Horse trails in the Nebrodi area
When we talk about Sicily, we suddenly think about the images of the sea, summer and heat. But the largest island in the Mediterranean has much more to offer. Are you looking for alpine woods and Apennine breezes? Welcome then to the Nebrodi. Nebrodi is the widest protected natural area in Sicily. ( under the management of the Nebrodi Park Authority). Here you can explore numerous landscapes and stunning places and visit them by all means (on foot, by mountain bike, or by car). The most natural way to discover this corner of Sicily is on horseback. The Sanfratellano is one of the two native horse breeds of these areas (the other is the indigenous Sicilian).
This animal is majestic and strong, docile and proud, and has been the master of the Nebrodi mountains for centuries. Its origins are uncertain. According to some, it comes from Arab horses imported into Sicily in the 10th century. According to others, the breed was born during the Norman domination of Sicily (the name comes from San Fratello, a small village with a Gallo-Italic language. The settlers who established here came from the northern parts of medieval Italy). Thanks to its extraordinary ability to adapt, this horse survived for centuries in the wild. Even today, it is still bred in a semi-captive state. We can ride this stunning species of horses on different kinds of excursions, and there are many routes to be discovered among the ancient paths of the area. The one described below is an excursion of medium difficulty (approx. 30 km). It is necessary to be familiar with the basics of horse trekking. Are you ready? Giddy up!
We start our trail from Floresta (ME). The town is located at 1275 m above sea level and is the highest municipality in Sicily. We are sure that you have never seen a Sicily with so much greenery. Let’s get on our horses and head west. In front of our eyes, we will see splendid views on both sides of the Nebrodi. To the South, Mount Etna rises, and to the North, the Aeolian Islands appear. We cross green fields and meadows to reach one of the most water-rich areas of the Nebrodi. We come across the Trearie and Cartolari lakes. The first is located at 1400 m above sea level and is the highest water basin in Sicily (there are many lakes on the island, didn’t you know?). From the lake springs the Saracena stream, one of the most important tributaries of the Simeto.
We proceed westwards through the Bosco di Mangalaviti (1518 m asl) and Serra del Re (1754 m asl). The surrounding environment is rich in ancient Turkey oaks and imposing beech, maple, ash, holly and wild apple trees. Many streams and brooks will refresh you and your hoofed guides.
We keep going through the beautiful nature of the Nebrodi and arrive at Lake Biviere. It is the highest altitude wetland of natural value in Sicily. The water level in these areas often changes. The vegetation is divided into six belts, distinguished according to the dominant plant species. Thanks to the high humidity level in this mountainous area, we also find numerous resident and migratory waterbirds. During summer, a rather unusual phenomenon occurs in the Biviere. The lake waters are dyed red by the blooming of a microalgae specimen (Euglena sanguinea). Nature has always reigned unspoilt here. Not surprisingly, there are some monument trees around the lake: the Tasso del Biviere di Cesarò (estimated age: 500 years), the Frassino del Biviere (estimated age: 150 years) and the Faggio di Bosco Saracina (estimated age: 400 years).
We arrive near the last stage of this route: Monte Soro. It has a height of 1847 m and is the highest peak of the Nebrodi. From its top, we can enjoy a stunning and unforgettable view. To the North, we can see the Tyrrhenian coast and the Aeolian Islands; to the east, the Serra del Re (from which we have arrived); to the south-east, the imposing silhouette of Etna appears again; to the South, the mountain chain of Monti Erei and, to the West, the Madonie. In this kingdom of peace and heights, don’t forget to salute the Sir who has ruled for at least 500 years: the Acerone di Monte Soro. It is one of the greatest sycamore maples in Italy: 22 m high and about 6 m in circumference.