This loop route connects all the municipalities in the district and is demanding overall (336 km) with significant elevation changes and parts on dirt, paved, or bumpy roads; for the most part, a good MTB is needed.From the point of view of landscape, the trail can be divided in 4 parts:
- from Monreale to Casteldaccia, a more urban and coastal stretch of about 45 km, with significant elevation
difference between Ciaculli and the valley of the Eleuterio River;
- from Casteldaccia to Castronovo di Sicilia, more rural with farms, olive groves, pastures and backdrop of mountainous areas (about 90 km and 2.000 m change in elevation);
- from Castronovo to the Ficuzza Woods (about 70 km, elevation changes of more than 1,500 m and altitudes above 1,000m);
- the center-western area between Campofiorito, Roccamena, Monreale, among hills rich in farmland and vineyards, topped by mountain ranges (about 100 km and elevation changes of 2,000 m).
The trail starts near the Cathedral di Monreale, located on the northern slope of the wide valley of the Oreto River, then descends along the Via dei Mulini (remains of ancient water mills are still present beside the road) towards the hamlet of Aquino and then to the Parco Bridge, in the direction of Altofonte, whose ancient name recalls an ancient hunting park of the Norman period. After crossing the Oreto River, on the opposite side of the valley you can see the town of Monreale and its cathedral on the side of Mount Caputo, on top of which there is the Norman “Castellaccio” fortress which once stood in defense of the valley. The route goes north along the slopes of mountains that encircle the valley to the edge of Mount Grifone, in the district of San Ciro and near the springs of Maredolce and the shores of the lake of the same name. Here we also find the palace of Maredolce, from the Arabic-Norman era but with even earlier foundations. The route then goes east, along the road to the northern slopes of Mount Grifone, which leads to the agricultural town of Ciaculli which still retains some of the rural features, with mandarin groves which until the mid-20th century characterized the so-called Conca d’Oro [golden basin]. It then goes up to the Portella Larga pass which opens onto the view of the valley of the Eleutheria River and where there is a monument to the undertaking of General Garibaldi and his “Thousand” volunteers during the 19th century struggles for Italian Unification.
Once the Coda di Volpe intersection is reached, the route descends towards the valley, passing Misilmeri on the right, with the remains of the 14th century castle and whose name derived from Arabic “Manzil el Emir” meaning “Farmstead of the Emir”. Crossing the Via Segretaria (Regia Trazzera 126 road) and also using a stretch of the former Palermo-Corleone railway, you reach Pizzo Cannita, important pre- Roman archaeological site and then the inhabited area of Ficarazzi, where the 18th century Villa Giardina with its imposing entrance staircase preserves the
remains of an ancient 15th century Tower. After crossing the Eleuterio River and heading towards Bagheria, at the bottom of the river valley we can see the elegant aqueduct of the 15th century, built to improve the cultivation of sugarcane that was common on the plains of Ficarazzi. The route arrives on the plains of Bagheria and Santa Flavia, topped by Mount Catalfano, with the remains of the Hellenistic-Roman dwelling of Solunto and from which you can enjoy a view of the coast to Termini and Cefalù.
Inside the two dwellings there are still valuable patrician villas of the Palermo aristocracy, built starting from the
17th century, many of which have been restored in recent decades. The trail proceeds along the seafront to Casteldaccia, and then climbs towards the hilly hinterland with pastures, farmland and olive groves. After reaching Bolognetta, a 17th-century feudal property, whose ancient name S. Maria dell’ Ogliastro recalled the olive vegetation then present in the area, the route continues south to the Arab Baths of Cefalà, towered over by the Castle of Cefalà Diana. From here the trail turns east towards Baucina, Ventimiglia di Sicilia and Ciminna, on which stands the mountainous area of the nature reserve of Pizzo di Cane and Pizzo di Trigna and whose views open on the valleys of the Rivers Eleuterio and Milicia (to the west) and tributaries of the San Leonardo River (to the east). When you reach the Ciminna Green, you descend into the valley of the Azzirolo River, a tributary of the San Leonardo river that is crossed near the heights of the Vicari fortress, topped by the medieval castle. Proceed east through rolling hills until reaching Borgo Manganaro. Then continue to Roccapalumba, of medieval origin, and then, crossing the valley of the Torto River to the south, you arrive in the area of the Sicani Mountains and the ancient village of Castronovo, of Byzantine origin, dominated by important remains of fortifications. The trail continues towards the natural reserve of Mount Carcaci, which is bypassed to the north through the valley of the River Margana, where you will find the castle of the same name, a property once belonging to the Teutonic Knights. Going northward, the trail
begins to climb again towards Campofelice di Fitalia and then Mezzojuso, the ancient “Manzil Yusuf ” [the Farmstead of Joseph] of the Arab era. From here, descending to the Azzirolo River, the trail passes near Villafrati and Cefalà Diana to reach Godrano. Starting from the former railway station and using the former Palermo-Corleone railway, converted to a dirt bike trail, you arrive at the former station of Ficuzza and then to the valley of the River Frattina at the locality of Ponte Arancio.
Continuing towards Corleone and Campofiorito, via the valley of the Batticano River you reach Roccamena, with the view of the Rock of Maranfusa, surmounted by the remains of the castle of the same name. At Ponte Pernice, in the valley beneath Camporeale, the route runs first northwest to Lake Poma on the River Jato and from here along the western side of the valley to the Portella della Paglia pass that opens to the high valley of the River Oreto, from which, at Altofonte, via the former Palermo-Camporeale railway, we return to Monreale, crossing the Fiume Oreto in the district of Fiumelato.