Madonie Challenge 2017 – A Mountain Bike Adventure in Sicily
Here is where to go for a three days ride among nature where dramatic views, challenging climbs and delicious food reign supreme.
This route has some steep climbs and the riding surface isn’t always smooth. The best time of the year for cycling this itinerary is therefor from spring to early autumn. If you go in summer, make sure you have enough water supplies, especially for the second stage.
Suitable for intermediate to advanced mountain bikers.
Our trip starts at the main railway station in Palermo (Palermo Centrale). We get on the regional train to Messina with our four bikes and leave them in the designated and spacious area in the first coach (bike tickets cost Euro 3.50 for the whole day). After around 30 minutes we reach our destination Termini Imerese.
Physical difficulty: Intermediate
Technical difficulty: Beginner
55% Tarmac road
Max elevation: 927 m
Min elevation: 5 m
Total climbing: 1739 m
Total descent: -827 m
From the railway station at Termini Imerese we follow the road along the industrial district until we reach the junction at Buonfornello where we turn on the dirt road that runs along the Imera river under the motorway A19.
Check the weather conditions on the days before you set off for the ride. Heavy rainfalls mean that you’ll have to master puddles and slippery trails and it won’t be easy to keep yourself and your bike free of mud.
Around lunch time we reach the small village of Scillato where we top up our water bottles at the fountain on the central square and get some snacks and a warm welcome at the bakery Lisuzzo. Our ride continues uphill on the SS643 road to Polizzi Generosa. Before entering the hilltop town we take a detour on a secondary road to Piano Noce.
Upon arrival we make ourselves comfortable at the B&B Ai Templari and the owner Domenico gives us a warm welcome. He helps us settle in, gives us a place where to clean our bikes and another safe shelter to lock them up for the night.
Ai Templari also serves dinner at the restaurant.
Physical difficulty: Advanced
Technical difficulty: Advanced
65% Tarmac road
Max elevation: 1807 m
Min elevation: 803 m
Total climbing: 2744 m
Total descent: -2709 m
The second stage is a tough one. We start our ride almost directly off-road and the long climb up to the Madonna dell’Alto Sanctuary (1813 mt) leaves us breathless and almost without water as there are no water fountains in between and before Piano Battaglia where we arrive around 4pm instead of 1pm due to the steep climbs on rocky trails. Luckily we are served a huge dish of pasta by the owner of the Ristoro dello Scoiattolo which helps us regain forces.
Expect intermediate-advanced technical difficulty while riding down the single track among the rare Nebrodi firs.
From Piano Battaglia we ride along the SP54 road (tarmac) to Petralia Soprana and turn on the SS120 road that links Mount Etna and the Madonie Mountains and we follow the directions for Gangi where we stay overnight at the Bed & Breakfast Casa e Putia and have a dinner at the Trattoria Sant’Anna that we recommend if you want to savour delicious food at reasonable prices.
Physical difficulty: Advanced
Technical difficulty: Intermediate
Max elevation: 1477 m
Min elevation: 15 m
Total climbing: 1796 m
Total descent: -2744 m
The third and last stage starts with a fast descent from the stone village Gangi to the service road of the wind park near Nicosia (Province of Enna) where we start a long but not too steep climb on a dirt track leading to the entrance of the Sambughetti Nature Reserve. The southwestern slopes seem to be a bit abandoned by the rangers and there are a few tough climbs but the trail surface is rideable and there is a water fountain on top of the hill.
The north-western slopes are much more appealing and we encounter a couple of boar (who runs off as soon as they see us), admire the Nevarole Grottos and the chestnut trees with their delicious fruits and a lovely pond.
All’uscita dalla riserva abbiamo imboccato la SS117 che offre un meraviglioso panorama sui Nebrodi e dopo qualche km di sali e scendi non impegnativi si fionda inesorabile per circa 20km fino a Santo Stefano di Camastra dove ci siamo rifocillati con gusto alla trattoria Da Giannino vicinissima alla stazione dove abbiamo poi aspettato il nostro treno per Palermo.