A demanding stage in terms of length (medium altitude difference), with a very difficult first part due to the poor state of the track, but which offers moments of great beauty inside the Bosco di Malabotta (with its “patriarchs”, centuries-old trees).
We reach the foot of Etna, the great volcano, in the Alcantara Valley.
The first part of the route (in the San Basilio area) is poorly passable; the path is very uneven, poorly maintained and overgrown with plants.
The signposting, especially in the first part, is sporadic and imprecise: it is good to follow the GPS track.
We leave the centre of Novara di Sicilia on the road towards the cemetery. After passing it, we take the road on the left after a bend and then the path on the right. After a few hundred metres we have to cross a private winery (through a gate), a very complicated stretch that we have to manage on sight (the signposting is very confusing) and finally return to the asphalt road.
We stay on the road until we reach the long bridge over the Novara stream; shortly after, near the road junction, we take the path to the left and thus begin the climb (about 600 m height difference). The first section is quite steep and the path becomes increasingly fragile, especially in the passages that go through the hairpin bends of the streets of San Basilio. Finally we reach the carriage road along the ridge, which is very passable. After a few kilometres of gentle ups and downs, alternating between wooded stretches and others that are very breezy (with a beautiful view of Rocca Novara), we skirt Monte Cerreto from the north and, after passing through a concrete subway, we turn left to enter the Malabotta Wood with its magnificent centuries-old trees (the "patriarchs", turkey and downy oaks), always staying on a comfortable carriage road.
We continue southwards and, after Pizzo Palo, start the slow descent (about 700 m) towards Mojo Alcantara, with Etna in front of us, surrounded by Mediterranean scrub, wild broom (known as 'scannabecchi' because of the long thorns that sometimes pierce the throats of ravenous goats) and oregano. Finally, we cross the Ruggirotto stream with its waterfalls from above (if we are careful, we can also see an old Roman bridge). After reaching the Malvagna cemetery, we return to the asphalt road. We cross the village, go around Monte Mojo (629 m, the lowest crater of Etna) and reach Mojo Alcantara by a country road, not far from the impressive gorges of the same name.
The Riserva Naturale Orientata Bosco di Malabotta (Bosco di Malabotta Nature Reserve) is a protected area of 3,000 hectares spread over five municipalities. The name apparently derives from the fact that a local baron lost it in a game of Baccarat.
It was established in 1997 and includes one of the oldest forests in Sicily, where you can admire centuries-old oaks more than two metres in diameter, known as “patriarchs”. Its altitudinal extension, which ranges from 700 to 1,300 metres, allows for exceptional ecological diversity.
The town of Mojo Alcantara owes its name to Monte Mojo, a volcanic cone that is 709 metres high and 700 metres in diameter. Its base is outside the Etnea volcanic edifice: it has no part in its conduction, only in the magma basin.
Some 18th century scholars believed that an eruption of Monte Mojo produced the lavas of the Alcantara gorges, which extend to the sea and form what is now Capo Schisò, where the Greeks founded the colony of Naxos. Later studies have shown that the eruptions of Mojo in the past did not produce lava but large quantities of pyroclastic material, so that the Alcantara lavas are the result of eruptions from other eruptive centres.
It seems that the name “Mojo” is related to the Arabic word moiah, which refers to the clear and abundant waters of Alcantara.
An important attraction of the area is the Parco Fluviale dell'Alcantara (Alcantara River Park).
The river, one of the most important on the island, has its source in the Nebrodi mountains near Floresta and flows into the Capo Schisò area. The flowing waters have modelled the lava flows, giving life to the extraordinary Alcantara Gorges, characterised by their pentagonal and hexagonal prismatic conformation. The basaltic rock walls present themselves with the most disparate dispositions: “organ pipes” (the most regular ones), “woodpile” (arranged horizontally), “harp” (slightly arched) and “rosette” (radial course).
The gorges develop into a long natural canyon up to 25 metres high and only two metres wide at its narrowest point. The most striking part is certainly the one at Fondaco Motta.
The name of the river comes from the term al qantarah, meaning “arch or bridge” - in reference to the presence of a Roman bridge. The Alcantara valley has been inhabited since the late Copper Age and had a strategic position in the Middle Ages, linking Messina and Palermo.
The fertile volcanic soils have always been a place for growing grapes: in recent years, natural agriculture has exploded there.
Indeed, the lava soils allow for cultivation that requires less human intervention. In recent decades, the Etna area has considerably increased the number of vineyards and wine cellars and has seen the birth of DOC Etna - in the red, rosé and white varieties. The main grape varieties that make up Etna DOC are Carricante, Catarratto Bianco, Minnella Bianca and Trebbiano for the whites; among the reds, the protagonists are Nerello Cappuccio and Nerello Mascalese.
Mojo red cauliflower is one of the area’s indigenous products.
It is a local variety with a distinct flavour, favoured by the temperature variations in Piedmont. Another typical product is the Peach of Mojo, a fruit celebrated at the Peach Festival and used in a variety of preparations: ice cream, cakes, jams or simply dipped in wine.
Between the area of Messina and Giardini Naxos, the Interdonato lemon is grown, a variety obtained by grafting lemon and citron.
In 1860, Colonel Giovanni Interdonato gave birth to this hybrid, which has become a real rarity and is now protected by the Slow Food Praesidia. Its organoleptic characteristics are remarkable: its sweet taste, due to its low acidity, makes it an excellent ingredient for salads.
B&B L'Arco dei Sogni, in Malvagna. Tel. +39331 367 0080
B&B Etna Monte Mojo, in Mojo Alcantara. Tel. +39371 479 3471
B&B Antica Cisterna, in Mojo Alcantara (just outside the village, on the western slope of Mount Mojo). Tel. +39340 326 2024
The starting point is accessible by car.
The starting point can be reached by bus, starting from the city of Messina and changing at Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto.
Here is the LINK, to check the timetable.
The starting point is NOT reachable by train.
Va' Sentiero is a grassroot project, thanks to the spontaneous contribution oft housands of people.
Even the most complicated dream, a 7,000km uphill dream,
can be achieved... together.