Eastern Sicily: the Baroque and the Sea

Cycling Level 3/5

The turquoise of the sea and the black of the lava

7 Stages
Total distance: 441 km

Total climb 7719 m

63 km/day
1103 mts/day

(one stage has easier option)

Sicily has been a meeting point of peoples since the dawn of civilization. Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spaniards, all ruled here before Garibaldi’s 1000 Red Shirts defeated the Bourbon king in 1860. We explore the South East corner of this magical island by riding 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.

Courtesy of Jennifer Kirsch

VyviGo, our International Tour Operator

Our friends at VyviGo will take care of all the operational aspects of the tour. They are members of Protected Trust Services, which means that your deposit is safe.

2024 Dates

No fixed dates.

Contact us to organise a tour.

The Itinerary

Day 1:
Palazzolo Acreide (elev 680mts), the ancient Akrai founded by the Greek in 600 BC, is a perfect base camp for riding to the discovery of the treasures of the Noto Valley (Unesco Heritage). This area was mostly destroyed by the tremendous earthquake of 1693. A feverish competition started among the gents as they start to rebuild their towns, with a speed unknown in our days. The Baroque style dominating those days was a perfect medium to translate dreams: in less than 10 years new astonishing towns were erected. Palazzolo itself displays valuable examples of Baroque architecture as you will discover when we drive uptown for dinner

Day 2:
Stage 1: Palazzolo loop – 57 km – 1600 mts total climb

Most of the first ride is a fairly easy spin on the quiet back roads departing from our farm inn and winding through a colorful countryside. After skirting Palazzolo, a long descent takes us to a valley of orange groves. A steepish climb with great views takes us to Castelluccio and its remarkable abbey. After a coffee stop at Testa dell’Acqua, we loop around the ancient settlement of Noto Antica (visible within its rocky surroundings and drywalls). The ride back to our base is an easy steady false flat. In the evening we drive you to Siracusa for dinner and for a guided tour of this lively city that was one of greatest Grecian towns, home to Archimedes and able to challenge Athens, Rome and Carthage in its time.

Day 3:
Stage 2: Palazzolo loop – 72km – 1716 mts total climb

A few miles of false flat to start with: the road winds through wheat fields giving you many photo opts. A 20 km descent leads down to Solarino. We cross town and start following the course of the Anapo river. The first climb of the day is set in a typical Sicilian scenario of dry stone walls and blossoming cactuses. The climb tops at Sortino. We are now in the ancient kingdom of Pantalica. The deep gorges dug by the Anapo river where home to Sicilia’s most ancient civilization. Our ride continues on the highlands alternating climbs, descents and great views. We stop for lunch in Ferla: this has to be light as another couple of climbs waits us on the way to Palazzolo! In the evening we drive you to Noto. For its astonishing Baroque architecture rich of maniacal detail this town is named the Garden of Stone.

Day 4:
Stage 3: Palazzolo – Marina di Ragusa – 71 km – 786 mts total climb

We move South riding mostly downhill for almost 40k then a couple of switchbacks leading up into Ragusa. We sit for a break in the main square surrounded by the beautiful architecture of this town. It’s hard not to indulge with the delicious ice-cream, pastry and granita (which display the same lust of the architecture) as lunch is not far away: another few miles and we see Modica in all of its pink-stone splendour. After lunch we head towards the sea. Now the road is always slightly downhill. We cross beautiful Scicli (where Montalbano has been filmed) and touch the coast at the marine village of Donnalucata. On the flat coastal route we reach Marina di Ragusa, the charming beach resort where we spend the next 3 days. Our 4 star hotel is by the beach. This evening, and on the next two, we dine in one of the finest seafood restaurant in town.

Day 5:
Stage 4: Marina di Ragusa loop – 69 km – 325 mts total climb

Today we ride east all along the coast. We cross a few beach resorts: Donnalucata, Sampieri, Pozzallo. We move inland just a few miles to ride among the ponds of Pachino, a bird haven. This way we arrive at Portopalo, a fishermen harbour sitting between two seas. We are now at Capo Passero (Cape Sparrow) the southernmost tip of Sicilia, closer to the equator than Tunis. We round the cape and ride north to Marzameni, a well preserved old fishermen village where we have lunch. After lunch our van takes you back to the hotel

Day 6:
Stage 5: Marina di Ragusa loop – 58 km – 628 mts total climb

We ride west along the spectacular coastal route towards Scoglitti. We cross the marine park of Camerina and then we move inland. A 5k climb gets us to Donnafugata castle. Built in the 17th century in an extravagant Venetian Gothic style this castle is famous for being the set of “Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard), one of the main novels of Italian literature. From this book director Luchino Visconti made a movie starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon. The ballroom scenes shot at the castle are a milestone of Italy’s movie school. Another extravagance of the castle is its garden which also displays a stone maze. We stop for lunch here so, if you want, you can visit the castle (tickets are not included in tour price). After lunch a long descent takes us back to the sea.

Day 7:
Rest day – Transfer to Giarre

Day 7 is rest day. On the rest day we drive to Giarre. Here you spend the last days of the tour in an Agriturismo immersed in the citrus grove at the foot of the Etna volcano (3300 mts) and only a few miles from the beaches. Be advised: the ladies running this Agriturismo will use all of their culinary art to make you gain weight! That’s why we have organised an optional hike on the slopes of the volcano  

Day 8:
Stage 6: Etna loop – Hard: 76km, 1994m (highest 1803) Easier: 58km, 1059m (highest 888m)

The ride starts on the coastal route that touches the beaches of Torre Archirafi, Riposto and Fondachello. At Fiumefreddo we start climbing. We cross Piedimonte Etneo and Linguaglossa, the last towns on the north side of the Etna. Here one must choose whether to climb up to Piano Provenzana (an 18km climb, averaging 6-7% but with the last 3km over 10%) or take the easier route to Milo climbing to 888m. They are both very beautiful, flanked by lava stone walls. The long climb, a Giro stage in 2011, reminds riders of the best Alpine stages; the chestnut trees interspersed with gorse give way to pine and larch forests. After 10 km, two chalets offer drinks and ready made panini. Back on the saddle and after a few kms, we meet the spectacular 2002 lava flow, and then the punishing push to Piano Provenzana. The easier route on the other hand has always the sea in sight and the rich volcanic soil lush with green and flowers make it look like a tropical island. As you go up the vegetation keeps changing: citrus groves and vineyards leave room to hazelnut and chestnut. The two routes rejoin at Milo and the downhill continues all the way to the Agriturismo. In the afternoon we drive to the beach for a well deserved restoring swim.

Day 9:

Stage 7: Giarre – Castelmola – 38 km – 670 mts total climb

We start again along the Ionian coast all the way north to the charming beach resort of Giardini Naxos, the most ancient Grecian settlement in Sicilia. From here we start the 8 km climb that, crossing Taormina, takes up to the hamlet of Castelmola (530 mts), perched on a high rock. Here we can toast to the end of our fatigues! We eat lunch delighted by the view: Taormina, its villas and the Greek Theatre, the deep blue sea and the smoking volcano. After lunch we drive you to Taormina for a shopping stroll. And then back to our Agriturismo where the ladies will be already at work for an unforgettable farewell dinner!

Day 10: Van transfer to Catania Airport (45 min) – Departure