt becomes a memory, gravel and earth replace it as we proceed towards and beyond Monte Soprano. Austere landscapes; ocher from the dry grass of late summer; black of the ripe blackberries that we gulp down without stopping.monte soprano climb

The wheels roll slowly on the uneven surface and the midday sun still beats down on us defenseless cyclists. A few hundred meters on the state road 117 which descends from Mistretta and the route begins in the oriented natural reserve of Sambughetti, the southernmost settlement area of some splendid beech forests that do not go further. The Sicilian gray tit hides among the fresh foliage and we willingly imitate it, enjoying the shade of the wonderful dirt road that rises gently towards the sun which is already lowering its wings towards the west.

Outside the reserve a couple of ramps that scream revenge make us climb to the foot of gigantic modern windmills. The wind farm we pass through has something romantic about it in the sunset light. Over there on the horizon the mountain seems to have been crafted like wood carved by the skilled hand of an artist carpenter.gangi wind park

As we get closer we realize that the cuts are windows, roofs and streets. Gangi is there, clinging to the slopes of Mount Marone.
We go up the winding streets of the town to its summit. From the viewpoint of Piazza del Popolo you can admire the valley below while turning your eye to the east the horizon is still dominated by the unmistakable conical profile of smoking Etna.

Gangi and the Madonie

Gangi is among the most beautiful villages in Italy and the effort to reach the perched historic center is abundantly repaid by the relaxed and slow atmosphere typical of villages in any hinterland. We get lost among its alleys, seeing the Ventimiglia tower, the Mother Church, the Bongiorno palace and the many other characteristic buildings of the historic center. gangigangi

The dive from the town takes us back to state road 120 and it is the first time on this trip that a day begins with so much asphalt. We will definitely miss him later. The sinuous route of the road that follows the profile of the hills leads us to the two Petralies. Soprana and Sottana.

The first stands out on a rocky spur and is the highest municipality in the Madonie. Noteworthy is the Piazza del Popolo with the town hall, formerly a convent of the Discalced Carmelites. A granita gives us energy again and we continue our journey towards the other Petralia, bypassing what remains of the castle.petralia soprana petralia skirt

A 2000% cobblestone makes us dive back into the heart of the earth, between the folds of the Sottana. We cross the center without almost realizing it and we are already uphill on the opposite side of the valley. The slopes are identical to the downhill ones and we are immediately in pain. Turning around, we realize how fascinating even the lowest of the Petralie mountains is, anchored to the opposite side, dominated by the out-of-scale shape of theMother Maria SS church. Assunta.

The asphalt pushes on, stubborn and stoic, up to Contrada Gisa, between olive groves and small scattered farmhouses, but then it has to bend over the ground and gravel. The surface is unstable and the slopes show no signs of decreasing. The loaded rear helps grip but from time to time even my extra-large tires are fooled by the slippery surface.madonie climb bicyclemonte alto climb madonieclimb monte alto

The views open up: behind us, below, the Petralie look like overlapping nativity scenes. Further away, Gangi slides towards the valley, like a blanket that covers Mount Marone and behind, beyond the fields yellowed in autumn, the emerald green of the Nebrodi woods saves the gaze from the chromatic impoverishment of the many fires which devastate this magical territory every year.

We are now above 1500 m above sea level when a flicker in the bush alerts us. It will be the first of an infinite series. Tawny fur, quick step and white mirror clipped by the black tail. The deer have become one of the symbols of the Madonie: hundreds of specimens live in the woods and clearings of the park.madonie park gangi deer

The ascent continues but the slopes soften thanks to a series of hairpin bends which leads us to reach the highest point of this day, on Monte Alto (1819 m), from which it dominates the sanctuary of the Madonna dell'Alto is undisputed.

We catch our breath before throwing ourselves into a short and illusory descent into the woods which is immediately replaced by an ascent on which we are forced to dismount and push. The sun now casts its rays on us from the horizon and the warm light of the sunset accompanies us on the subsequent descent. The valley that descends on the western side of the Madonie is an unexpected wonder. We pedal among groups of fallow deer, fleeting wild boars and rocky spiers that recall the Dolomite peaks. The road insinuates itself into the rock until it takes us back to the provincial road 119 which goes up from Polizzi Generosa.parks of sicily cycle pathdescent cycle route parks sicily by bike

As soon as we resumed the climb towards our destination today, an extraordinary spectacle appears: at the foot of the ridge that protects us to the east headed by Mount Quacella, before Piano Trifoglio, hundreds, if not thousands, of deer graze in the clearings on the side of the road.  madonie daini sunset

We go up the provincial road in the company of only the animals, given that there isn't even a sign of a car. Only when we take the crossroads on the SP54 do we meet some visitors coming down. Dusk surprises us and so we are forced to turn on, for the umpteenth time, the lights that prepare us for an arrival at night. There are a few kilometers to go and the effort is not excessive. The Marini refuge, protected among the beech trees of pian Battaglia, stands in an enchanting place that today will be almost only for us. The five-star welcome makes us feel at home and once again the Sicilian gastronomy doesn't make us regret having consumed a few calories during the day!rifugio marini

In the night a pair of male deer fight with antlers outside our window and we stay for a while to enjoy the show, illuminated by agiant full moon.

A dive towards Cefalù

The awakening is bittersweet: today will be the last day of cycling on the Sicilian Parks cycle path and closing a route always has a dual flavour. On the one hand, the joy of having completed a long-studied and dreamed-of journey, on the other, the sadness of knowing that the next day there will be no more pedaling and discovering new places and corners of the world.

A hearty breakfast restores us and gives us morale. We know that today there will be a lot of descent and this will be the easiest day, on paper, of this cycle route in the Sicilian parks. After all, we are in the mountains and the destination is the sea!

066 madonie discesa bosco

We retrace with light the final kilometers done in the dark the previous day, but the trail immediately turns onto a fun and not too technical path in the woods. We descend further with the fleeting company of groups of deer that occasionally cross our path. Let's pass the Mandria del Conte lake before reaching Piano Zucchi.

From the car park of the now abandoned Luigi Orestano refuge a path branches off which we take. The first stretch is rather technical and with the rigid bikes we extricate ourselves as best we can among the rocks, but then, after passing the Madonie valley, the track becomes wider and more beaten as it enters the woods. The descent is fun even if it cannot be defined as relaxing: there is no shortage of ups and downs and they keep us warm.parco madonie by bikecycling route of the parks of Sicily

We find the SP54 again just before reaching the Munciaratti district where the last real difficulty of this journey begins: a tough off-road climb of about two kilometers which gives us the privilege of having the first views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. We go around the Giammarusa peak to begin a quick descent towards the ruins of the Abbey of San Giorgio, from the Norman era, of which today only the perimeter walls and little else remain visible. abbazia di san giorgiogratteri

Gratteri is not far away and the road to reach it is wonderfully exposed. The small town stands in a valley at the foot of the high peaks of the park and the most evocative place is the Grattara cave from which the village probably takes its name. In legend, the cave was the home of the Befana (“a Vecchia Strina”) who on the last night of the year came down to the town passing through the chimneys of the houses to leave gifts and sweets for the little ones.

Gratteri

A refreshment stop in the only open bar in the town restores our strength butthe road to Cefalù is now short and almost entirely on asphalt. In fact, a small climb takes us back to the main route which descends in hairpin bends onto the Campanella stream. A few kilometers of ascent and the sea approaches. The views of Cefalù in the distance follow one another in the last dive towards the coast.panorama cefalu

Thus ends, once again in traffic and coastal civilization, this journey through the mountain parks of north-eastern Sicily. The Cycle Route of the Parks of Sicily is an itinerary that will allow you to savor authentic places, genuine tastes and unexpected scents, leading you into the wildest heart of the Mediterranean island.tramonto cefalu

 

 

 

 

  • Arancino at altitude with a view of Etna
  • A glass of Etna red wine in Linguaglossa
  • The old railway between Linguaglossa and Castiglione di Sicilia
  • Relax with your feet soaking in the small Alcantara gorges
  • The Byzantine Cuba in Alcantara valley
  • The centuries-old oaks of the Malabotta forest
  • The evocative rocks of Argimusco at sunset
  • The dirt roads of the Nebrodi Ridge
  • A granita at Bar Lombardo in Petralia Soprana, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy
  • The panoramic descent from the Sanctuary of Monte Alto, in the Madonie
  • Night among fallow deer and wild boars at the Marini refuge
  • A dip in the sea of Cefalù
  • How do I reach Sicily by bicycle?

    Sicily is the largest island in Italy and the Mediterranean and its varied territory is the perfect destination for pioneers of unexpected dirt roads and wonders hidden from mass tourism.

    To reach Sicily you can decide to cycle the entire length of the Italian peninsula and then embark at Villa San Giovanni and find yourself on the island, in Messina, or opt for a trip by longer sea, for example starting from the port of Genoa, from that of Civitavecchia or from Naples, to land on the island in its largest city, the bewitching Palermo .

    An alternative, probably more inconvenient and expensive due to the obligation to pack the bike, is tofly to one of the Sicilian airports which are reached every day by various carriers from all over Italy and from the rest of Europe. You can also choose to purchase a flight without transporting the bike and then rent it on site. We purchased a Ryanair flight from Orio al Serio with bike in tow, landing in Catania and then leaving from Palermo.

  • How do I reach Rifugio Sapienza?

    The Rifugio Sapienza is the starting point of this MTB trip in north-eastern Sicily. To achieve this there are some alternatives. The first option is to tackle the ascent to 2000 meters of Etna, where the refuge is located, directly in the saddle, pedaling.

    The second option is to rely on the good humor of the bus driver. 'Sicilian transport company which carries out the run from Piazza Giovanni XXIII to the refuge at 8:15 in the morning. The possibility of transporting the bike is at the discretion of the driver. The journey costs €6.60 and lasts two hours.

    The third alternative is to rely on private transport like that of the guys at Etnatribe who are the creators of the route and have a truck for maintenance or bike rental directly at the refuge.

  • Is the itinerary signposted?The itinerary of the Sicilian parks cycle route - MTB version - is not signposted, so we recommend downloading the GPS track.
  • Are there fountains or water sources in general? Along the itinerarythere are various water sources,< em> especially in the villages and in the Madonie park (those encountered on the Nebrodi were unfortunately dry)
  • How is the quality of the roads along the itinerary? The dirt roads are often aggressive and stony and this is why we recommend using at least 2.2 tyres. ”and above all a good descent technique for the most treacherous trails
  • I recommend taking the cycle path of the Sicilian parks from Rifugio Sapienza to Cefalù, in April, May, September and October to still have long and not too hot days
    Where we slept along the cycle path of the parks of Sicily
     Our stops, to give ourselves time and find accommodation for the night, along the Sicily cycling itinerary led us to sleep at:
  • Linguaglossa – B&B Il Corbezzolo
  • Floresta – Hotel Sant’Anna (possibilità anche di cenare)
  • Capizzi – Affittacamere Nebrodi
  • Gangi – B&B Baglio Tramontana (possibilità anche di cenare)
  • Piano Battaglia – Rifugio Marini (possibilità anche di cenare)
  • Cefalù – Alloggio di Giulia su AirBnB
  • What to eat in Sicily?The Sicilian food and wine tradition leaves you speechless for its variety and flavours. During a bike trip in Sicily you will absolutely have to taste: arancini (or arancine, depending on the city), bomba, cartocciata, granita with briosche, Sicilian cannoli, freshly caught seafood, pasta alla norma , pistachio pasta, horse meat and onion sauce (this list could be almost infinite). Some of the typical products in the area are for example: the Nebrodi black pig and the Madonie Sfoglio
  • Where to eat along the cycle path of the Sicilian parks? In some selected accommodations we took advantage of half board. In Linguaglossa we had dinner at Trattoria Linguagrossa (tasty place but a little expensive). In Floresta at the Sant'Anna hotel the mixed starters are delicious and plentiful. The caponata is super! In Capizzi we treated ourselves to a pizza at Antichi Sapori, while fresh bread and take-away pizza can be purchased at Michele's bakery, the Panificio Fascetto. At Baglio Tramontana and at Rifugio Marini you can eat very well while in Cefalù we had dinner in the alley overlooking the cathedral at the Mandralisca Bistrot (delicious!)
 
 
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Leo

ITA - Cicloviaggiatore lento con il pallino per la scrittura e la fotografia. Se non è in viaggio ama perdersi lungo i mille sentieri che solcano le splendide montagne del suo Trentino e dei dintorni del lago d'Iseo dove abita. Sia a piedi che in mountain bike. Eterno Peter Pan che ama realizzare i propri sogni senza lasciarli per troppo tempo nel cassetto, ha dedicato e dedica gran parte della vita al cicloturismo viaggiando in Europa, Asia, Sud America e Africa con Vero, compagna di viaggio e di vita e Nala.

EN - Slow cycle traveler with a passion for writing and photography. If he is not traveling, he loves to get lost along the thousands of paths that cross the splendid mountains of his Trentino and the surroundings of Lake Iseo where he lives. Both on foot and by mountain bike. Eternal Peter Pan who loves realizing his dreams without leaving them in the drawer for too long, has dedicated and dedicates a large part of his life to bicycle touring in Europe, Asia, South America and Africa with Vero, travel and life partner and Nala.