Leopoldia is spread in four areas of the Gulf of Gela: in the zone between Poggio Arena and Torre Manfria westly from Gela, in the areas near Lake Biviere of Gela, in the zone of Passo Marinaro, in Contrada Cammarana, and in the Reserve Pino D’aleppo. They are SCI and SPA areas protected and recognized by the European Union. Going through these areas looking for Leopoldia, better if in Spring during the month of April, means to discover an ancient and by now rare landscape, in contact with the sea and the Reign of the Mediterranean Flora. Knowing these places also means to discover interesting cultural targets, where nature and man have defined unique characters of historical-archeological, ethnic-anthropological, culinary interest. We suggest two itineraries between the provinces of Caltanissetta and Ragusa in search of Leopoldia and of many other cultural attractions.
ITINERARY 1 – DUNES, SWAMPS AND CORK OAK WOODS BETWEEN MIGRATORY ROUTES AND BAROQUE CITIES
Naturalistic itinerary between SCI and SPA areas like Torre di Manfria, Biviere and Piana di Gela, Niscemi Cork Oak Wood and Bosco San Pietro: walking through the shoreline Dune Habitat, the Inland Steppes, the Cork, Holly and Downy Oak Woods, and visiting places of historical and archeological interest, from Ancient Greece to Baroque.
Naturalistic itinerary in the Natura 2000 Network, between SCI and SPA like Torre di Manfria, Biviere and Piana di Gela, Niscemi Cork Oak Wood and Bosco San Pietro. This part of Sicily has a great importance as resting area on the migratory routes of hundreds of birds. In it there’s the biggest concentration of Anatidae of the whole Palearctic. Among the areas of naturalistic interest, there are Shoreline Dune Habitat, Inland Steppes, Cork, Holly and Downy Oak Woods, and the typical Maquis (in Italian “macchia mediterranea”) with shrub species such as Mastis, Olive grove, Myrtle, etc. Beyond the naturalistic interest, there’s a historical and archeological one, with traces of the Greek Civilization spread everywhere, rests of important Coast Towers and towns with Baroque Monuments.
1 – Torre Manfria, Montelungo and Poggio ArenaStarting points of this visit could be the coast areas of Torre Manfria, Montelungo and Poggio Arena westerly from Gela. They are Sites of Comunitary Interest (SCI) with significant characters of naturalistic interest. Today we can see just fragments of a landscape once much more spread, made up of big dunes conserving a coast habitat rich in natural species of great scientific interest, among which the white broom is the most important. This site is open to all visitors and, together with the rests of Torre Manfria, allows to appreciate its naturalistic ant historical relevance. The Tower (Torre Manfria) was completed at the end of the sixteenth century from a drawing of the Florentine architect Camillo Camilliani and is part of a network of Towers spread on the Coasts for the defense of the Inland.
2 – Biviere di Gela Natural Reserve
From the Dune Landscape of Poggio Arena go towards Gela, cross the town and go beyond its well known petrochemical plant. Lake Biviere is a special place for the ornithological observation and represents the first resting zone for migratory birds after crossing the Sicily Channel. Together with Vendicari Swamp (near Noto), this humid area has been defined of international importance, according to the Ramsar Convention. Among the migratory birds, many rare birds can be watched here, such as spoonbill, glossy ibis, ferruginous duck. In the muddy and marshy zones winter many curlew sandpipers, spotted redshanks, common redshanks and snipes. Very frequent also the black-winged stilt. Biviere Lake is situated inside the Greenhouse Landscape of the so-called “transformed belt”, and is a Natural Reserve with a comfortable Visit Center, an Educational Area and many facilities for Bird Watching. The Visit Center is located on the Provincial Road 51, few kilometers away from Gela and Vittoria. For contacts and information, please call the following numbers: 345 66 12 743 or 345 57 55 044.
3 – Piana di Gela
Going from Lake Biviere towards Gela, near the Inland Steppes Landscape of the Plain of Gela, there’s a site where the white stork has its favorite place for the building of nests, breeding and resting until the chicks begin to fly before returning to Africa in August. This vast area, less altered by human activity, with its wide fields – often left fallow – and its high trellises, in the last years has become a special nesting place: if we watch the trellises, we can see nests which turn inhabited every spring.
4 – Natural Reserves of Niscemi Oak Wood and Bosco San Pietro
Going northerly from Gela towards Niscemi, you’ll find two natural areas: Niscemi Cork Oak Wood and Bosco San Pietro, which are the rests of the former biggest Cork Oak Wood of Mid-South Sicily. In the Niscemi Cork Oak Wood have been realized various itineraries, among which one for blind men, with a handrail rope working as guide and some notices in Braille. It’s possible to organize guided tours to the Reserve contacting the Center for Environmental Education of Niscemi, Museo Didattico di Storia Naturale. firstname.lastname@example.org, 0933954777.
5 – Caltagirone
The tourist itinerary ends in the town of Caltagirone, located in Middle Sicily, in the middle of the Calatino territory. It’s famous for the production of ceramics, an activity which developed through the centuries since the period of ancient Greeks. After its glorious past, in which for more than two millenniums the town was a stronghold for Byzantines, Arabs, Genoese and Normans, controlling both Plains, of Catania and of Gela, today Caltagirone lives a period of development thanks to tourism and ceramics production. The town is rich in churches, valuable palaces and villas tracing back to the eighteenth century: that’s why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage since 2002, together with the Noto Valley.
Links to Torre Manfria – Montelungo – Poggio Arena
Wikipedia: Torre Manfria
Gela nel Mondo: Torre Manfria
Gela città di mare: La torre di Manfria
Turisti per caso.it: Torre di Manfria
Il Litorale di Manfria: Natura e storia da proteggere
Comune di Gela: Città di Gela
Nanocicli: Parco di Montelungo
I luoghi del cuore: Poggio Arena
Links to Riserva Naturale Orientata Biviere di Gela
R.N.O. Biviere di Gela – sito riserva
Wikipedia: Riserva Naturale Orientata Biviere di Gela
Lipu: Riserva Naturale Orientata Biviere di Gela
Youtube: Biviere di Gela 1 – Biviere di Gela 2 – Biviere di Gela 3
Link Riserve Naturali Orientate Sughereta di Niscemi – Bosco di Santo Pietro
Wikipedia: Riserva Naturale Orientata Sughereta di Niscemi
Wikipedia: Riserva Naturale Orientata Bosco di Santo Pietro
R.N.O. Sughereta di Niscemi: Cea Niscemi
Parks.it: Riserva Naturale Orientata Bosco di Santo Pietro
ITINERARY 2 – ARCHEOLOGY AND NATURE BETWEEN LIBERTY AND CERASUOLO OF VITTORIA
Naturalisctic itinerary among the SCIs of Cava Randello, Passo Marinaro and Ippari Valley. Areas of naturalistic interest, rich in ancient and modern History thanks to the rests of the ancient town of Camarina and the recent artistic and cultural development of the towns of Vittoria and Comiso.
1 – Terraqueous Archeological Park of Kamarina
The tourist itinerary starts from a place of great historical and naturalistic value: the archeological area of Camarina. It’s a vast territory with a scenographic promontory in the middle, exposed to the sea, where once rose the town of Camarina, a sub-colony of Syracuse that turned quickly very strong and was destroyed many times. The archeological area is near Scoglitti, the seaside suburb of Vittoria, and it’s made up of a shoreline with some dune rests and sub-dune habitats with typical flora and an Inland area with Meditarranean habitat. The Archeological Museum was created in the Seventies and it’s a little treat. It was obtained from an old rural complex with various rooms and finds of priceless value and an Amphora Pavilion containing the biggest collection of ancient transport amphora, not only in Sicily and in Magna Graecia, but in the whole Mediterranean. From the Museum, the visit goes on to the promontory and to the archeological site that permits to reconstruct the road network and the position of the various quarters of the ancient town. The whole area around the ancient town is characterized by rare arboreal formations similar to those existing in the Greek Age, such as Aleppo Pines and Kermes Oaks. For visits, please contact the Archeological Museum of Camarina (0933 826004)
2 – Passo Marinaro Wood
From the Archeological Park and Museum the visit goes on some kilometers southerly towards Ragusa, along the coastal Provincial Road 85 to the little Passo Marinaro Wood. It’s a very ancient wood of junipers and mastics with a necropolis of Classical Age, studied by Paolo Orsi in 1896. The wood is a fragment of a rare sample of quercus calliprinos and juniperus phoenicea, once very much spread in the whole archeological area. The excavation works were made without interfering against the arboreal formations, and after the expropriation of 1977 it’s been possible to conserve until today the whole area defending it from the nearby Greenhouse Plants. Passo Marinaro Wood can be considered the most qualifying place of the whole Archeological Park of Camarina, due both to excavations and to the actions of protection and conservation.
3 – Natural Reserve of Aleppo Pine
From the Wood, going back to Scoglitti on the Provincial Roads 105 and 19, we can enter the Reserve of Aleppo Pine, a vast area stretching from the Ippari Valley to the town of Vittoria. The spontaneous Aleppo Pine has disappeared in the rest of Sicily and lives only in this area of the Ippari Valley, which represents a rest of the ancient wood once covering the whole territory. The habitat of the Aleppo Pine is strictly Mediterranean with its typical underwood rich in mastics, carrob trees, wild olives, kermes oaks and white broom, together with various species mentioned in the Habitat Directive, such as rare orchids and the most extended population of Leopoldia gussonei.
4 – Old town centre of Vittoria, Cerasuolo of Vittoria Regional Winehouse and Archeological area of Grotte Alte
From the Reserve of Aleppo Pine you’ll arrive in Vittoria, a town founded in 1607 by Vittoria Colonna and rapidly grown as leading area in the field of agricolture. Thanks to agricolture, the town gained a significant cultural richness, as you can see in monuments and palaces of the old town centre in Liberty style. The old town centre overlooks the Ippari Valley, which has always had a key role in the whole zone with its residential areas, paths, fields and farms. Right under the old town centre is located a cavern known as Grotte Alte, an archeological area representative of the rural villages of the Noto Valley. Upon this area, in the ancient Colonna Enriquez Castle is located the Cerasuolo Regional Winehouse, offering wine-tastings and events about local products. Viticulture is a kind of joinking link between the ancient civilization and the present one. Near Camarina, in the Ippari Valley, the Greeks produced a wine called Mesopotanium whose traces are to be found from Northern Europe to Africa. Nowadays Cerasuolo di Vittoria, first DOCG wine in Sicily, is a valuable wine produced with grapes typical of this area.
5 – Old town centre of Comiso and Museum of Natural History
The tourist itinerary ends in the town of Comiso, an ancient town located northerly from Vittoria next to some water springs connected to River Ippari. Comiso is famous for its stone caves, for some rests of a thermal complex of Roman-Byzantine age and for its Museum of Natural History with a section dedicated to cetaceans and sea turtles. The Museum has a rich collection of fossils tracing back to various geological eras, about 10,000 finds, together with many rests of vertebrates of the Sicilian Quaternary, about a hundred Sicilian minerals and the most important collection in the field of cetology of Southern Italy. For information, please contact the following number: 0932 748335.
Links to Riserva Naturale Orientata del Pino d’Aleppo
Wikipedia: Riserva Naturale Orientata del Pino d’Aleppo
Legambiente Valle dell’Ippari: Riserva Naturale Orientata del Pino d’Aleppo
Provincia di Ragusa: Riserva Naturale Orientata del Pino d’Aleppo
Guida Sicilia.it: Riserva Naturale Orientata del Pino d’Aleppo
Sicilia parchi: Riserve Naturali della provincia di Ragusa
Links to Città di Vittoria e vino Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Comune di Vittoria
Wikipedia: Città di Vittoria
Wikipedia Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Consorzio di tutela Cerasuolo di Vittoria
Strada del Vino Cerasuolo di Vittoria