Web Analytics

Map of Sicily bike tourBike Tour: Eastern Sicilia, a Land of Wonders

as reviewed by Bicycling Magazine (read review in .pdf)

Difficulty: Short 3Difficulty level Sicily Biketour
Long 4
Bike Tour Difficulty Rating for Eastern Sicilia - A Land of Wonders

Located at the very center of the Mediterranean, of which it is the largest Island, Sicilia has been a meeting point of peoples since the dawn of civilization. The remarkable traces left tell the history of man on this side of the hemisphere. We ride twisted and quiet roads among olive and carob trees, wild flowers and wheat fields, forests, along the coasts and over sweet hills and rugged mountains. We cross some of the Island's most amazing towns, sit at the piazza cafes puzzled in front of the mouthwatering offer of gelato, granita and pastry. At dinner we taste the art of the regional cuisine sipping Nero d'Avola and the other superior local wines. Most of the tour we are in the shade of the mighty Etna, the highest volcano in Europe. On the last day, to cap a tour you will never forget, we turn our wheels up the smoking mountain.


italy bike vacationsDAY 1
Our van takes picks you up at Catania Airport and drives you to Palazzolo Acreide (travel time 1 hr). Palazzolo Acreide (elev 680mts)is a perfect base camp for riding to the discovery of the treasures of Southeastern Sicilia. This area was mostly destroyed by the tremendous earthquake of 1693. A feverish competition started among the gents as they start to rebuild, with a speed unknown in our days, their towns. The Baroque style dominating those days was a perfect medium to translate dreams:  in less than 10 years new astonishing towns were erected.

italy bike toursSpinning easily next day we ride southbound in the morning stopping to marvel at the beauty of Ragusa and Modica. Try not to indulge with delicatessen (sweets display the same lust of the architecture) because a tough ride home expects us. The road unwinds in the wild scenery of Monti Iblei and for many miles the ancient stone dry walls are the only human features. To complete the day for dinner we drive the few miles to Noto, more treats for our eyes and taste.

sicilia by bikeDAY 3
Next morning starts gently with a long downhill to Solarino. Here we start the first of the many climbs of the day. On top we find Sortino where we stop for a coffee break. We ride now up and down the area of Pantalica, home of the most ancient Sicilian civilization (@1500BC). Those rugged hills are spotted with natural cavities that were used as tombs. The Necropolis of Pantalica is reckoned to number about 15000 tombs. Regardless of that we stop for a much needed lunch in Ferla. Another couple of gentle hills lead us to Buscemi and finally to Palazzolo. For dinner we drive to Siracusa. We visit the center of this town that was one of greatest Grecian town in his time, able to challenge Athens, Roma or Carthage.

biketour sicilyDAY 4
With the 3rd stage we leave Palazzolo and move North. Riding constantly up and down we cross agricultural land: fico d’india, olive trees, vineyards. Feed zone is in Caltagirone, another gorgeous Baroque town enriched by the remarkable local ceramics. Resuming our up and down ride across the Monti Erei we get to our destination in Piazza Armerina (700mts). Before dinner we drive to the  Villa Romana del Casale whose vast mosaic floorings are superb witnesses of the Roman era.

biking to MadonieDAY 5
Next day we leave Piazza Armerina continuing our ride northbound in the innermost part of Sicilia. After an easy start we have two short but tough twin climbs. The first incline leads us to Enna (1000 mts). Then, as we start descending, vaguely distinguished from the high rock that holds it, we catch sight of Calascibetta. Built by the Arabs in 851 AD during their siege of Enna, it’s the top of our second climb. Time for refreshments. The peaceful landscape of the of Central Sicilia looms ahead. For the next 40k we ride on a twisted backroads in a vast, open space of sweet hills covered by wheat fields. As we enter in the Parco delle Madonie we are back to climb. Pierced on an high rock we reach Petralia Soprana (1000 mts). Now the view is completely new and superb embracing most of the Tirrenean coast. After a well deserved gelato we descend to Petralia Sottana (900 mts) our home for the next two days.

biketouring SicilyDAY 6
The 5th stage is entirely set in the Parco delle Madonie. The first half is very easy: we reach Geraci and we start a 30k descent that, crossing also the lovely Castelbuono, leads us all the way down to the Tirrenean Coast. Then we ride along the coast till we get to Cefalù (one of the locations for the film "Cinema Paradiso" by Giuseppe Tornatore). We stop for a visit to the ancient mariner village. One option for today is to end the ride here, possibly with a swim. The second option is a bit more demanding - 40k of climb in the forests of Le Madonie - but once you top at Piano Battaglia (1600 mts), you may find it even more rewarding: the views handed out at every corner and, over the tree line, the bare peaks of Le Madonie makes it a ride to remember.

sicilia on a bikeDAY 7
The next stage is a long ride eastward on the ridge dividing the Tirrenean and the Ionian side. It’s pretty much an highland so we never go below 600 mts with an highest of 1000 mts in the Parco dei Nebrodi. We cross only a few towns – Gangi, Nicosia, Troina – and a lot of rich agricultural land. All day the smoking Etna is constantly at the horizon. We conclude our ride at its foothills in the charm of Randazzo (750 mts). Our host here is a fine wine producer and he will be more than happy to let us sample his work.

cycle SiciliaNext morning we leave Randazzo riding through the vineyards along the Alcantara river. After passing the village of Mojo there is an option: a detour of about 20k takes you up the hairpins and breathtaking views of Portella Mandrazzi (1125 mts), the highest pass in the Monti Peloritani. The option includes also a winding descent down to Francavilla di Sicilia (330 mts) where the short and long course get together again. We wind along the Alcantara Gorges and reach the Ionian coast at Naxos, home of the first Grecian settlement in Sicilia. Only few kms and here’s the splendid settings of Taormina. We climb the exclusive promenade of Sicilia’s most important resort town stopping only when the road ends on top of Castelmola (530 mts). The view is astonishing: Taormina, with his villas and Greek Theatre, lies beneath us in a scenario of rocks, lusty vegetation, the deep blue sea and, of course, the smoking volcano. We load the bikes in the van so that you can take a stroll in Taormina and eventually do your shopping. By van we reach our next Agriturismo in Giarre (travel time 45 min). Immersed in a citrus grove, at the foot of the Etna and a few kms from the sea, this family run inn is ready to delight you with some of the best Sicilian dishes.

bike Etna volcanoDAY 9
Throughout our trip the mighty Etna (3300 mts) has been an intimidating presence. Now we can show that our respect it’s not fear. There are two options: climbing the north and the south side or climbing just the south side. We go together for the first 30k, when we get to Linguaglossa (500 mts) the short course cuts along the side of volcano reaching easily Zafferana Etnea (600 mts). While the climbing goats start a tough incline in ever changing surroundings: orange and lemon trees soon give away to a shady forest. More higher only a few birches stand uneasy in a sea of black lava dotted by colorful flowers. We top our first summit at over 1500 mts and hold our breath for the exciting descent down to Zafferana Etnea. Our speed reduces dramatically as we turn upward again. More marvels wait us on the long climb to Rifugio Sapienza (1900 mts) and the Etna lower craters. On top we can finally toast to the end of our fatigues. A 20k descent rockets us down to Nicolosi (670 mts) where we regroup. After an adequate refreshment we reach our Agriturismo where we are waited by a memorable farewell dinner.