The natural reserve of Ficuzza, with its 7,400 hectares of cork and holly oaks and the mighty peak of Rocca Busambra, is the largest and most beautiful forest in the outskirts of Palermo. The area became a private hunting and fishing reserve for the royal house of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Here, in 1799, the king Ferdinand built a lavish hunting lodge.
In Ficuzza, we will walk a bit through the woods enjoying the beautiful landscapes, and we will visit the impressive stones called “pulpito del re”, a prehistorical altar surrounded by local legends. Later, in the little charming village, we will have the opportunity to visit the royal lodge and the Sicilian Wildlife Recovery Centre, where a bunch of heroes, with very little means, rescue and bring back to the wild life birds of prey, tortoises and other animals.
After Ficuzza, we will move to the core of the Albanian speaking enclave of Sicily, crossing some of the most spectacular hills and vineyards of the area. Here, at the end of the 15th century, Albanians and Greeks settled after escaping the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans. In a historical cow farm, which has been the set of several films, you will enjoy an informal meal with the owners, taste the local caciocavallo cheese, the products of their organic vegetable garden, the traditional furr me dru bread, and learn some words of arbëreshë.
While in Piana degli Albanesi, a stop is due at the memorial of Portella della Ginestra massacre. For Sicilians, this is the symbol of the fight for social and civil rights against the arrogant power of the Mafia in the years after WW2.
Piana degli Albanesi, known for its Byzantine icons and Albanian traditions, is also famous for its gigantic and excellent cannoli. That is why we will conclude our excursion with coffee and a cannolo tasting in town.