Sicilian Natural Parks

Sicilian Natural Parks

There are four regional parks: Park of Etna, Madonie, Nebrodi and the last in order of institutional birth is the park of Alcantara.

The Etna Park

Between sky and fire - The Etna Park is not distinguished only by the fascination of the lava flows that incessantly mark and modify its territory. The whole area of the park is also made unique by a plant universe that makes up and breaks down all the colours of the palette of Mother Nature, from the tonalities of green in the lower vineyards, to the yellows of the apple orchards and oak and chestnut woods as you climb up further, to the dark colours of the beech and birch forests that begin to close off the light and then allow the force of the volcano to take possession of the whole available space, up there, where clouds caress the lapilli expelled from the bowels of the Earth. Here, among the oak woods and the ferns, there are extraordinary forms of life that feed on what the fire giant succeeds in allowing to grow along the slopes. Here you still meet the wild catthe foxthe porcupinethe weaselthe dormouse, just to quote some exemplary types of fauna, because the true king of these places is the superb golden eagle. Obviously, a lot of other birds pass through here, from the peregrine falcon to the owl, the sparrow hawk to the heron, and wild doves.

 

The Madonie

The territory of this park comprises the highest peaks in Sicily - except, of course, for Etna. In the Madonie there are almost 50% of the flora species on the island and various endemic species of great importance, like the Abies nebrodensis, a relict from the third Ice Age. In the woods there are oak trees, manna elms and chestnut trees with thick undergrowth of holly, Asperula and prickly plum plants. Visiting the vast Madonie area is certainly an unique experience: in it there is a great number of varied and charming environments, including high peaks, medium hills, etc... Any season can be chosen for this visit. It can be made in winter, when the highest tops are covered with snow, sometimes very abundant; in spring, when all the colours of the dense Madonie undergrowth explode; or in summer, when, between one bathe and another at Cefalù or at other splendid seaside resorts nearby, you want to get away from the heat for a while. To visit the park you can make a tour around it, including a visit to all the towns and villages in the park itself and, of course, to the zones, which in terms of landscape and nature offer the most interesting sights.

 

The Nebrodi

This mountain chain - part of the Sicilian Apennines (formed by both Madonie and Peloritans) - extends for about 70 km. parallel to the northern coast of the island. Marked characteristics of the natural landscape of the Nebrodi are the absence of symmetry between one face and another, the varied modelling of the mountains, the very rich vegetation and the humid environments. Some sites are particularly important because of peculiar features, constituting unique entities which are sometimes essential for the structure of the general geological and ecological balance: the Cesarò Biviere (pool), the Rocche del Crasto, Lake Trearie, the woods at Mistretta, Monte Pomiere, San Fratello and Mangalaviti are some of them. The vegetation, which was one of the fundamental reasons for setting up the park, is extremely varied and divides into three different levels, as on Etna. The first, up to 1000 metres, is subdivided into various bands: while the lower ones are cultivated, on the highest there are oak trees, cork oaks, euphorbias and turkey oaks. Turkey and ilex oak trees are also present on the successive level (up to 1400 m.) together with beech trees. The latter go on up to the greatest height (Monte Soro, 1847 m.). Lastly, there are maple trees, elms, then the yew, rarities in the Nebrodi. In the undergrowth there is holly, hawthorn, butcher´s broom and other plants.

 

The Alcantara Park

Following the course of the river - It is impossible to choose a single zone, a single piece of this park that winds along the 50 kilometres of the bed of the river Alcàntara (notice the stress, on the second "a", and not on the third one, Alcàntara, which certainly makes the name more consistent with the Sicilian dialect, but is wrong!) which tell of enormous and terrifying geological events. Geologists, indeed, say that in prehistory here there already flowed a river on a clay bed. On this bed, however, a flow of extremely fluid magma was channelled provoking the collapse of these sediments, giving rise, today, to the extraordinary colonnades that are admired in the Larderia area, a short distance from Motta Camastra.