“In the UK we call it a walking holiday, in the US they call it a hiking holiday, others call it a trekking holiday – but whatever you call it, our Madonie Mountains walking holiday traverses some the of the most beautiful landscapes in Sicily”.
One of the classic Sicily walking tours, our journey takes us right through the heart of the Madonie mountains to the coast near Cefalù.
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 wish at any time. Some of the walking is strenuous at times and you should expect some uneven walking surfaces and some quite steep ascents and descents. However, all the walks can be done by anyone who is reasonably fit even if they have little experience of mountain walking.
Catania Airport to Gangi
Pick up at the airport and drive directly to the exquisitely restored medieval hill-town of Gangi — recently voted the most beautiful town in Italy — just on the edge of the Madonie Mountains natural park. The perfect place to begin your Madonie hike. (Transfer 2hrs)
We will stay for 2 nights at the Agriturismo, Villa Raino, a restored Baronial villa from the 1700s with tranquil surroundings, situated in the valley behind Gangi. After dropping our luggage at the villa, we drive into Gangi where we will visit the ‘centro storico’ with its mighty stone Baroque townhouses, defensive towers and intriguing shops and churches.
Evening meal (included) and overnight at the Villa Rainò.
Gangi to Sperlinga
Our first day’s walking in the Madonie is designed to be a fairly gentle start to the week. We begin with a short drive to Gangi Vecchio. The walk begins with a gradual ascent up to a ridge. For the next couple of hours we contour along the ridge with a few gentle ups and downs. Then at last the picturesque hill-town of Sperlinga comes into view and we drop down into the valley below. There are beautiful views over to Mt Etna in the distance.
Lunch is in the small village of Sperlinga. Then after lunch there is an opportunity to visit the troglodyte dwellings — a few of them still inhabited — and the Saracen castle hewn out of the prominent butress of rock.
Gangi to Madonie Mountains National Park
We begin our second day’s walk in the Madonie with a short drive to the evocative little medieval town of Petralia, with its weather-eroded churches, tiny piazzas and shuttered houses. From there we contour around the peak of Pizzo Catarineci to the typical mountain village of Geraci Siculo where we pause for lunch.
Our afternoon trek takes us through the Madonie range on paths with spectacular views over the mountains, and 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 Soprana (10 mins).
Overnight stay at the comfortable mountain chalet. The restaurant is part of the Slow Food movement — an international movement founded in Italy which supports traditional cooking based on local organic produce.
Picnic lunch and dinner included.
Vallone degli Angeli
A wonderful day of Madonie trekking. There is quite a strenuous climb at the start of the day, but then some level contouring brings us to the spectacular Vallone Madonna degli Angeli, the only place in the world where the fir tree Abies Nedrodensis can be found growing.
If we are feeling in need of further exertion, there is a possibility to extend this walk and to climb to the top of Monte San Salvatore (1912m).
In the afternoon we return to Pomieri Hotel.
Pomieri to Piano Pomo
We begin walking from the hotel (altitude 1346m), through woodland with 600 to 800 year old maple and oak trees. Continuing through the Madonie mountains, we’ll have some spectacular views across the mountains and towards the sea. Our walk then takes us through a forest with giant 1,000 year old holly trees, and we’ll even find a traditional thatched shepherd’s hut.
Our path finishes shortly after at the mountain refuge Crispi (altitude 1260m).
We return along the same route. Lunch and dinner included.
Overnight stay in Pomieri.
Pizzo Carbonara and onward to Isnello
This morning we being with a short drive (15mins) to the hanging valley of Piano Battaglia (a traditional picnic spot and meeting point for shepherds moving their flocks in the summer) and the start of the walk. From this elevation (1572m) the ascent of Pizzo Carbonara (1979m), the highest mountain in the Madonie is not too strenous, but the views it affords are fantastic. On Sicily only Mount Etna is higher, and the 360 degree views stretch for miles.
After descending to Piano Battaglia and lunch, we begin the descent through lovely woodland to Piano Zucchi (2 hours). At Piano Zucchi we are once again met by our transport and we transfer to the beautiful medieval town of Castelbuono, famous for its pastry shops and for being the only place in Europe where ‘biblical’ manna is cultivated. Another Castelbuono first, is that rubbish is collected by donkeys!
Evening meal and overnight in Castelbuono
Isnello – Gratteri
On our final day of walking, we begin with a transfer back to the village of Isnello (almost to the point we finished at the previous day) to begin the ascent towards Gratteri. Over the col, we have a short drop down to lunch.
After lunch we transfer to our hotel in the wonderful seaside town Cefalù. In the afternoon, there is a chance to visit this famous Arab/Norman town. Highlights include a majestic, fortress-like Norman cathedral with the best-preserved of all Sicilian cathedral mosaics, and the Museo Mandralisca, which houses a famous portrait of an unknown man by the Renaissance artist, Antonello da Messina. There are also tempting little shops selling Sicilian ceramics and all manner of local produce, along with excellent ice creams and beautiful sandy beaches.
Dinner at seafood restaurant. Overnight in Cefalù.
Transfer to airport – Palermo airport (1 hour) Catania (2 hours)