The mountains of Madonie Natural Park offer some of the most beautiful and unexpected of the Sicilian landscapes. It's the perfect place for nature and trekking lovers, but also for those who want to discover the real essence of Sicily. Beautiful hamlets, delicious (and not touristic) food, artisan workshops, old traditions, kind people and amazing views are all the ingredients for an off-the-beaten-path experience.
We asked Gianluca to share with us his favourite places and things to do and see around Madonie Mountains.
Gianluca, what is the unmissable place for you?
The fortress of Pollina with its breathtaking view. From here, you can catch a glimpse of the blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea with the seven sister Aeolian Islands, the rock of Cefalù and the most beautiful mountains of the Madonie Park, with their green woods and the medieval villages nested on peaks and valleys.
And what is your favourite place?
The beautiful Cathedral square of Petralia Soprana under the winter snow or in a misty autumnal day. A place out of time, out of the world and away from the most known places in Sicily.
What's better in the morning and in the afternoon?
In the morning it is better to visit dairies, bakeries, historic artisan workshops and all those local shops that normally stop in the early afternoon. In the afternoon you can visit museums, castles and churches and end the day with a glass of local rose wine or a cold beer enjoying the breathtaking sunset from the Pollina viewpoint, in the bar of the Renaissance cloister of San Francesco in Castelbuono or in a romantic cobbled alley in Petralia Soprana.
How to avoid the heat in the summer?
Most of the villages in the Madonie Park are located at more than 900 or 1000 meters above sea level and therefore summer days are generally pleasant and dry. Of course we must take into account the "siesta" which is very seriously respected in this part of the world.
If you have a car, I would recommend a panoramic walk during the siesta hours, from 2 to 5 pm, and a coffee in Piano Battaglia: a beautiful ski resort where fresh air is guaranteed and you can watch cows passing by.
For children there is also the cool and shady adventure park in Petralia. But, remember to go back to town in time for an aperitif.
What to do on a rainy day?
Do not miss the chocolate shop in Castellana Sicula or a pastry shop in Polizzi for a slice of “sfoglio".
Tips for a fast meal:
In the many bars and rotisseries of Castelbuono. You will also find many specialities of the street food of Palermo.
Where to enjoy a delicious dinner?
Each town has its hidden surprises. I would recommend:
- Trattoria La Brace in Isnello
- Il Castello in Petralia Sottana
- La Manna di Zabbra in Pollina where you will discover all the secrets of the "manna", a resinous substance come from the ash trees. This sugary sap is a Slow Food product.
- If you have children, the excellent homemade pizzas and chips under the chestnut trees at the Ranch in Castelbuono.
Where to eat the Sicilian specialties?
The choice is really wide, but don't miss: ice cream, biscuits and “testa di turco” in Castelbuono, “sfoglio” in Polizzi and Petralia, chocolate in Castellana Sicula and lemon, apricot and orange granita in Scillato. Cheese, ricotta and sausages wherever you please!
How to feel like a local?
Enjoy an aperitif with the locals in the square of Castelbuono or Petralia Soprana but above all, drink without fear the water of the mountain springs in one of the historical fountains that you can find in every town of the Madonie Natural Park.
A place to visit with children?
The Madonie Natural Park is an ideal place for family holidays. Not to be missed:
- the adventure park of Petralia Sottana and its picnic area for a run in complete freedom,
- the large fountains where children can wash their faces and clothes
- the dairies to pet lambs and calves
- a pizza under the chestnut trees at the Ranch in Castelbuono
- the Castle and the Minà Palumbo Naturalistic Museum in Castelbuono
- the playground in Geraci.
Suggested destinations in the surroundings?
The beautiful seaside village of Cefalù with a Norman Cathedral. But for dinner, go back to the mountains!