The Pantalica, Valley Of The Anapo And Cava Grande Steam Special Nature Reserve - Sicilyincoming

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The Reserve, founded in July 1997, is in the area of the “Iblei plateaux”, which characterizes a large part of south-eastern Sicily. It has a surface area of 3712,07 hectares. It is in the territories of communes of Sortino, Ferla, Cassaro, Buscemi and Palazzolo Acreide, all in the province of Syracuse.

The Iblei Plateaux and the “Gullies”

The vast Iblei tableland rose from the bottom of the sea through the superimposition of layers of calcareous sediments and volcanic effusions on Cenozoic seabed; thus from the geological point of view it represents an autonomous structure in relation to the rest of Sicily. The central point of the region is Monte Lauro (986m above sea level), a very ancient extinguished submarine volcano, from which in a radial fashion there originated the Iblei orographic system, entirely lying in the south-eastern cusp of the island, between the Ionian sea and the Straits of Sicily. It is a tabular structure – articulated in bevelled forms and in terraces sloping down on the coastal plane – hemmed in and interrupted by narrow, sudden and steep fractures: the deep, luxuriant calcareous fluvial valleys, known as “gullies”, among which there are the ones in the Reserve.

Thus these are unique environments, which have no rivals on the island, and ones in which the abundance of flowing waters, the big permanent ponds, the elevated humidity, the protection afforded by sheer rocks and slight or entirely absent human activity have allowed the survival of important – and sometimes exceptional – ecological niches, significant reference points for plant complexes and for animal life.

The Natural Environment of the Reserve

The territory of the reserve therefore constitutes a remarkable complex of major interest in terms of geomorphology, nature, landscape, history and archaeology, and also ethno-anthropology. The River Anapo – which is the main one among the numerous perennial watercourses in the Iblei and one of the longest in Sicily – starts from Monte Lauro and, flowing eastward, flows into the big port of Syracuse. Because of its geo-morphological characteristics and general orientation, the valley of the Anapo is usually divided into three stretches. The first one, between Monte Lauro and Palazzolo Acreide, extends with a vast and arched plateau; in the second one it begins to take on the characteristic canyon conformation (gully), becoming narrow and having very steep walls, then tortuous with big meanders, luxuriant with the vegetation that covers it on the bottom and sometimes on the sides; in the third stretch, which heading towards the southeast flows from the slopes of Monte Climiti as far as the sea, the valley becomes big and arched.
On the tableland and in the various gullies (Anapo, Cava Grande, Calcinara and the gully of the Mills) the Reserve contains important Mediterranean and hygrophilous plant associations. Especially where perennial water flow, particularly significant in the tangle of  riparian vegetation are arboreal plants, with Platanus orientalis, Salix pedicellata, Populus nigra and Populus alba, Quercus pubescens, shrubby ones with Nerium oleander, Clematis vitalba, Mirtus communis, Equisetum ramosissimum, Solanum dulcamara, Sambucus nigra, Adiantum capillus veneris, etc., and herbaceous ones with hygrophilous Sparagnium erectum and Tipha latifolia. Below the plateau to the rocks there cling Putoria calabrica, Elicrisum scandens, Dianthus carthusianorum, Capparis spinosa and yellow euphorbias, which general characterise the landscape of the gullies in Syracuse province; lastly, on the plateaux, the low bushes of Mediterranean maquis and some species of evergreen oaks are found.
The fauna comprises species whose existence is directly correlated to the different environments: a lot of birds (Bonelli’s eagle, buzzard, peregrine falcon, lanner, long-tailed tit, yellow wagtail, hoopoe, king fisher, dipper, moorhen, lesser sandpiper), reptiles and amphibians (leopard rat snake, Riccioli’s snake, painted frog), mammals (marten, porcupine, fox, wild cat, weasel); among the fish, bearing witness to the quality of the waters, we find the big spotted trout, the tench, the eel and, above all, the elusive and now rare Sicilian trout, a salmonid fish exclusive to southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and North Africa; lastly, the very interesting environment of the karstic gullies (of Bats, Trovato, Mortaio, Calcinara) hosts numerous chiropterans and nocturnal birds of prey.

The Signs Of Man’s Presence

Ancient frequentation of the area is testified by numerous Byzantine churches and necropolises, the best-known of which is the Pantalica one, the most imposing of the prehistoric, later paleo-Christian settlements (13th – 8th centuries BC), existing in Europe, with its remarkable “beehive”  made up of over 5000 graves distributed along a steep wall of the Anapo. Here there is also remarkable “Prince’s Palace”, a megalithic building built on the rock ridge that separates the Valley of the Anapo from that of the Calcinara.


1. “Saramenzana”(0,97km): from the Fusco entrance goes down to the pebbly shore of the River Anapo and then back up again, as far as the archaeological area.
2. “Bisanti” (1,25km): it flanks the Anapo, affording beautiful view of the North necropolis of pantalica, and joins up with path 1.
3. “North Necropolis” (1,35km): you get to it form Path 1, or from regional highway 11 (from Sortino), and it goes down to the Calcinara stream, having crossed which it goes up again, on the opposite side, as far as the road for Ferla.

4. “Anaktoron” (1,35km): from the line of the former railway, going up from the valley bottom, it reaches the Byzantine village of San Nicolicchio and the remains of the “prince’s Palace”.
5. “Filipporto saddle” (1.1km): it starts near the former railway station of Pantalica and leads to the Byzantine village of San Micidiario and the Filipporto necropolis, ending on regional highway 11, where you can get onto Path 3 and 4.
6. “Giglio spring” (0,3km): from former railway as far as the Anapo and the giglio spring.
7. “Giarranauti” cycle-pedestrian path (4km): from the entrance in the Palombazza area as far as the Giarranauti plateau (mountain-bikes require booking).
The portion of the Valley of the Anapo between the two entrances to the Reserve is also crossed by the former railway, easy and pleasant to go along, from which you can get onto many of the previously indicated paths.


By car: The entrances to the Reserve can be reached from Syracuse and Catania (SS114-124) Floridia fork, from there proceeding to the Fusco di Sortino entrance (SP28), or continuing (SP30) as far as the Ferla-Cassaro Bridge-Dike entrance.
To the Pantalica necropolis and the "Prince Palace" proceed from Syracuse on state highway SS114 to Floridia and from there to continue in the direction of Sortino and Ferla until you meet the special signs.

Special Thank you for the text to the "Azienda Regionale Foreste Demaniali"

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