The route explores the limestone reliefs of the western portion of the Palermo Mountains, within the SIC “Monte Grifone”. The area consists of a chain of reliefs bordering the Conca d’Oro basin on the south, with various peaks between 700 and 800 m forming a ridge, the highest peak of which is Mount Grifone (882 m).The landscape is characterized by its barren appearance, typical of the grasslands of the local carbonate massifs.
The flora environment is characterized by intense use in the past and the frequency of fires. There are sporadic coniferous forestry plots, while the most natural combinations, olive and holm oak groves, are found in the most rocky areas, generally less affected by fires.
The excursion starts at the horse-riding center of Oasi del Cavallo at Villa Ciambra, and with a cross street of Via Ciraulo, along back streets you cross first Via Altofonte and continue to Via Piana degli Albanesi, continuing in the direction of Altofonte for about 600m, leaving behind vehicular traffic and entering a forest road, accessed by request through the equestrian center. The dirt road rises on the slope, initially inside a coniferous grove, and after two bends, it continues on a trail half-way up the slope along the mountainside prairie, while the view begins to open onto the Conca d’Oro basin below. The path leads us to another dirt road, which continues along the middle of the slope and allows you to gain elevation gradually. On the right you pass by the Pizzo Orecchiuta, and crossing other groves, useful for shady breaks, you finally reach the Portella Salvatore pass, gap on the ridge of the main mountain system. From here, southwards, there is an enchanting setting of small summit valleys and calcareous reliefs.
After a pond near the pass opening, you descend with a dirt road into the summit valley called Vallecola Balzo Rosso, which takes its name from the summit towards which we are heading by climbing another valley, finding ourselves in a very beautiful setting. You reach the ridge below the top of the Balzo Rosso, with a new view overlooking the plain
of Palermo and the Conca d’Oro basin with views over Mount Cuccio, Capo Gallo and Mount Pellegrino. You descend with a slightly different route, reaching the Valle del Fico, where, with a trail half-way along the slope, you return among coniferous groves to the starting point.
The route will take us from the edge of the outskirts of Palermo to the summit of Mount Cuccio, imposing limestone massive that dominates the city from its 1050 m elevation and is part of SIC “Raffo Rosso, Monte Cuccio and Vallone Sagana “. Formerly known as “Acute” for its characteristic form, it is predominantly made of Triassic, white and floury dolomite stone.
The massif is covered by prairies of Ampelodesmos mauritanicus grasses, with pastures in the flattest valleys, where colluvial deposits have accumulated. Great views can be enjoyed both from the summit of Mount Cuccio and other overlooks along the way. The itinerary begins at the EOS equestrian center in Boccadifalco and heads towards Baida, a hamlet whose origins date back to an ancient Saracen farmstead. Later, a Benedictine monastery was built here, whose original cloister is integrated into the complex of the Church and Convent of St. John the Baptist.
Continue on the road to S.Martino alle Scale and at the 3rd turn you will find an unpaved forest road (at the equestrian center you will be able to get informationabout the entrance to the forest area). After about 400m, at an abandoned old mill, we leave the road for a path that rises on the northwest side of the mountain, crossing some sparse woodlands, where the remains of recent fires can cover parts of the trail. You arrive at the Abbeveratoio Montagna watering trough, with water all year round. From here, follow along the valley which stretches towards the west, reaching the location of Piano Montagna, where there is a reforested pine grove, a forest-ranger building and a rest area. At the fire pond nearby there is a watering hole, but only in winter. From here, with a dirt road, you can reach the summit of Mount Cuccio, which towers over the area of Palermo area and the Conca d’Oro basin.
The route continues through other summit valleys of the limestone massif, with panoramic views to the west (Isola
delle Femmine island, Sferracavallo, airport). Then you reach the Portella Sant’Anna pass where there are remains
of a military structure for observation of the port of Palermo. From here you turn left towards San Martino alle
Scale and at the 2nd turn you leave the main dirt road going straight along a path half-way up the hillside. After crossing the Vallone d’Inverno [winter valley] the path takes us to a small pass between Mount Cuccio and Mount
Cuccitello, then descends along narrow bends to the abandoned mill where the itinerary reconnects with the
first stretch and then takes us back to the starting point.
The route takes place in the Ficuzza Wooded Nature Reserve, Rocca Busambra, Bosco del Cappelliere woods and
Gorgo del Drago [the dragon’s whirlpool], an area characterized by a large evergreen Mediterranean forest, dominated to the south by the limestone massif of the Rocca Busambra, whose overhanging cliffs can be seen from most parts of Sicily.
We depart from the Agriturismo Gorgo del Drago equestrian center near the town of Godrano, with a path that leads towards Gorgo del Drago pond, or Gorgo Tondo [round whirlpool], then continuing along the Gorgo Lungo [long whirlpool].
These are ponds linked to the presence of clay soils and of great ecological importance for the permanence of water even in the dry season. The Gorgo del Drago was used by the Bourbon court as a fishing spot to the point that still
today we can see the ruins of the “Pescheria reale” [royal fishery]. Continue by crossing the abandoned railway line, then cross the picnic area of the Sugheri and arrive, with a small detour, to the “Pulpito del Re” [king’s pulpit], a very evocative and panoramic place, characterized by a stone staircase. Attributed by most to Ferdinand IV of Bourbon, who used it as a hunting site, according to some it may be a late adaptation of an ancient sacrificial altar. Continue to Ficuzza, whereyou can take a break to visit the Royal Hunting Lodge, a village with farmhouses, and the Lipu center, with the wounded wildlife collection and care center. You leave Ficuzza with a path in the woods and, at a drinking water trough, you enter a cart track in the direction of Alpe Ramusa. Below the wall of the Busambra a deviation allows us to reach the Grotta del Romito, a vast natural hollow, on the rocky wall, traditionally a hermitage haven, from which you also enjoy a panoramic view. Continue to Pizzo Nero, a forest in the past dedicated to repopulation of deer and wild boar, and you come to the Alpe Cucco hut where you can have refreshment and take a break. The itinerary continues in the Fanuso Valley, always green throughout the year. After a monumental oak, with a detour, you reach the Capreria, an ancient forestry lodge with a water spout and rest area. Continue passing through the Felce and Agnese valleys and at the Biviere watering trough, a path leads us to the track of the former railway that we
follow until we reach a farm road leading us back to the starting point.