The trail winds through the Serra di Ciminna Nature Reserve, a mountainous group with peaks at an average altitude of 750 m, found south of the town of Ciminna. These are majestic faces of Selenitic Gypsum Chalk, formed following the events that, about six million years ago, led to the drainage of the Mediterranean basin and the subsequent deposit of salts contained in marine waters, forming the deposits that we can now admire.
The present vegetation consists essentially of a low garrigue scrubland of ampelodesmos grasses and euphorbia. Here and there, we can also find sparse groves of oak, a species that once dominated these rugged spots. Of particular naturalistic interest is the characteristic flora that grows among the chalk, in particular the Sedum, and the numerous spontaneous spring orchids. These lands are today the undisputed reign of numerous porcupines and many species of birds of prey that nest among the rock faces.
The itinerary winds through the paths of the splendid, though little-known, Nature Reserve of Monte Carcaci, now included in the Sicani Park. The mountainous complex, of which Mount Carcaci (1196 m.) is the highest peak, is made up of limestone rocks formed from the Triassic to the Miocene periods; these are different types of limestones and marbles interspersed by clay soils deposited in the progression of the geological and climatic events of the Mediterranean.
These geological conditions naturally influence and shape the vegetation, which is found in a number of significant environments: wetlands, woods and natural bushlands, meadows, shrubs and rocky environments.
The itinerary, which is almost entirely in SIC M. Matassaro, M. Gradara and M. signora, begins at the Portella della Paglia pass and climbs along the paths of Mirabella, a mountainous complex separating the Jato basin from that of the Oreto.
It is a system of harsh and jagged ridges, interspersed with mountain passes and valleys, caves and rock barriers, which winds through a vast network of paths and side roads. Today it is largely devoid of the original tree covering that must have included oak groves on the gentler slopes. These original woodlands are partially replaced today by a large reforestation of pine trees, which leaves space for a maquis-garrigue scrubland of heather and mastic in spring, yellow euphorbiae and rare plants such as the endemic Elleboro of Boccone and numerous spontaneous orchids.
The excursion winds through the paths of the “Monte Cane, Pizzo Trigna and Grotta Mazzamuto” Sustainably Managed Nature Reserve, an area still relatively unknown but rich in elements of natural and historical-archaeological interest.
The route starts directly from the village of Ventimiglia di Sicilia, continues north along a farm road that crosses olive groves and cultivated fields to intercept a path at the base of the southern slope of Pizzo di Cascio. The trail winds first on a large meadow grazed by herds and then climbs quickly to the mountain ridgeline through large calcareous rocky outcrops sculpted by karren, an erosive phenomenon caused by the millennial action of surface water runoff.
After reaching the portella di Pizzo di Cascio (1139 m.) pass, the path becomes easier, almost flat, on a comfortable road crossing extensive meadows and pastures, with seasonal ponds. Here you can see the ancient traces of the millennial presence of man, such as the ancient ice houses, residues of an old craft long gone, and the old “marcati” animal pens in disuse, made with dry stone walls and used to gather livestock.
The itinerary, inside the Parco del Monte Catalfano, winds through two of the three hills which together form the complex of Monte Catalfano, a limestone rocky promontory overlooking the plain of Bagheria.
The view faces one side onto the plain of Palermo, embracing a panorama that goes from Punta di Monte Pellegrino to Capo Mongerbino, on the other onto the mountains of Termini Imerese, in the background the Madonie range and then on the vast stretch of coast from Capo Plaia to Cape Saffron. This is a strategically important position, occupied in the past by the Phoenicians and later by the Romans. The remains of the city they founded today constitute the important archaeological site of Solunto, located on the east side of the promontory.
The itinerary, included in the SIC “Raffo Rosso, Monte Cuccio e Vallone Sagana”, explores the mountains that border the Conca d’Oro basin to the west, a short and gentle mountain range formed of various heights spots such as the 405 m of Cozzo di Paola and the 888 m of Mount Castellaccio.
In this range, Pizzo Manolfo (or Minolfo as reported on some maps) together with Pizzo Mollica is the northernmost extremity. The starting point of our route is just outside the city of Palermo, which can be reached from a farm track that departs from the provincial road 1 from Palermo to Montelepre. Continue by cars along this small road that leads, after about 3.5 km, to the entrance to the vast Raffo Rosso – Manolfo forest area.
This is a vast reforestation of coniferous and other introduced species blended with foliage of Mediterranean scrub and typical rocky environments. This is a rich naturalistic area where you can easily admire birds of prey and where there are rabbits, hares and the rare rock partridge of Sicily.