Cycling among the salt pans of Sicily
Do you love to explore new places by bicycle? What if we told you that you could enjoy a wonderful experience among high piles of white salt? Let’s explore stunning landscapes surrounded by changing colour pools of water. In these places, the silence is only broken by the songs of an incredible variety of birds. No, it’s not paradise: it’s the western Sicily salt pans.
We start from Trapani. Just outside the centre is a cycle path that takes us directly into the Trapani Salt Pans and Paceco Nature Reserve. It is a protected area managed by the WWF that covers almost a thousand hectares in the municipalities of Trapani and Paceco. The reserve also includes private properties, where small and large companies have been extracting sea salt for centuries.
The entire route is about 10 km long. Entering the reserve is recommended to respect the park and private property’s rules. As you ride, you will find yourself surrounded by brackish water pools and piles of salt. We will see avocets, flamingos, egrets, bitterns, pink gulls and many other birds protected by the reserve. Proceeding, we will see the Maria Stella Mill, a typical windmill (not in use), which is also the WWF information centre. Visits usually start from this point. We continue cycling and enjoy the view. We arrive in Nubia at the Salt Museum. A 17th-century baglio (an old farmhouse with a typical Sicilian courtyard) houses the exhibition. The museum contains and preserves the ancient working tools of the salt workers and many photographs of this centuries-old tradition. Not only salt comes from these districts. The slow food presidia of Nubia red garlic and Paceco melon are also famous. Before leaving, we take some time to rest.
A short distance south of Trapani is Marsala. The salt pans are scattered along the coast; a cycle path connects them. In Marsala, we can rent a bike and pedal along the cycle path about 7.6 km long. Riding, we will discover the Stagnone Reserve. It is one of the most suggestive and famous places in Sicily. Starting from Marsala, the path begins at the end of the Saline Genna canal and ends in the Birgi district, further north. The Stagnone Islands Oriented Reserve protects the largest lagoon in Sicily with its unique habitat. Along the way, we can admire the islands of the Stagnone (Mozia, Isola Grande, Schola and Santa Maria), the unique avifauna (flamingos, avocets, egrets, etc.) and flora. The Egadi Islands appear in the background, and then … salt everywhere! As you stroll, your attention will be caught by the pink reflections in the water. Seeing is believing! About halfway along the route is the historic landing stage for the Phoenician island of Mothia, a remarkable archaeological site overlooking the lagoon. We can enjoy a boat trip on the lagoon. If you like water sports, you can take part in a kayak tour. The beautiful Ettore-Infersa saltworks begin at the imbarcadero. Here you can admire the enormous restored windmills. We then reach the Birgi area. From this point, the old submerged road to the island of Mothia starts. On this stretch, in the past, carts transported grapes grown on the island, livestock and other goods (the route is only visible at low tide). There is more to this area than salt: Marsala is the king of fortified wines. Don’t miss the chance to taste it, especially after such hard work.