North-West of Etna and the Nebrodi Catanesi


Six fresh and noisy streams descend from the Nebrodi Mountains, one side by side, running each in its short, winding valley. At the bottom, there are two opposite directions waiting for them: Cuto ‘, Martello, Saracena, gather in the wide hollow between the Nebrodi chain and Mount Etna and bend to the west, forming the Simeto River, which is thrown to the sea south of Catania. The Flascio, the Alcantara and the Favoscuro, reached the bottom valley, flow into a single river, still called Alcantara, and flow to the east and then to the sea, to reach it just south of Giardini Naxos.

Two rivers, but a single wide valley, with mountains on the one hand, the fresh and woody Nebrodi and mountains on the other, or rather the “Mountain” for antonomaia: the Etna. This is the territory that houses the Bronte, Maniace, Maletto and Randazzo towns on the bottom of the valley, or in a crowd, which makes them a great base for excursions, either by car or by foot, to those who love the medium-mountain environment.


Historically, the territory has an unmistakable flavor: that of the Middle Ages and of the Evo Moderno, because for centuries the main route of communication from Palermo to Eastern Sicily was passing through these districts. After passing through Petralie, Gangi, Nicosia and Troina, the trawler was descending in the valley floor of the Simeto river, not far from Bronte, and he was bifurcated: who had to go to Messina, went on to Randazzo and followed the valley of Alcantara to reach the Ionian coast. Who had to go to Catania, bent to the right and, via Adrano and Paterno, he took south to Mount Etna. This path was especially used since the 11th century, with the advent of Norman domination in Sicily until the seventeenth century when it was
progressively abandoned in favor of other communication channels. Naturally, therefore, it preserves the “sign” of those centuries: a Norman abbey, Mary of Maniace, also known as “Nelson Castle”, also a medieval town, Randazzo, a manor house and the Torremuzza Castle, the traces of the many houses that in the sixteenth century were forcibly forced to merge to form the city of Bronte and who today find themselves in extreme difficulty in a group of houses, in a country church, in a cumulus of ruins. The territory of Bronte is also linked to the historical events of Nelson’s duce. Charming and rich in recondite meaning also the toponyms (Serra del Re, m 1757, Serra di Trearie, m 1611, M. Gorgo Secco, m 1507, Old Forest, Saracen River). The secular presence of man left us some great and ancient densely fortified farmhouse and some small chapels hidden within the folds of the mountains, dear to the local cult.


The Nebrodi catanesi, the propaganda of a larger regional park, are characterized by beautiful forests, rich in streams, small lakes and ponds, called “margi”. They offer a mountain landscape absolutely different from that of the eternal, just because of the abundance of water that distinguishes them and is missing on Etna. Numerous excursions are possible, moving by car across the valleys across the main Nebrodi chain, all from narrow streets that inevitably lead to the boundary of the Demanio Forestale, protected by the homonymous company. From there, backpacks, you can come to delightful places such as Lake Trearie, Nelson Obelisk, Masseria of S. Maria del Bosco.

If you turn south, on the opposite side, many access points allow you to approach the massive, also protected by a regional park, on an unspoilt slope and characterized by oak and roverelle forests, and, more up, of beech. After leaving the car at the edge of the closed motorway area, you can reach the Etna highway and from here you can move in both directions; the most trained ones can reach the fascinating Frozen Grotto, tiny, underground, perennial glacier. In the valley there is also a wetland rich in wildlife, Lake Gurrida, a rare example of lake basin formed for the barrier of a watercourse by a lava flow.


The territory is affected by the culinary tradition of the Messina mountains, linked to the use of meat in general and that of the “castrated” lamb in particular. Excellent mushrooms, of which all the best species are present, both on the nebrodens and on the eternal side. In Bronte, a pistachio home, some confectioners have developed numerous preparations that contain it as a basic ingredient, including a spreadable cream that compete with the most famous Piedmontese cream with cocoa and hazelnuts.

In the late spring, Maletto becomes a queen of strawberries and offers a festival on the second Sunday in June. The eternal slope and the valley floor house have large vineyard areas with excellent “red” production, for which several winemakers have obtained the name of the controlled origin.


NELSON.jpg– Bronte

(m. 760, ab. 18.500) even though it was inhabited since prehistoric times, it was officially born during the Emperor Carlo V’s rule that he wanted a dozen farmhouses to be found in the district. Get the mythical name, meaning “thunder,” of one of the three cyclone smiths who built lightning for Jupiter in their workshop under Mount Etna. Visit the Santuario dell’Annunziata and the Mother Church and, just outside the center, the Masseria Lombardo, which houses the Museum of Old Civilization. A little further afield, a few hundred meters after the Ca’ntera Bridge, overlooking the lime forests of Simeto, the old – and abandoned – bridge of Serravalle and the nearby homonymous house, worthy of a visit a chapel with a tiny bell tower.
A little further, the Castle of Torremuzza, along the road that runs along the Simeto in the south, you can admire a mighty lava wall, formed following an ancient eruption of Etna, which presents, with extraordinary abundance, the phenomenon of basalty columnar. It is also enchanting to see the fields cultivated with pistachio, a sapling that grows on lava, rough and steep terrain.

– Maniace

(m. 642, ab. 3.500) it is not a homogeneous inhabited center, but an aggregate of young fractions spread across a large territory, recently promoted to the Common. However, it has an architectural pearl in its territory, represented by the Abbey of Maniace, founded by the Byzantine Byzantine Empire in 1040, along the river where he had defeated the Saracens in battle, from which the name of the river, and then re-established by Queen Margherita of Navarre in 1173. In 1799 the Abbey was donated by King Ferdinand of Bourbon to Admiral Orazio Nelson, for gratitude, and took the name of the castle. Today it is a municipal property and therefore accessible to the public.

– Maletto

(m. 960, ab. 4.000) offers a pleasant walk to the base of the ruins of the fortified tower, called “castle” and along the narrow streets of the nearby medieval quarter. Noteworthy are the “sghiccio” fountain, the baronial palace of Via Umberto and the ancient houses of Via Ospizio. A visit should be made to the Churches of St. Anthony of Padua, St. Michael the Archangel, and the Mother Church.

– Randazzo

(m. 765, ab. 11.200) lived centuries from the XI to the XVI century and at that time preserved numerous vestiges. It was historically divided into three districts, the Latin one around the Church of St. Mary, the Byzantine Church, around the Church of St. Nicolas and the Lombardy around S. Martino. These churches are still the most valuable elements of the city together with the Swabian Castle. The Museum of Natural Sciences, with an important ornithological collection, is worth a visit, the Archaeological Museum “Paolo Vagliasindi” and that of the Pupi Siciliani.

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