Oasi del Simeto

The nature reserve oriented "Oasis of the Simeto" was established by Decree of the Councilor for the Territory and Environment of March 14, 1984. With subsequent decree of the May 30, 1987 the regulation of the reserve was approved. p>

The nature reserve was established for the protection of environments that in Sicily are very rarefied compared to the extensions they had in the past.

The nature reserve, in fact, it includes today a small portion of the vast complex of marshy fluvial environments of fresh and brackish water and coastal dunes that extended in large part of the Catania Plain up to the Biviere di Lentini, covering an exceptional naturalistic interest.

The wetlands were separated from the sea by a coastal cordon dune that extended from the Biscari lighthouse to Agnone and which, according to the descriptions of numerous authors, was on average two kilometers wide and eight meters high.

The execution of hydraulic reclamation works and, subsequently, the anthropization of some areas, have resulted in a substantial loss of this natural heritage. In particular, since the seventies of the last century, the natural environments of the reserve have been the subject of a vast phenomenon of abusive building that has continued to widespread even after the establishment of the protected area.

The hydraulic works carried out on the Simeto basin have instead produced negative effects on the hydrological, hydrogeological and sedimentological balances of the reserve that risk worsening both with the implementation of further planned interventions and in the absence of corrective actions for those realized.

Despite the attacks suffered , the reserve has a significant naturalistic interest and high potential, above all as a protection area for birds and for the presence of extremely diversified environments. The identification of a large part of the territory of the reserve as a Site of Community Importance (S.I.C.) and Special Protection Area (Z.P.S.), pursuant to directives nos. 92/43 / EEC and 79/409 / EEC, constitutes a further confirmation of this naturalistic interest.

The purposes of protecting wet and sandy coastal environments are clearly explained in the Decree establishing the reserve: "to favor and increase the conditions for stopping and nesting birdlife and the restoration of psalophilia and Mediterranean vegetation". These purposes, as well as the type of nature reserve oriented, must direct the protection towards forms of management that, in addition to ensuring the conservation of environments in natural conditions, provide interventions aimed at recovering from the naturalistic aspect areas more or less deteriorated by anthropic intervention.

The reserve includes the terminal stretch of the river Simeto that between the '50s and' 60s of the last century was rectified and dammed. The aforementioned works have separated from the new course a wide meander that the river formed immediately before the mouth. This meander has survived, however, being fed by groundwater emergencies.

About one kilometer from the mouth of the old bend flow two rivers: the Jungetto channel (an ancient drainage channel that currently receives the discharges of the Catania purifier) ​​and the Buttaceto stream, whose waters reach the old loop essentially during flood events.

The overflows due to the floods of the Buttaceto stream do not significantly alter the salinity parameters of the mouth area of ​​the old Simeto loop, since the supply of sweet waters of limited duration, while those of an artificial nature due to the Jungetto in terms of quality, quantity and duration they are altering the existing hydro-biological balance.

Between the old branch del Simeto and the stream Buttaceto is a vast reed bed where thousands of birds find shelter. To the north of the old meander there are some backrodunal ponds of brackish water, commonly called "salatelle", whose delicate ecological balances are threatened and in part already altered by the aforementioned overflows of the Jungetto canal.

Caltagirone

Caltagirone, the name derives from the Arabic word Qalat-Jerun, which means "Castle of the Tombs", due to the presence of vast necropolises on the territory. It is known throughout the world for the ceramic handicraft production. To visit: the palaces, the baroque churches and bell towers, the splendid 19th century Villa Comunale, the Norman Basilica of San Giacomo, the Capitaniale Court and the spectacular staircase. Caltagirone is the capital of Sicilian ceramics. It was the Arabs who called it that from the translation of Kalat to the Giarun, or hill of the vases. The ancient Byzantine village introduced innovative technologies for the processing of clay. In addition to the Arabs, the Genoese, the Normans, the Aragonese and the Spaniards also inhabited Caltagirone. In 1693 a disastrous earthquake destroyed it and to its reconstruction contributed architects such as Gagliardi, Battaglia, Bonaiuto, who in 1700 gave the town the baroque tonality that it still preserves today. To that reconstruction Caltagirone owes the inclusion of its historical center, together with other seven Municipalities of the Val di Noto, in the restricted list of UNESCO world heritage sites. It is unimaginable with what awareness people, workers, clergy, aristocracy and peasantry peasants designed and built everything that today seems to be arousing amazement.

Parco archeologico Segesta

Segesta was one of the main cities of the Elimi, a people of peninsular culture and tradition that according to ancient tradition, came from Troy. The city, strongly Hellenized in appearance and culture, achieved a leading role among the Sicilian centers and in the Mediterranean basin, to the point of involving Athens and Carthage in its secular hostility with Selinunte. Destroyed Selinunte thanks to the Carthaginian intervention in 408 B.C., Segesta lived with alternate fortunes the following period, until it was conquered and destroyed by Agatocle di Siracusa (in 307 BC), which imposed the name of Dycoopolis, City of Justice. Later, after its name, it passed in the course of the first Punic war to the Romans who, by virtue of the common Trojan legendary origin, exempted it from tributes, endowed it with a vast territory and allowed it a new phase of prosperity. Segesta was completely rescheduled on the model of the great micro-Asian cities, taking on a highly scenographic aspect.

It has long been assumed that Segesta was abandoned after the vandal raids, but recent investigations have detected a late-ancient phase, a large village of Muslim age, followed by a Norman-Swabian settlement, dominated by a castle at the top of Monte Barbaro. Already famous for its two main monuments, the Doric temple and the theater, Segesta now has a new season of discoveries, due to scientific excavations aimed at restoring an overall image of the city. The map shows the area of ​​the Archaeological Park: the city occupied the summit of Monte Barbaro (two acropolis separated by a saddle), naturally defended by steep rock walls on the east and south sides, while the less protected side was provided in the classical age a wall with monumental doors, later replaced (during the first imperial age) by a second line of walls at a higher level.

Castello di Nelson

 

 

Of the magnificent temple dedicated to the Madonna from Queen Margherita remain the naves, a splendid Gothic-Norman portico and the Byzantine icon, according to the legend painted by San Luca. Behind the church, in what were the warehouses, some excavations have brought to light the apse of the ancient Norman construction. Also you can see two medieval towers and a large English park.

Of the ancient castle little remains, besides the aforementioned turrets and a part of the walls, as the rooms were readapted by the heirs of Nelson for housing purposes or warehouses at the service of agriculture, but can be visited and exhibit some vintage relics belonging to the admiral. In the inner courtyard there is a Celtic cross dedicated to Admiral Nelson. In the park there is instead a small cemetery, where stands a Celtic cross in black Etna stone, which indicates the burial of the Scottish poet William Sharp.

Castello di Paternò

Documentary evidence informs, by means of Goffredo Malaterra , about the construction, around the second half of the XI century dC , of a "castrum" in Paternò, according to the will of the great count Ruggero d'Altavilla , the same will name that he had built defensive purpose the castles of Adrano, Motta, Troina, Nicosia and others in many areas of the island.

In reality an advanced hypothesis from the Giuseppe Agnello scholar, he would see in the current fortress only a subsequent rebuilding according to the will of the emperor Federico II of Swabia , although this theory can not be found no feedback on a documentary or stylistic / constructive basis.

That the castle may be from the Norman period reveal the structural similarity with similar fortifications of Normandy and Normandy England (see for example the image in the photo gallery of the castle of Threave in Scotland), in addition to the presence of wall paintings in the chapel inside the building and dating between XII and the XIII century AD From an Arab historian, al-Muqaddasi, it is learned that the village pre-existed to the fortress during the X century AD The Arabian geographer Idrisi , in 1150 , describes Paternò as "Hisn". In 1212 and in 1252 documents refer to the inhabited area of ​​Paternò as "terra e castrum".

Returning to the Benedictine monk's statements Goffredo Malaterra , the castle of Paternò would thus arise on some remains of an Arab construction built by the Muslim emirate of the era for defensive purposes. Goffredo Malaterra was always in the wake of Altavilla with the task of not only collecting and divulging the deeds, but also because Ruggero noted the need to contrast the now present Arab element, the Christian culture. In fact he saw the birth of religious communities to reaffirm the Christian cult . In a world where wars and riots, violence and corruption were raging, the Benedictine monastery developed a new model of society, where instead of the concept of private property and privilege Christian fraternal solidarity took over. In fact, in Paternò there were several monasteries (S. Leone, S. Vito and S. Nicolò l'Arena).

In time the Norman castle had not only a defensive function but also administrative and residential. Many of the historical figures that have inhabited it the most famous is Frederick II of Swabia that you stay in 1221 and 1223 . The castle was then the home of the queen Eleonora D'Aragona on the death of Frederick II of Aragon in 1337. It later became the home of the Bianca di Navarra queen who in 1405 from the Norman castle promulgated the "Consuetudini della Paternò community". The castle finally passed then to the Moncada family, a dynasty that ruled the city for four centuries and which used it for periods of public prisons . Some graffiti are the sad testimony. Currently it is under the protection of the Sicily Region in the hope of transforming it into the civic civic museum.

Gole dell'Alcantara

About 1,200 meters high on the slopes of Etna, the Alcantara river flows, winding and inaccessible. Thousands of years ago the Mojo, a small Etneo crater, erupted a huge mass of lava invading the entire valley of the Alcantara river.

The magma made its way to the sea channeling itself on the bed of an ancient river, sinking into the more clayey stretches and, once cooled, forming high basalt walls. Subsequently the icy waters of the river Alcantara, flowing, eroded the lava flow, drawing a kind of canyon known today to all as Gole Alcantara. The constant action of the water smoothed the basaltic walls of the gorge, producing that effect of brilliant gloss that can only be seen under the sunlight. The color contrasts are very strong: from the black of the rock to the blue of the sky to the green of the water.

Riserva dello zingaro

The reserve has two entrances: one from Scopello and the other from San Vito Lo Capo.
For those leaving from Palermo: take the motorway A29 (PA-TP) and exit at the junction of Castellammare del Golfo, then continue on the SS 187 towards Trapani, after about 4 km take the road to Scopello. Once in the locality, continue and pass the Tonnara di Scopello. You will arrive at an open space for parking, where there is a rocky tunnel.
From here the signage of the managing body will help the visitor to orient himself in the reserve. Nearby you will find the Visitor Center and the equipped area of ​​Cala Mazzo di Sciacca. Those who want to reach the reserve from San Vito, must continue on the SS 187 until the junction for San Vito Lo Capo, reach the end of the asphalt road and continue on foot, on the dirt road, which starts 500 meters from the Tonnarella dell'Uzzo.

For those starting from Trapani: take the motorway A29 (TP-PA) and exit at the junction of Castellammare del Golfo, from here continue on the same itinerary described above. To reach the reserve from the entrance of San Vito Lo Capo: if coming from Trapani or Palermo, take the SS 187 up to the junction for San Vito Lo Capo. From the town follow the signs for the Tonnarella dell'Uzzo and the signs for the reserve. The Zingaro is a true paradise of nature due to the great variety of natural environments present on its 1,600 hectares.

The coast opens on the sea with high limestone and jagged walls, interrupted by coves, rocky ravines and caves. The altitude of its peaks ranges from 610 m s.l.m. of Pizzo Passo del Lupo to the 913 of Monte Speziale. Starting from the sea level, and continuing uphill to the highest peaks, we encounter different types of ecosystems, all extremely significant: the trottoirs to Lithophyllum and to Vermetus above sea level; the rocky environments; the prairies; the garrigue of shrubs dominated by the dwarf palm; the sparse fragments of arboreal vegetation characterized by holm oaks or cork trees; the terrestrial and marine caves; the small wet areas of Acci district; to the environments of gorge; the prairies to ampelodesma; the steep slopes and the rocks.

About 600 plant species live here, 40 of which are endemic and 39 species of birds are nesting, including the now rare Bonelli's eagle (see box): a natural paradise! Until a short time ago, the Zingaro was populated by peasants; today, instead of abandoned crops, we find steppe grasslands: vast herbaceous expanses that dominate the landscape interrupted by garrigue areas, characterized by low shrubs among which the dwarf palm stands out, which takes on tree bearing (see box) and which settles mainly in the low areas of Pizzo Passo del Lupo and in the initial fringes of Contrada Sughero.

Ponte dei Saraceni

We are in Adrano at its border with Centuripe, only 6 km away from each other. as the crow flies but over 17 for a road certainly not among the easiest. Right here, stands the Saracen Bridge, the oldest point of connection between the two towns and their respective provinces, Catania and Enna.

The owner of the Simeto river is the largest of the Sicilian watercourses that, in this stretch, has a narrow river bed surrounded by basalt walls, historical expression of ancient lava flows of Etna, which crosses the territory of Adrano expressing itself with irrational and unpredictable forms.

Here, the waters flow dynamically and quickly; the willows, the oleanders and the brooms that surround them, welcome them bending as they pass, as a sign of respect.

And there, not far away, the Simeto disappears by magic, for tens of meters, in the Gola di Bolo, which invites the bravest to visit, reserving to the most daring, a unique spectacle offered by those games of lava that reach the maximum chromatic and scenographic effect on sunny days.

The Bridge of the Saracens, built initially by the Romans in the 1st or 2nd century AD He still looks astonished at the river that flows below, telling visitors its ancient splendor when it represented the important junction of an ancient highway that connected the territory of Catania to Palermo through the Enna.

A stone bridge, which in the Norman period played a strategic role confirmed by the nearby Castle in the inhabited center of Adrano and by the Norman tower of Paternò. Three positions logically and historically connected inextricably to each other.

A lot of history have seen and experienced the waters of the Simeto which, for many centuries, in this point, in their continuous evolution, meet the Ponte dei Saraceni , whose arches have been destroyed by the flood of 1948 and which today, present themselves in the eyes of the visitor in a different version from the original, preserving, almost intact, only the Gothic central arch and "forgetting" the Roman and Gothic versions of the other two minor , transformed into Aragonese.

To make this place even more fascinating, a beautiful legend that tells of a young shepherd boy who crossed the river jumping on the polished stones of his bed, to reach his beloved on the other side.

An enchanted and uncontaminated place where the fragrance of the zagara still finds its space and the view is made even more enchanting in the moments when the Etna , which overwhelms it with its grandeur, is snow.

I leave the curiosity of those who will visit these places unharmed and will have the good fortune to explore live an irresistible show of nature in an area that since 2001 is part of the Integral Nature Reserve of the Lavere Forges of Simeto , strip of Sicilian land that embraces, in addition to Adrano , the municipalities of Centuripe, Bronte and Randazzo .

Nearly 300 hectares of protected area crossed by the Simeto, whose waters have created a succession of waterfalls, rapids, small lakes and swollen lava flows, flowing amused among the lava rocks.

Riserva Naturale Isola Bella

It is located along the Ionian coast of Sicily, halfway between Messina and Catania and exactly in the territory of the Municipality of Taormina. It is therefore the renowned " Perla dello Jonio " to host this glimpse of nature immersed in the homonymous bay, set between the sea and the mainland and connected to the latter by a thin strip of sand, whose shape is continually shaped by the currents and tides, dynamism that fascinates those who stop to observe it from the nearby road that runs along one of the sides of the Reserve or from the top Belvedere of Taormina ; from here, the citizens asked and obtained the island from Ferdinando I di Borbone.

And it is from this natural balcony that a small path starts that allows you to reach the Reserve directly from the town, through stairs and stretches of road that goes from 166 m s.l.m. following the natural forms of Mount Tauro, they lead to the coastal State Road, from where the last 134 steps of the access ladder to the Reserve depart.

The Reserve is accessible throughout the year, thanks to the Mediterranean climate that reduces to a few weeks, temperatures below 10 ° C and unfavorable weather conditions, especially in the months of December and January. In fact, already from the month of February until November, someone dares to take a bath under the most terrified eyes. The best times for the visit of the Reserve, however, remain the spring, in which there is the explosion of colors, and the end of summer, when, after the first rains, the temperature allows pleasant stops in the sun.

Once you reach the beach, near the isthmus, you can admire the bay, protected by the high walls of the two promontories. In the North, in fact, Capo Sant'Andrea, which houses the renowned Blue Grotto , repairs the bay from the winds of Grecale and Levante, while to the south, Capo Taormina, with its suggestive cliffs, it repairs it, in part, from the west winds. Both headlands, illuminated by the warm colors of the sunset, the first, and dawn of the second, create a palette of colors more or less intense according to the seasons, offering enchanting scenarios.

Parco dell'Etna

The beauty of the Etna Park lies not only in the grandeur of the eruptions and the incandescent lava flows. Around the great volcano there is a totally unique and incomparable environment, full of sounds, scents and colorful colors. A district with an enchanting landscape, protected by a natural park that anyone in Sicily can not fail to visit.

The territory of the Parco dell'Etna , which extends from the top of the volcano to the upper belt of the Etna countries, has been divided into four zones with different degrees of protection: zones A, B, C and D. The Parco dell'Etna was the first to be established in Sicily in March 1987.

Etna in fact is not only the highest active volcano in Europe, but a mountain where there are recent lava flows, in which no form of life has yet settled, and ancient castings on which there are natural formations of Larch, Beech and Birch Pine. To protect this unique natural environment and the extraordinary surrounding landscape, marked by the presence of man, the Parco dell'Etna has been divided into four zones.