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Nature reserves in Syracuse area

Cavagrande del Cassabile

Between Noto, Avola, and Syracuse lies a low upland with calcareous cliffs framing the river Cassabile. The canyon has been dug over time by the river, producing marvelous displays, especially the Cava Grande, which is 10 kilometers long and 250 meters deep. This area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic, in fact several burials have been found in the canyon walls. The Reserve was established in 1984 and is managed by the Azienda Foreste that has organized several trails that make it possible to visit different parts of the reserve. Everyone can enjoy the reserve, those who enjoy a leisurely stroll, those who love to trek and work hard for the show, those who are interested in archaeology and those who simply love nature.

Pantalica

Between Sortino, Ferla, Cassaro, Buscemi, and Palazzolo Acreide stretches the Pantalica Nature Reserve, established in 1997. It lies in the valley of the Anapo River, a fresh and clear water course whose name comes from the Greek for “invisible.” Along its course the Anapo has created a series of canyons that takes the name of Gole di Pantalica.

It is also interesting to visit the Pantalica necropolis, which is one of the vastest in the Mediterranean region, with over one thousand tombs scattered throughout the rock walls.

Vendicari Reserve

One of the most important reserves in Sicily, it is famous worldwide.

It was inaugurated in 2004 and is managed by the Azienda Foreste, which has created several trails thanks to which you may visit the Reserve, interesting from natural, archaeological, and historical perspectives.

You may glimpse herons, pink flamingos, swans and many other birds amidst the Mediterranean shrub. You may also find turtles, foxes, porcupines, bats, and numerous other animals. As mentioned, the reserve is also important from an archaeological point of view: in fact there are many churches, catacombs, and necropolis. There are also an old building that was a “tonnara” (tuna fishing plant) used from the 18th century up to WWII, and the Torre Sveva, an 18th century construction.

Villasmundo S. Alfio

Established in 1998, it is managed by CUTGANA, a research facility of the University of Catania. The reserve is formed by two river valleys (cave) separated by a plateau: the valleys of the rivers Belluzza and Cugno di Rio. The area is covered in woods in which deciduous trees and holly oaks are predominant, but other typical Sicilian vegetation is present, such as myrtle, hawthorn, and thyme in the more open areas. The fauna is rich and presents both common and rare species of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The Villasmundo Cave may be found in the lower part of the Cugno Rio and is two kilometers long. Its walls are calcium concretions. It is an active cave with a steam flowing through it ending in a small lake.

Fiume Ciane e Saline

The Fiume Ciane e Saline Reserve was established in 1984 and is managed by the Province of Syracuse. It was created to protect the papyrus that grows along the Ciane river. The water of the river is particularly cold and very clear and is home to the last indigenous trout. There are saltpans nearby, a very important economic resource active from the 17th century to the mid ‘80s. This area is frequented by many migrating birds. To discover this reserve, we recommend you follow the nature trail Ciane-Saline that leads to the intensely azure spring of the Ciane river.

Grotta Monello

The Grotta Monello Reserve was established in 1998 and is managed by CUTGANA. This cave (grotta) was discovered thanks to a caving in of the ground blocking its entrance. Inside, the cave is covered in stalactites and stalagmites, the main reason for which the tutelage was established. It is the ideal habitat for many invertebrate species, along with reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Grotta Palombara

This reserve was established in 1998 to protect one of the most important karst caves in Sicily. It is very deep and presents several cavities. It has been managed from its foundation by CUTGANA. It is about 800 meters long and the entrance is a deep chasm. Once inside you have to make your way along speleological stairs and ropes. You have to get through narrow tunnels before you reach the Hall of Vases (two vases were found here). You can then reach the Guano Hall where many bats live. Other vertebrates and invertebrates inhabit the cave, too.

Saline di Priolo            

The saltpan reserve was established in 2000 and is managed by LIPU (Italian League for the Protection of Birds).

It stretches for 50 hectares and is at the center of one of the most important petrochemical complexes in Europe, a fairly anomalous position that reflects the desire to save a territory that has been treated very poorly. It is a small oasis amidst the smokestacks and here you can find about 237 species of birds.

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