One of Castelbuono’s greatest prides is the beauty of its extraordinary natural heritage. Located at the heart of the Madonie Park – nestled, like a precious stone – our little town is surrounded by mountains and their luxuriant woods, and yet it’s not too far away from the sea (just a few miles) that it doesn’t benefit from its appealing features as well.
A Nature of discovery
A Nature of curiosity
A Nature of discovery …
The Giant Hollies
The itinerary we’re suggesting begins at high altitude, to discover the woods of Giant Hollies, the only site of this kind in Sicily. Walking the path that leads us towards this “natural cathedral”, we find a nature that reveals itself step by step, wonder after wonder. The path starts at the Crispi Refuge (at 1200 meters of altitude), easily reached by car, and dives right away into the woods. Here, the atmosphere becomes pure magic: the woods sound quiet at first, but it’s only on the surface: in reality we find ourselves surrounded by the sounds nature. Our eyes take delight in observing a luxuriant vegetation, made of plants and trees, some of which are more than 800 years old.
The path keeps going till we reach Piano Pomo (1400m). Here, after sparing a glance at the old barn, our attention gets fully focused on the woods of the Giant Hollies: these extraordinary trees can reach 20/25 meters of height and create such a thick mantle of leaves that the sun can’t get through. It’s the perfect spot for a refreshing break during the summer, but it gets even more enchanting in winter time – December especially – when the branches are covered in red berries.
After the woods, we follow the path still, which keeps showing amazing landscapes and, who knows? If we’re lucky even some local animals (watch out for boars though!). Our final destination is Piano Imperiale (1600m) where we find the Monticelli Cross: the view here is breathtaking and Castelbuono, that seems to pop up between the hills underneath, truly looks like a small jewel surrounded by woods.
From the mountains to the sea (more or less). We move now much lower, to discover another of Castelbuono’s natural wonders: the Gole di Tiberio (Tiberio’s canyon), listed by UNESCO in the European Geoparks Network.
The canyon, locally known as ‘u Mirìcu (“navel” in Sicilian), is 450 meters long and is crossed by the Pollina river. The sun comes out every now and then between the high rock walls, and hits the surface of the water with its rays, creating shining lighting effects. Along the river (that you can easily sail in a raft) you can see small pools and waterfalls, all surrounded by a lively nature.
… and a Nature of curiosity
Francesco Minà Palumbo Naturalistic Museum
After such a long time spent in the open, feeding off Sicily and its natural beauty, let’s head back to Castelbuono, to explore one of its most important symbols: The Francesco Minà Palumbo Naturalistic Museum. Here, the nature of the Madonie Park becomes our guide, ready to welcome all those who are curious to reveal its many secrets. Curiosity and great passion, these were the features that distinguished Francesco Minà Palumbo, the man to whom the museum is dedicated: doctor by profession and naturalist by passion, he devoted his own life to the study and classification of plants and animals of the Madonie Park. He left us with an incredible collection, priceless and unique for amount and quality of information.
The museum also hosts other collections, archeological artifacts, ancient farming tools that tell the industrial story of the Madonie, and a very large number of precious volumes and scientific treaties. In short, a true treasure, donated by the naturalist’s heirs to Castelbuono, allowing this way to future generations to witness his extraordinary research.
Manna, the white gold of Sicily
Inside the museum, you will also find a permanent exhibition dedicated to manna, a substance that deserves a seat of honour among Castelbuono’s greatest natural prides. Manna is in fact known as the white gold of Sicily, and not without reason.
Manna is a precious lymph extracted from ash trees, that pours out when the trunk gets cut, and then becomes solid after being exposed to the air. Its extraction is part of an ancient process, the result of an oral knowledge passed on from one generation to the next. By telling its story, the exhibition at the museum aims at spreading and promoting that tradition.
Manna is not just a story though, it has many extraordinary properties worth discovering and experiencing firsthand. We can suggest you a few ways to do so: you can observe its extraction by booking organised tours in ash trees fields for example. You can taste it, in its raw form (the cannoli di manna) or in the many sweets in which it is employed. Or you can test its effects, by trying the many beauty products that use its properties.
It would be impossible to even try listing of the wonderful beauties of Castelbuono’s Nature: a heritage that preserves so many secrets that it still has the power to leave you speechless just when you think you found out all there was to know about its mysteries.
A treasure, one of Castelbuono’s most precious ones, something to be explored and experienced, to be heard, smelled, tasted even. In other words, a Nature that can only be discovered in person.