forest, unbounded views of astounding beauty, gentle-giant mountains, pure
unpolluted air, limpid lakes, age-old villages, deep fertile valleys,
undisturbed peace and quiet.....
Yes, its Sicily! Or at least the
most untouched part of the island: the Nebrodi Mountains.
Quite why this area doesnt attract many tourists (or Sicilians!) is a mystery
to anyone who has been there. The opening paragraph contains no exaggeration
and, should you get a chance to explore this fascinating area during your time
you too will sing its praises.
In 1993 the
Park was instituted and, with a surface area of just over 85,000 hectares, it
is the largest in Sicily.
The variety of fauna is vast and alongside the more common animals such as wild
cats, foxes, porcupines and hares there are even a couple of indigenous
species: the San Fratello horse and the Nebrodian black pig. The meat of this
latter is a highly prized ingredient in the areas cuisine and it is also used
for making hams and salamis. The famous salame di SantAngelo di Brodo is one
purchase you might like to make.
Flora is equally
varied. On the lower slopes myrtle, lentisk, cork trees and holm oaks dominate,
while higher up oak woods and beech forests cover the peaks.
mountain, at 1847 meters,
is Monte Soro. The views from here are simply breath-taking: Mount Etna
its plume of smoke to the south-east, the Aeolian Islands emerge from
Tyrrhenian to the north and the Madonie
Mountains continue the
Sicilian Apennines to the west. While the peaks in the Nebrodi Park
are not as high as those of its neighbours, the presence of several
lakes adds a certain variety to the landscape. Of these, Lago Biviere
Ancipa are well worth a visit, the latter also thanks to its stunning
views of Mount Etna framed in a natural paradise. Good walking and
mountain-biking opportunities abound.
Many of the
towns originated with the arrival of Byzantine Greeks in the 4th and 5th
Centuries AD and remains of Byzantine monasteries and churches can be found
dotted around the area. Some of the most important centres are Mistretta,
Troina and Nicosia,
though many smaller villages, such as San Marco dAnnunzio, San Salvatore di
Fitalia, Floresta and San Fratello are worth visiting. This last, in
particular, is home to the lovely Convento di San Francesco, complete with cloisters,
and a Norman church dating back to the 11th Century
To get the
most out of the Nebrodi one has to explore, follow ones nose and take chances.
An unassuming-looking path might lead to a beautiful wood or lake, a seemingly
normal village might hide a fantastic church or a wonderful trattoria and the
humblest of food shops might sell mouth-watering local delicacies.