The northern hills of Sicily

Between mountain and plain

Sicily is known as a beautiful destination where visitors can enjoy the sea, but its wide uplands and hills shouldn’t be underestimated. If you leave the city of Palermo and drive about 24 miles southward, you will find that natural and artificial elements play together amongst three peculiar places: the small town of Piana degli Albenesi, Scansano Lake and Ficuzza Woods. It’s really interesting to explore this area in general. If you want to stay in town just making a daily trip out of the town city look, here you can find many apartment in Palermo. Or you can also consider to stop in this area, in the villas near Palermo. Your trip really begins when you leave the sea and the city behind your back to head towards the hills and the mountains. Reaching these areas is very easy, also because these three places are very close to each other. Drive towards the town of Sciacca and then follow the road towards the town of Altofonte.

Piana degli Albanesi

Reaching Piana degli Albanesi is very easy thanks to the clear road signs. Once you get there, what will probably stir your attention the most is the mix of Sicilian and Albanese culture. Notice the names of the roads and listen to the arbëreshë language sounds. The Albanese identity is pure and authentic respecting the ancient traditions like in the native land. Stop at the typical stores, called ‘putia’ in Sicily, where you can buy fresh chees and ricotta. Also don’t miss the chance to visit the main bar – Bar Sport – and taste ‘cannoli’. You’ll have many delicious pastries with sweet ricotta paying 2 euros. The artificial Piana Lake is just 10 minutes away from this town.

Piana Lake

You can only get there on foot or by bicycle. After walking for a while through hedges and trees, the lake appears in front of you like a big mirror. It reflects all the colors of nature around you. Here you have the opportunity to relax and feel embraced by total peace. You can also have a picnic in small dedicated areas. Those who are looking for an adventure can take a bike and cycle around the lake to explore the majestic dam. Moreover, near Piana degli Albanesi there is a must-see trekking park called Natural Reserve of Serre della Pizzuta. Normally WWF Sicily arranges guided tours to explore the park and visit the caves of Zubbione and Garrone.

Ficuzza Woods

Now leave Piana degli Albanesi, follow the road towards Marineo and you will reach Scanzano Lake in half an hour. It is an area of green hills and wide farm fields. Here natural and artificial keep intertwining between the sky and the ground. On the east side, just like a sci-fi scenario, you can see the big observation dome of the space station of Scanzano. At night gazing at the stars in scarcely populated areas like this feels otherworldly. If you look towards the opposite direction, you’ll find the great Ficuzza Woods. This natural reserve represents an incredible habitat for different species of plants and animals. The park has a lot of sightseeing spots, such as the so-called “Dolomite tops” of Rocca Busambra, which isthe highest top of the Sican Mountains. Moreover, Gorgo del Drago (Dragon’s Whirpool), is a little canyon where small lakes and waterfalls are located. In general, there is a great number of activities you can enjoy: for example, you can book a visit with an expert guide who will take you through the woods to look for mushrooms and truffles. Because of all these reasons, Ficuzza Woods is an incredible location.  

Real Palace of Ficuzza

It’s no surprise that Bourbon King Frederic III chose this place as his own hunting reserve. The king also built a rich vacation palace exactly inside the Ficuzza Wood, named Real Casina di Ficuzza (Ficuzza Royal Palace), which is open every day from 9 AM to 7 PM. You can pay 2,50 € to visit it. Moreover, in July the Real Casina is the location of the Green Valley Pop Fest. It is an interesting festival which celebrates the culture of nature through excursions, guided visits and concerts.

This article was written by Giulia Sofi‏

Today, she creates editorial content for cultural magazine and exhibition project.
Her articles have been published in some art magazine like CityRivista and Insideart