The natural reserves in the province of Catania
They are ideal environments for seeing caves, for bird watching and for lovers of nature photography. There are numerous things to see for those who love geology.
The Bosco di Santo Pietro is located in the province of Catania , between Mazzarone and Caltagirone.
It is a splendid wooded area, which extends for over 2500 hectares: the second largest natural reserve, after the Ficuzza wood, in the Palermo area. Already subjected to a restriction decree in 1991, the Reserve was established for all purposes in 1999.
The institution was necessary to protect the enormous variety of flora and fauna of this remnant of the ancient Sicilian wood system made up of ancient cork oaks .
In fact, it has a great variety of plant species, splendid giant cork oaks, but also relevant old oaks, downy oaks, holm oaks, pines . The undergrowth is given by olive, hawthorn, heather, strawberry trees, myrtle, where many small mammals find refuge.
Along the stream that feeds the reserve, we find poplars and willows, an ideal refuge for gray herons, egrets and kingfisher . Inside the reserve, in the La Grace district, a wildlife recovery center specializes in the recovery of tortoises .
Declared a Reserve in 1999, the Timpa is located at the foot of Acireale, in the province of Catania, a long lava ridge that for almost 7 km drops down sheer to the sea, even more than a hundred meters high, covered with ivy, euphorbia and carob trees.
Together with the Lachea island, it constitutes a natural open-air laboratory in which the geovulcanic history of Sicily is written. Of particular importance are some sections close to the coastal strip, where high basaltic colonnades , similar to those found in the Alcantara Gorges , represent the crystallization path of the lavas in contact with the water. This is the case of the Grotta delle Colonne , which can only be reached by sea.
Several birds of prey nest in the area of the reserve, and undisturbed dense vegetation develops luxuriantly thanks to the springs that pour into the Ionian Sea. The path of the Chiazzette, reachable stone walkway, is a seventeenth-century path that winds down to Santa Maria La Scala , a picturesque and peaceful seaside village.
Along the zigzag path, we will meet the Tocco fortress, a fortress to defend Acireale in the seventeenth century, during the Spanish domination, from which a cannon shot was fired to warn of danger. Carob, broom, olive, mastic and lemon will be a characterizing note of this walk .
The "Complesso Immacolatelle and Micio Conti " nature reserve, covering about 70 hectares, is a complex of caves of great naturalistic, archaeological and historical importance .
The reserve was established in 1998, the centuries-old anthropogenic presence is testified by the typical agricultural landscape with vineyards built by terraces, pedestrian paths, stone cones, open-air canalization systems and small rural buildings in lava stone. Of some testimonial importance is the Guardiola Cantarella, a Spanish sentry box from the 17th century.
The volcanic caves consist of a lava tunnel with an insulating pipeline that allows the lava to reach considerable distances from the point of emission, in fact the lava flowing on the ground creates solid lateral embankments that growing upwards join together forming a roof.
The Immacolatelle and Micio Conti complex consists of a system of eight volcanic cavities with a total length of about 1.5 km, located within a lava field, the caves are accessed through entrances created by the collapse of the vaults.
In the Immacolatelle, these collapses divided a single lava tunnel into several parts, giving rise to a complex of four caves with roped lava adorning the pavement.
In the Grotta dei Tedeschi , a "cascade" of root systems of the overlying vegetation hangs from the vault. Instead, inside the Micio Conti there are particular streaks on the walls left by the passage of the lava and small recast stalactites on the vault.
The wide diversification of the habitats present within the reserve allows the development of numerous animal species such as: Quercino, Shrew, Weasel, Fox, Leopard Colubro and Painted Discoglossus , endemic to Sicily. Even the avifauna is represented by important species such as buzzard, owl, Sicilian rock partridge and Averla capirossa .
Finally, the numerous lava flow caves are inhabited by species extremely adapted to the particular environmental conditions such as the greater horseshoe and the miniopter.
Straddling the provinces of Catania and Syracuse , the Simeto Oasis was established in 1984 to stem man's cementing work, to allow migratory birds to winter, and to recover the original plant population.
The mouth of the Simeto today represents a humid area ideal for sedentary birds , but also for those migratory species that move along the north-south axis of Europe. In the horizontal landscape interspersed with sand dunes, lake plants and reeds grow, but not only.
A long path runs alongside the watercourse. In the marshes behind the dunes it will be good to approach with discretion so as not to disturb the birds (marsh harrier, mallards, woodcocks, ...) and the fauna. In the water, mullets and freshwater fish swim undisturbed.
Tamerici, rushes, willows , but also lemon and glasswort accompany us. Along the banks grow mastic, lily of the beaches, cornflowers .
Once from the much wider riverbed, this river was in danger of disappearing due to excessive water withdrawals, if in 1984, thanks to an initiative of private individuals and an incessant press campaign, the Region had not proclaimed its environmental protection.
The watercourse is just a couple of kilometers long. It comes from the springs known as the Quadare, that is the caldare, which bubble up from the subsoil . The exceptional coldness of the waters of this course - 12 degrees - is due to the melting of the snows of Etna. This peculiarity allows the life of a typically Nordic plant, the ranunculetus also present on the Alcantara, another river with particularly cold waters.
There is the papyrus , a unique case in Sicily together with the Ciane of Syracuse.
Lachea Island , consisting mainly of basalt rocks, is the largest of the Cyclops Islands , and is of volcanic origin linked to the first submarine eruptions in the Gulf of Acitrezza, dating back to about 500,000 years ago.
According to legend, the origin is due to the boulders thrown by Polyphemus against the ship of Ulysses-Nobody .
The archipelago of the Cyclops represents a site of great naturalistic and archaeological interest, in fact, evidence of human presence dating back to prehistoric times was also found on the island of Lachea. In 1896 the senator of the Kingdom Luigi Gravina granted the right of use over the island and the seven adjacent rocks for scientific and experimental studies to the Rector of the University of Catania. Thus a small but precious fish museum was born and in 1998 the Integral Natural Reserve was established.
The fauna richness of the Cyclops bottoms is given by the presence of numerous fish and all the invertebrate groups.
Lachea Island offers refuge to the Mediterranean Herring Gull, the Common Gull and the Cormorant.
The flora of the Lachea island is essentially made up of plants selected by the past presence of man or linked to a substrate rich in salts due to the proximity of the sea. The presence of some endemic species distributed in Sicily and southern Italy is significant.
The Simeto Lava Gorge Reserve embraces the Municipalities of Centuripe, Adrano, Randazzo and Bronte. Established to protect the complex geological system of volcanic origin, it offers the visitor at the same time a dense Mediterranean scrub set in a series of lakes and waterfalls on the Simeto river.
Presence of oleander, white and yellow asphodels, rushes, poppy and tansy, holidays, borage.
Nearby, the so-called "Saracens" bridge, from the 1st century. dc, is a mighty polychrome architecture that certainly deserves a visit.