South Sicily Hike and Bike Tour
Take a tour through the wonders of southern Sicily. Explore an area of unspoilt nature which is rich in history, art and culinary traditions. This tour comprises three days of hiking and three days of mountain biking giving you the chance to experience the beauty of the nature reserves of the south-east of the island and the stunning baroque architecture of the towns of Ferla, Palazzolo and Noto, UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
First day: Arrival
Arrival at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Dinner and overnight stay.
Second day: Hike
Anapo Valley and Pantalica Naturalistic Reserve
Meeting with the naturalistic guide at the beginning of the excursion. The area of the Natural Reserve is an extraordinary ensemble of features, extremely interesting from a naturalistic and archeological point of view. The Anapo river –the main of the numerous streams on the Iblean Mountains – flows to the East and into the port of Siracusa ( Porto Grande). Pantalica, with its tombs cut into the living stone in between the 9th and the 10th century B.C., is today recognize as one of the most important archeological sites world wise. Our trek will start from the old train station once connecting the city of Catania to Ragusa. Inside the valley we will be able to see the ancient aqueduct Galermi; in fact the Anapo river was used to feed a system of channels that at the time were providing water to the city of Siracusa. We will then hike to the “city of the dead”, the necropolis of Pantalica, that with its 5000 tombs is a great example of pre-Greek funerary art. Besides the view from the top of the Karstic highland is stunning. We will finally reach the ruins of the byzantine palace to return then to the start.
Third day: Mountain bike
From Sortino to Palazzolo Acreide through the Anapo Valley – 52 km and 850 metres of ascent
Meet your guide and bike from Sortino towards Ferla, through the Giarranauti forest which is on the upper part of the Pantalica plateau. The area, besides having a beautiful pine forest, is also rich in evidence of the past, in particular from the Byzantine era. We will cycle along gentle slopes and on white roads bordered by the characteristic old, dry-stone walls of the Iblei mountains. These walls were built to delimit the pasturelands and property boundaries in the past.
Upon leaving the Giarranauti forest, we will arrive in Ferla, a spectacular, small town in the Iblei mountains. Although less well-known than the more famous town of Noto, you will see beautiful examples of baroque churches here too.
After a short stop in Ferla, we will cycle downhill towards the bottom of the valley and enter the nature reserves of the Pantalica and Anapo Valleys. The old railway track which was built at the beginning of the 1900s was converted into a cycle path and runs through the valley next to the Anapo river. You will have plenty of glimpses of the natural beauty of nature, characterized by the remarkable floral biodiversity in the valley.
The track will lead us to the gates of the town of Palazzolo where we will stop for dinner and an overnight stay.
Fourth day: Hike
Bberrita Source and its Canyon
Meeting with your naturalistic guide at the beginning of the excursion. Our walk will start following a “mulattiera”, a traditional country road, surrounded by terebinth, oaks and wild olive trees. The road will then turn into a typical Iblean path, made of limestone and limited by dry stone walls, surrounded by its unique landscape. We will explore the countryside in the area of Noto and Palazzolo Acreide. Through bushes of myrtle and thyme we will reach a rocky highland at about 500 meters above sea level, to find ourselves in front of an imposing traditional farmhouse and its land, a “Masseria”. From there we will have a beautiful view into a typical Iblean canyon, which we will enter to reach Cava Bberritta, to see the spring of Bberritta pouring out directly from the rocky wall. We will there take some time to relax and picnic, before going back to the start. Dinner and overnight stay in a farmhouse in Palazzolo Acreide.
Fifth day: Mountain bike
From Palazzolo to Noto, 58 Km and 750 metres of ascent
We will cycle from Palazzolo towards Noto, through the beautiful landscape of the Iblei Mountain plateau.
We will pay a short visit to the baroque town of Palazzolo Acreide, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and named one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Founded in 664 B.C. by the Greeks of Syracuse, Palazzolo Acreide is renowned for its numerous monumental churches, two of which, the church of San Paolo and the church of San Sebastiano, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
After Palazzolo, the route will take us in a south-easterly direction, through rural paths characterized by the typical white limestone of the Iblei Mountains. We will cycle through fields of Mediterranean scrub bordered by dry-stone walls where it is not uncommon to come across wild herbs such as rosemary, oregano and sage growing.
Before arriving to the outskirts of Noto, we will pass through the small hamlet of Testa dell’Acqua, from where the descent towards Noto begins. Near the baroque town you will stop for dinner and an overnight stay.
Sixth day: Hike
Vendicari Natural Reserve
Meeting with your naturalistic guide at the beginning of the excursion. There is a whole ecosystem living undisturbed in the territory of the Vendicari Natural Reserve. You will enjoy breathtaking views, the rich vegetation suddenly opens to unveil a crystal blue sea, golden sandy beaches turning into steep rocky cliffs. From the bird-watching huts you will observe pink flamingos, herons and storks, as this is one of their stops during their migration journey. We will start from the ancient Greek city of Eloro to reach, following the costal path, the beautiful beach of Calamosche, depending on the weather you could even swim in the cove. We will then continue our walk towards the Tonnara (the traditional tuna-fishing establishment) of Vendicari, here the path will bring us on a plain overlooking the wetlands. These are salty water ponds highly populated by the avifauna. After taking some time for bird-watching, we will reach the beach next to the Tonnara to picnic before leaving the Reserve. Dinner and overnight stay in Noto.
Seventh day: Mountain bike
From Noto to Noto Antica and to the deep south
We will start the day with an uphill cycle to the small town of Noto Antica, passing through fields of almond trees and typical Mediterranean scrub. We will face the only challenging climb of the day which will take us to 400 meters asl to the ruins of Noto Antica, the ancient city of “Netum” on Mount Alveria. This is the original town of Noto which was destroyed by the earthquake in 1693, causing the new Noto to be built in baroque style lower down in the valley. The ruins help us to imagine the magnificence of the ancient city, nestled at the intersection of three valleys and made impregnable by numerous walls and deep caves.
After cycling through ancient history, we will return downhill towards modern Noto and proceed through the most important and picturesque streets of the town whose baroque churches and buildings are part of UNESCO World Heritage since 2002.
We will then ride down to the sea and the white sandy beaches of Eloro before turning south, towards the extreme tip of Sicily and Europe. We will cycle along the Ionian Sea, passing by the beautiful beaches of Vendicari and San Lorenzo, before arriving at the delightful fishing village of Marzamemi. If you are a fan of the Inspector Montalbano books and tv series, you will, no doubt, recognize places where some of the episodes were filmed. At the end of the ride, a refreshing almond granita is a must to finish off a great day of cycling. Dinner and overnight stay on site.
Eighth day: Departure
Transfer to Catania Airport