Day ride/hike: Zingaro Nature Reserve - In the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - CycleBlaze

March 30, 2019

Day ride/hike: Zingaro Nature Reserve

So we’re just getting a brief narrative today, because the WiFi is a bit slow here and the photos took quite a while to upload; and because daylight savings time starts tomorrow so I’m being shorted an hour.  I decided to prioritize photos over words, and the words lost out this time.

Briefly then: Atrium B&B is a great place to stay, with an especially fine breakfast that included both a simple omelet and a fresh desert crepe.  Plus croissants, yogurt, bread and coffee.  But sorry, all you jam fans out there - only one jam to chose from.

Today’s outing consisted of two activities, both spectacular.  We biked to and from Scopello, about eight miles north up the coast.  It was a short but very beautiful ride - if this has been all we did today it would have been enough.  We were biking to Scopello though to visit Zingaro, the large natural preserve that covers the eastern half of Capo Vito.  It protects the eastern slope of the ridge and an exceptionally beautiful coastline that strings together a half dozen small bays broken by rugged headlands.  The land and seascape are arresting, but so are the flora and fauna.  It’s an extremely popular park, and even this early in the season there were many hikers on the trail.  

The highlight for visitors is the seven mile coastal hiking trail, but there are parallel trails along the side and top of the ridge also.  We had planned to make a loop of it, walking up the coast for about three miles and then returning by a high route, but instead we just turned back the way we came.  Because we’re out of practice at planning for day hikes, we forgot to take our hiking boots this morning and had to walk in our bike shoes instead.  They make for pretty difficult footing and they’re definitely harder on my knees, so we took the simplest return route.

For dinner we went back down to the port, to a restaurant we spotted last night when walking off our meal before heading back to the room.  We really loved La Tonnara - the food, the ambience, and the staff.  In addition to our main courses we shared a delicious dessert - a variation of a cassata, one of Sicily’s tradional dishes.  Our waitress gave us a good description of how it’s made, from the recipe of the older lady who appears to be the owner: a layer of white cake, topped by a layer of orange and ricotta cheese, and then a second white cake.  Refrigerate overnight.  Flip over, and top with a layer of almond paste rather than the traditional marzipan.  Wow.

Leaving Castellamare, we execute a pair of deep, sharp hairpin turns to climb the wall north of the gulf.
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It’s not a particularly high ridge, topping out at 600’; but it’s high enough to give us a fine view across the gulf and east along the coast toward Palermo.
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Over the top of the ridge, we bike a bit further west toward Scopello. I love the look of this velvety green terrain - it reminds me of the south Peloponnese.
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There are several Florentine towers in the vicinity of Scopello. I think this dramatically sited one is Torre Bennistra, dating to the sixteenth century.
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At the southern entrance to Zingaro Natural Preserve. The first such reserve in Sicily, it was established in 1980 in response to a massive demonstration at this tunnel, to protest plans to construct a road through this coastal area to connect it to Capo Vito. The tunnel was to be the beginning of this road, which was never completed.
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Looking north from Cala Berretta, the beach at which we stopped to have our lunch and stare at the waves crashing against the cliffs for the next half hour. This is at about the midpoint of the park, which continues north for another three miles and ends beyond the far headland. Just visible on the tip of the headland is Torre dell’ Uzo,another of the Florentine towers in the vicinity.
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The view south across the southernmost set of bays within the park. The high ridge in the distance is the one we crossed climbing out of Castellamare
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Our lunch fare for the day was a pair of massive pani cunzatu (seasoned bread) that we picked up at a shop in Scopello. One of the traditional foods of Sicily, it is filled with tomatoes, a thin layer of cheese, bits of sardines, and seasonings. Also known as ‘bread of misery’, it was a staple for poor people who couldn’t afford more nutritious ingredients.
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OK. I know what everything on this page is of course, but it would spoil everyone’s fun if I just blurted it out. This one was unusual, or perhaps an early blooming pioneer - it’s the only one I saw.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMulling it over for a while... :-)
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2 weeks ago
Sharon PledgerReminds me of Hollyhock.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Sharon PledgerOh, of course - it does to me also, now that you point it out. Thanks!
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2 weeks ago
Some sort of garlic? This is very common here, and very striking. I must have taken a dozen photos of different specimens because I kept being drawn to it.
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Bill ShaneyfeltImage matches well with White asphodel.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asphodelus
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonYup. This is one I remembered from I think last year - maybe in Crete, but I forget now.
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2 weeks ago
It was nice to have my zoom camera with me to get a shot of this from far enough away to not disturb it.
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Bill ShaneyfeltImage matches well with old world swallowtail.
https://www.learnaboutbutterflies.com/Britain%20-%20Papilio%20machaon.htm
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2 weeks ago
Another unusual sighting, the only one of the day.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks a lot like what we call snowflower here in the US.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcodes
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2 weeks ago
Andrea BrownTo Bill ShaneyfeltI think it’s one of the orobanches, or broomrape. We better ask Scott.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownI think Andrea’s right here, based on habitat. Not too snowy here right now, and I couldn’t find any references to snowflowers in Sicily. I did find one photo on Flickr of orobanche variegata, actually taken in Zingaro. It looked just like this. I think it must be pretty uncommon though.
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2 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltI agree. All I knew was it looked like a parasitic plant. Lots of pictures of broomrape, and many kinds in Spain.
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2 weeks ago
I really fell in love with these mottled lizards, an almost iridescent emerald green. I’ve never seen one this bright in the wild. I wonder - do lizards change coloration with the season for better camoflage? Maybe this is its spring green look.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMight be a sicilian wall lizard. Yes, many lizards do change colors. Some change with temperature, some with stress, and some, notably chameleons change to match backgrounds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sicilian_wall_lizard
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYes, that must be it. Really a beautiful animal.
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2 weeks ago
Just too great for a single look.
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Beautiful Guidaloca Beach, just south of Scopello. The great thing about an out and back ride like this is that you can admire the same scenery coming and going, in different lighting conditions.
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On the ride back, we get a second look at Torre Benistra
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Beginning the climb back toward Castellamare.
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So does this look like fun, or what?
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La Tonnara in Castellamare del Golfo: our early contender for best restaurant of the tour.
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I’m really drawn to old photographs like this. The restaurant occupies a building that received the catch of the day from the tuna boats that worked the seas here (tonnara is the Italian word for a tuna plant and/or nets).
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La tonnara
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The giant tuna boats are gone, but tuna is still featured on the menu. Mine is simply grilled, Rachael’s is sweet and sour. Accompanied by a mixed green salad and rosemary potatoes.
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Suzanne GibsonReminds me of the fantastic tuna on the Andalusian coast where we were staying.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Suzanne GibsonThis was a great meal, alright. Four days later, it still holds top rung on the leaderboard. And it’s good to hear we have something to look forward to when we return to Andalusia at the end of the year. You two should head down there again this winter - we could meet up and share a meal!
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2 weeks ago
We were really attracted to this staircase on the way up from the port. The striped pattern on the risers is from shadows cast by the fence.
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Ride stats today: 16 miles, 1,700’; for the tour, 64 miles, 4,900’

Today's ride: 16 miles (26 km)
Total: 64 miles (103 km)

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