Balzo rosso

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.

Monte Cuccio

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.

Gorgo del Drago e Rocca Busambra

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.

Serre di Ciminna

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 first part of the route uses a comfortable dirt mule track that climbs rapidly between olive groves and grain fields to reach the Portella di Santa Caterina pass. From here, the route continues, now more evenly, until it intersects a narrow animal path on the right. This climbs rapidly up to the top of the Serre (777 m) and continues along the ridge for about a couple of kilometers, weaving through the spontaneous vegetation. This is the most challenging and at the same time the most impressive part of the excursion; the visual impact is really exciting. Below us, like a rocky wave, rise the overhangs of the Serre, while the panorama in front of us opens over all the surrounding area, from the Rocca Busambra to Mount Cammaratato Mount Cane, Mount San Calogero and the Madonie range.
After crossing the Strait of Carcaci, an ancient access road to the summit of the Serre, the itinerary continues through a scrubland of ampelodesmos, intercepts the evocative entrance of the grotta del Teschio [skull cave] and several ponor pits and sinkholes, then bends to the east to enter a cart track. This, after some ups and downs, brings us back to the initial mule track and, from here, to the starting point. The path is of medium difficulty. The initial climb of
about 1.5 km could be challenging for the less experienced, as well as the long stretch that crosses the ridge of the Serre that travels on animal herd tracks or among natural vegetation.

Monte Carcaci

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 hiking trail begins at the scenic seasonal pond of the Marcato delle Lavanche, a few steps from Case Colobria forest shelter. A small trail, initially flat, then steeper, climbs to the northern side of the mountain, winding through
a beautiful mixed forest of oaks and maples, interspersed with pines emerging from a recent reforestation.

After a few kilometers, the trail reaches a clearing where a characteristic wood and straw hut has been reconstructed, in front of an old “marcato”, a stone paddock once used by shepherds to gather sheep. The path then proceeds to an oak grove until it opens onto a service road. This, with a left deviation, leads us to the top of the mountain where we enjoy the splendid 360° panorama over the entire Sicani territory. Then, heading right, the road goes straight on, then downhill, crossing a lush pine forest, reaches the Pagliaio Grande shelter and some restored charcoal kilns. Shortly afterward, the route turns west to enter a picturesque trail (referred to as the ” Ledera trail ” in the
directions of the Reserve) that enters into a lush oak grove until you arrive, after a few ups and downs, to a small forest shelter. Then continue downhill along the trail to intercept a forest road that, after a few kilometers in a slight
uphill, takes us back to the starting point. This is a fairly simple loop itinerary; there may some difficulty in autumn / winter, especially after rains, in some stretches of the initial climb and in the “Ledera” trail because it is both steep and potentially slippery.

Creste del Mirabella

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

This is a territory dense in history of history thanks to its strategic position, which until the 12th century was a
small, independent Arab state.

On the stronghold at the top of the Pizzo Mirabella, between 1222 and 1224 the Arab leader Amir Ibn Abbad (“Mirabettus” in the Latin chronicles and then twisted in the popular tale in “Mirabetto “, from which Pizzo Mirabella) barricaded himself and resisted the long siege imposed by Frederick II of Swabia. This siege ended with the surrender of the Muslims and, in fact, the end of the Arab presence in Sicily. The excursion begins at a state-owned property along a forest road, crosses a disused stone quarry, and snakes inside the pine forest and then climbs, along a path, to the western side. It then continues on the southern ridge to the summit. Here you will be able to choose to return to the starting point through a comfortable road that passes near a well-supplied drinking trough for animals, or take a deviation, with an attractive extra section, to explore the peak of Pizzo Mirabella.
The path will allow us to enjoy broad views of Sicily, ranging from the Madonie mountains to the east, to the Sicani mountains to the Canal of Sicily and Caltabellotta, and across the Jato Valley, appreciating the great strategic importance of the site. It is an excursion of medium / easy difficulty, which takes place almost entirely on well-marked trails and comfortable minor roads, with some steep sections. In case of rain, some sections may be slippery and the trail itself rough. The detour leading to the base of the fort is recommended for experienced hikers considering the changes in elevation and the trail itself, which in large stretches is not easy to follow, being steep and flanked by bushes.

Monte Cane

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.

We come next to the Favarotta valley, today home to a herd of wild horses, and proceeds, with a short climb, towards Pizzo Nudo (1174 m). Here, together with the flutter of birds that find shelter in these rocks, we can notice the traces of the vegetation that once covered these valleys: from the holly bushes with the lively red berries to
surviving patches of oak groves. A road leads us to the Pizzo dell’Inferno forest fire observation tower (1225 m). This is a wonderful panoramic balcony from which to admire a bird’s eye view from the Madonie range to the mountains
of San Calogero, from Mount Cammarata, in the heart of the Sicani Mountains, to the Rocca Busambra that towers over Ficuzza, from the promontory of Catalfano above Bagheria to the amphitheater of the Monti di Palermo mountains. Overall, it is hike of medium difficulty, both for the length and for the initial climb on Pizzo di Cascio, at times steep and challenging especially in the event of rain. Lastly, it is advised to avoid the route in the
summer due to the excessive heat and the rarity of shady spots.


Monte Catalfano

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. Along the route there are a collection of natural features, such as the “zubbi ” (vertically developed karst cavities), marine caves, endemic and rare plants, nests of peregrine falcons and other rare birds of
prey. From a botanical point of view, quite valuable are the groves of Kermes Oak, a species that once
characterized the coasts of western Sicily and is today very rare. The trail starts at Portella Vignazza pass, near a park
area with children’s playgrounds, and climbs to the well-known Mount Catalfano (374 m) through a comfortable road that after a few kilometers turns into a well traced path. This climbs to the trigonometric point on the top with the wonderful panorama of the Capo Zafferana promontory underneath, called by the locals, for its shape, “Napoleon’s Hat.” You then go back for a short stretch until you cross another path that brings you back close to your
starting point. From here the route climbs to Cozzo San Pietro (345 m.), enters for a short stretch in a shady pine forest, passing close to a forest ranger station with water fountain, and then winds up the mountain on the western side before climbing towards the top. Finally, a comfortable dirt road goes back to the starting point. The path makes a ‘figure 8’ with two crossing loops: one leading to the summit of Mount Catalfano and the other to Cozzo San Pietro; you can also choose to tackle only one of the two routes as an alternative to the complete itinerary. The excursion, which has no significant difficulty except for some challenging, yet manageable, climbs is essentially on well marked and beaten paths and on comfortable rural roads.

Pizzo Manolfo

The itinerary, included in the SIC [Site of Community Importance] “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.

We leave the car just before a gate and continue on a road that passes by a picnic area and then enters, first with a slight rise then for a long gradual slope, inside the thick pine forest to reach, after about 3.5 km, the summit of Pizzo Manolfo.

Here you will see unparalleled views over the Gulf of Carini and the Longa mountain bastions, and to the east
onto the city of Palermo and the surrounding mountains. We will then briefly retrace our steps to intersect a track on the left that continues through a series of bends along the eastern side of the mountain. Along a long slightly uphill
stretch the trail circumvents the Cozzo San Rocco and then returns to the starting point. The trail does not have any particular challenging features, being essentially on comfortable roads, but the significant length makes it most
suitable for hikers accustomed to long distances.

Campofiorito e la vallata del Torrente Batticano

The approximately 15 Km journey travels largely between the towns of Campofiorito and Corleone; it has significant elevation changes and therefore requires some physical effort. The trails have natural interest for wide panoramic
views in the eastern direction towards Montagna Grande, the south face of the Rocca Busambra and the town of Corleone. In the wide valley of the Batticano stream, there are ancient water mills and the viaduct of the former railway track, near the village of Campofiorito. In the immediate vicinity, in addition to the archaeological site of
the ancient castle, there is the area called Conte Ranieri, identified as the seat of the Roman town of Thuryrium.

The loop route starts and ends in the center of the town of Campofiorito, a small settlement of about 1,300 inhabitants, located at 650 m. The itinerary, with an average slope close to 6%, takes place partly on asphalted roads with low traffic, sometimes bumpy, and partly on a stretch of former railway with dirt surface.

The itinerary crosses extensive cultivated areas, with prevalence of wheat and fodder that take on different colors depending on the seasons; there are almost no public services and facilities, and there are only a few houses, including the Case Grande Giammaria farm, to the north-west end and the Masseria Cammarata farm, in the district
of Conte Ranieri, near the village and the base of Mount Castellaccio.

From Campofiorito you will first descend into a stretch of farm road to the east of Fosso Castellaccio, with a slope to reach the section of the former railway track near the Batticano stream and the viaduct of the same name. From here you travel for more than 4 km to the north along the flat track of the old railway that runs about 500  high along the eastern flank of the valley and offers good valley views. After crossing the Ridocco district with the former station, arrive in the Madonna delle Vigne district, near the former Censiti stop, and enter the provincial road 59 with low traffic downhill for about 3 km to the Batticano intersection, from which you proceed to the left along the SP110 that
goes up on a steep slope to Campofiorito, at 650 meters high.



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