Cavagrande is a protected Natural Reserve in the province of Syracuse (Siracusa), located in the southeast corner of Sicily (the largest Mediterranean island, just off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”, and World famous for the movie The Godfather).
The reserve is known for having one of Europe’s biggest canyons, which is about 10 km long and 300 metres deep. The whole area is surrounded by green colours, ponds, natural pools, waterfalls, limestone steep walls, birds and tiny lizards.
If you like nature, panoramic views and trekking, this is the right place to go. The whole journey includes a beautiful road trip uphill (by car) until you reach 500 metres over sea level, then a medium-level footpath downhill until you reach the Cassible river with its natural pools/lakes.
How to get there?
It is located 12 km from the little town of Avola, and along the way, you will pass the even smaller town of Avola Antica, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1963. Most of the road is uphill so it can take between 30 and 50 minutes. You may also encounter tour buses so the transit is not always clear.
There are no buses nor public transport from Avola or any other city, so you will need to hire a car or a tour. Just make sure you get to the right place, as some sat navs can take you to a different spot in the park. When you get there you will find a parking lot called “Parcheggio laghetti di cavagrande” and a restaurant called “Pizzeria Cavagrande“.
The map below shows the route from Avola town.
And if you zoom in you will see the parking lot, the restaurant and also the main attraction at the end of the trail: Laghetti Cavagrande. The image below illustrates this as well.
Trails and difficulty
The three main points of access (Scala Cruci, Scala di Mastra Ronna and the Mezza Costa) are now closed to the public. This closure happened after a severe fire in June 2014, which destroyed many hectares of vegetation making the trails unsafe. So far the authorities of Syracuse have not been able to find funding for the trails restoration. This information is provided on the official website.
The only officially accessible trail is “Prisa-Carrubella”, or simply Carrubella. The thousands of tourists, unaware of the order of the Forestry, who daily go to the reserve are rightfully closed access to the main path (Scala Cruci), but most of the time no one warns them of the existence of this path. More information is available here.
However; tourists insist on using the most beautiful path, Scala Cruci, at their own risk, and so we did. On the top of the hill, and at the start if Scala Cruci trail, there is a sign stating the closure. But a couple of meters behind there is a small ladder to walk over the fence and take the footpath to the stunning Avola lake.
So the footpath is comfortable, well indicated and has spaces to rest, including some benches. It is also quite steep in some areas, but not too much. It takes around between 1-1.5 hours to walk down, and about 2-2.5 hours to get back. The total distance from the top to Laghetti Cavagrande is 1700 metres.
It is advisable to avoid the hottest hours (11am to 3pm), especially in summer. The compensation for all the effort will be a relaxing swim in the refreshing lake. It seems to be a common destination for picnics, so you will probably find locals having paninis and beer, as we did.
What should I bring?
- Trainers: the hike is not difficult, but you occasionally need to jump or squeeze between rocks. Flip flops are not ideal.
- Water: depending on the season the weather can be very hot. So one or two bottles per person at least. You can always buy at the shop on the top of the hill.
- Camera: of course you will want to take pictures.
- Water shoes/sandals: this could also be essential if you don’t like to walk on rocks while you enter one of the natural pools. If you don’t mind rocky beaches/rivers, you don’t need them.
- Food: snacks and/or fruits can be a good option as well.
- Dry clothes and/or towel: you may want to consider this as well. Probably having some dry clothes in the car is a good idea.