Italy, Sicily- Cefalu to Etna Trail Ride
Cefalu to Etna Trail Ride starts from Cefalu and will take you between the four national parks of the Madonie, Nebrodi, Etna and Alcantara. Tehe slopes of Etna is fertile and and grows oranges, tangerines, lemons and olive trees.
The ride covers a distance of more than 200 km and at altitudes between 200 meters above sea level and 1600 meters on the Nebrodi. Depending on the season, it can take you up to 2000 meters on Mount Etna. Most of the ride goes through the wild, wooded landscape, only short stretches are paved road. The accommodation is of 3-star hotel / guest house and you can enjoy typical Sicilian cuisine. Lunch is usually a picnic along the way.
Day 1 - Arrival: You will arrive at the Villa Magarà, a beautiful farmhouse with a swimming pool, set in the countryside at only two kilometers from the historical center of Cefalù with fantastic views down to the sea. If you arrive before 4pm you can enjoy a guided tour of the beautiful town of Cefalù. We will have dinner and spend the night at the farmhouse.
Day 2 - Cefalù – San Mauro Castelverde (hours of riding: 7, km: 39)
After breakfast we will set off at around 8.00 in the morning and begin the trail by riding through a very scenic and varied landscape, passing cork forests, Mediterranean scrubland, vineyards, olive groves and pastures. After passing the territory of Santa Anastasia, home to an ancient Norman abbey and a renowned winery, we will continue on through the countryside and around Castelbuono, a charming medieval town steeped in history and tradition, before reaching the wild valley of the Pollina River (considered the eastern boundary of the territory of the Madonie). Here we will stop for a picnic lunch, before continuing on to the town of San Mauro Castelverde, a medieval town on the top of a mountain at about 1100 meters on the sea level, visit of the center and finnally we reach Al Convento, a recently restored eighteenth century Capuchin monastery. Here, we will enjoy a hearty dinner made with typical local produce, and we will spend the night.
Day 3 - San Mauro Castelverde – Monte Soprano (hours of riding: 6, km: 32)
From the town we will set off along an old "trazzera" (an ancient path dating back to at least the Bourbon era) with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside, crossing fields of wheat and hay until we reach an altitude of approximately 1000 metres. We will then ride directly beneath the great windmills of a windfarm to reach the Malpassetto pass, which marks the border of the provinces of Palermo, Enna and Messina. We will then descend into the forests of the Sambughetti-Campanito reserve, where we will stop for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, we will continue on to the territory of Nicosia, followed by Cerami, before descending an old, steep path immersed in a cork forest, where we will take a break to visit a prehistoric troglodyte dwelling carved into the rocks and set over two levels. Finally, we will arrive at the agriturismo Monte Soprano, a beautiful farmhouse with a swimming pool, where we will have dinner and spend the night.
Day 4 - Monte Soprano – Rifugio del Parco (hours of riding: 7, km: 38)
On this day of the trail we will ride through the heart of the Nebrodi Natural Park, along the famous "Dorsale" (the Nebrodi Ridge), a long dirt track (about 100 kilometres long) which passes through forests and high mountain pastures. This is a place full of charm, with extraordinary views: the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Aeolian Islands to the north, and the island's hinterland to the south – Enna, Caltanissetta, Agrigento, Siracusa, Catania, and Etna towering above everything else. We will enter the Nebrodi Natural Park through beech woods in the territory of San Fratello, famous for its sanfratellani horses, a native breed which is very strong and hardy, with a very large head, and which you may catch a glimpse of grazing in the wild. We will stop for a picnic lunch in a shaded spot beneath centuries-old trees near a stream known as the Nocita. In the afternoon, we will arrive at the hotel Rifugio del Parco, where we will have a delicious dinner made with local Nebrodi products and spend the night.
Day 5 -Rifugio del Parco – Monte Colla (hours of riding: 8, km:42)
This is probably the most beautiful day of the trail, riding for more than 40 kilometres along the "Dorsale" through mountains, woods and lakes, in the midst of a strikingly beautiful landscape. First we will come to the Maulazzo Lake, dominated by Monte Soro, the highest peak in the Nebrodi mountain range (at 1847 metres) and covered in magnificent beech woods. We will then reach the famous lake Biviere di Cesarò, which is a resting place for migrating birds. We will continue along the "Dorsale", with lush forests giving way to clearings with panoramic views, with the Aeolian Islands to the north and the majestic peak of Mount Etna to the south. In the evening we will arrive tired but satisfied at Monte Colla, the most isolated hotel on the island, housed in an eighteenth century aristocratic home at around 1400 metres above sea level in the territory of Randazzo. Here we will enjoy a delicious dinner prepared with local produce and spend the night.
Day 6 - Monte Colla – Castiglione di Sicilia (hours of riding: 7, km: 36)
We will set off in the direction of the source of the Alcantara River, and continue on towards Santa Domenica di Vittoria, a typical Sicilian village on the edge of the Nebrodi Park, which we will pass through, before descending into the fertile valley between Etna, the Nebrodi mountains and the Peloritan mountains. We will pass orchards and fields of local vegetables before arriving at Mojo Alcantara, a small village famous for its "eccentric" crater (meaning that it is located outside the perimeter of Etna), which exploded a few thousand years ago. The crater's lava flow followed the route of the Alcantara River, setting its course and carving out the river's famous gorges for which it is known around the world. After a picnic lunch we will continue along small country lanes bordered by stone walls made from lava rock and paths crossing back and forth across the river before arriving at the Gorges of Castiglione and the Cuba Bizantina, a place of worship built in an unusual quadrangular shape and dating from around the seventh or eighth century AD. Finally, we will arrive at Castiglione di Sicilia, where we will have dinner and spend the night.
Day 7 - Castiglione di Sicilia – Etna North (hours of riding: 7, km: 36)
After breakfast we will set off at around 9.00 in the morning. After passing through a rich and charming agricultural area characterised by hazelnut orchards, olive trees and vineyards, along small lanes bordered by stone walls made from lava rock, we will enter the Etna Natural Park. Crossing lava flows from various older and more recent eruptions, we will climb up through forests of pine, oak and chestnut and past volcanic caves, enjoying breath-taking views of the mountains of Sicily and Calabria. Eventually we will reach the Ragabo pine forest at an altitude of around 1500 metres. Here we will stop for a picnic lunch, before continuing to climb up through woods and lava flows to the Piano Provenzana (at about 1800 metres). Depending on the season and the conditions, we may continue to climb up to the craters from the last major eruption of 2002. At the end of the day, we will climb back down to Castiglione di Sicilia, where we will have our final dinner and spend the night, with the beautiful memories of the trail etched in our minds for a long time to come.
Saturday - Departure: After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your journey home.
NB - please note that the itinerary is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather or volcanic conditions.