The four Regional Natural Parks of Sicily

Italian regional parks are protected natural areas, identified by the introduction of laws to safeguard the biodiversity of the area, the cultural resources and the landscape features within them.

There are four natural parks in Sicily: Etna Park, Madonie Park, Nebrodi Park and finally, Alcantara Fluvial Park.

These are areas where nature reigns supreme in all its splendor: here, you can find endemic plants, rare and even endangered wildlife. Green lungs, where time seems to have stopped, far from the chaotic and hectic city life.

Anthropogenic intervention is almost or completely non-existent. If you want to fully immerse yourself in nature and abandon the frenetic rhythms of everyday life, you absolutely have to visit these parks: here is some more information that could be useful for your eco-friendly trip!

Etna Park

Etna was the first of Sicily’s Regional Parks to be established, in 1987. Etna is the fiery giant of the island: with its 3,300 m of altitude, it is the highest active volcano in Europe. The park covers 59,000 acres and its purpose is to preserve and safeguard a unique natural environment.

The beauty and uniqueness of this place attract many tourists every year: Etna is easily accessible; it rises on the east coast of Sicily and from there, it dominates the entire island. The first volcano eruptions occurred about 600,000 years ago and since then Etna has continued to fascinate and terrify.

The surrounding landscape is very diverse: it goes from forests with rich and lush vegetation to desolate areas, covered with magnetic rock, residue of periodical eruptions. The highest points are characterized by an alpine climate, with very low temperatures and frequent snowfalls.

It is necessary to remember that Etna is an active volcano: it has produced and will continue to produce eruptions that will change the landscape surrounding it, as well as its height. The Etna area is unique in the world for all the biodiversity it hosts: vegetation and fauna are both abundant and diversified. About 800 animal species live in the Park, including mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and birds. As for the flora, the vegetation ranges according to altitude.

At various altitudes, you can find a variety of different trees, shrubs and plants such as pine, beech, soapwort, senecio, the yellow broom of Etna, or even chestnuts, vineyards, olive trees and endemic plants. Absolutely nothing grows beyond 3,000 m of altitude.

Madonie Park

Madonie Park is a protected natural area established in 1989, located in northern Sicily, in the province of Palermo, and includes 15 municipalities: Caltavuturo, Castelbuono, Castellana, Cefalù, Collesano, Geraci, Gratteri, Isnello, Petralia Soprana, Petralia Sottana, Polizzi Generosa, Pollina, S. Mauro Castelverde, Scillato, Sclafani Bagni.

It is characterized by thriving and uncontaminated nature; its area has a vastness of about 40,000 acres and includes the mountain massif of Madonie. Among the highest peaks there are Pizzo Carbonara, with its 1979 meters above sea level, Monte San Salvatore, 1912 meters above sea level, and Monte Ferro 1902 meters above sea level.

The Park is divided into four areas of protection and hosts more than half of the Sicilian vegetal and endemic plant species. The fauna is equally rich and varied, including mammals, invertebrates, reptiles and birds of different species. An interesting area not only for tourists, but also for botanical and zoological experts. It is worth mentioning the presence of the rare nebroid spruce. As for the animals, it is possible to sight foxes, martens, wild cats, porcupines, eagle raptors, owls and barn owls.

The area is also historically significant: in the past, in fact, it has been inhabited by prehistoric settlers, as testified by the findings in the Vecchiuzzo cave in Petralia Sottana, in Isnello and in Gratteri.

Nebrodi Park

is the largest protected area in Sicily and was established in 1993. It extends for well 86.000 acres, divided into four protection belts, and includes twenty-four different municipalities: Acquedolci, Alcara Li Fusi, Bronte, Capizzi, Caronia, Cerami, Cesarò, Floresta, Galati Mamertino, Longi, Militello Rosmarino, Mistretta, Raccuja, S. Agata Militello, Santa Domenica Vittoria, S. Fratello, San Marco Mamertino, Santo Stefano Camastello. Agata Militello, Santa Domenica Vittoria, S. Fratello, San Marco d’Alunzio, Santo Stefano di Camastra, San Teodoro, Tortorici, Troina,

Ucria, Maniace, Randazzo.

Sicilian green lung, the Park offers a flourishing nature overlooking the whole area. It has several types of vegetation, depending on the height above sea level and the various environmental and physical factors. Over 1400 meters of altitude, you can find extensive beech forests, along with sycamore maples and ash trees. Going down, there are oaks, durmasts and cerris, to then reach the Mediterranean scrub, which can be found up to 800 meters above sea level. Wildlife is also quite varied, presenting different species of mammals, such as the famous black pig of Nebrodi, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates and many birds, including migratory and raptors.

In this wonderful area, in addition to nature, prevails the millenary tradition of farmers’ and shepherds’ life. Numerous are the renowned handmade and local products, such as the caseary products; also famous the cold cuts from the black swine of Nebrodi.

Alcantara Fluvial Park

Established in 2001, the Alcantara Fluvial Park is a wetland in Sicily, between the metropolitan cities of Catania and Messina.

The river basin of Alcantara is one of the most popular places for tourists, given the peculiar beauty of this area. The river has created a unique and marvelous landscape: the so-called Gole dell’Alcantara, in the province of Messina, between the towns of Motta Camastra and Castiglione di Sicilia.

Flora and fauna are varied and luxuriant, including willows, plane trees and the numerous fish species that populate the icy waters of the Alcantara. Moreover, it is estimated that this area is populated by as many as 200 different animal species! The entire park is colored by numerous types of flowers, such as dog rose, broom, orchid or peony.

Photo by: Livia Cefalonia

Now prepare your suitcase and set off to discover these wonderful terrestrial paradises!

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