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Pilgriminage Program For Site

   

PILGRIMAGE ON HORSEBACK in Capizzi & trip to ETNA 2016.

By horse with other 700 Sicilian riders into a “sacred and pagan” Sicilian ancient tradition and then the tour to ETNA.

General information on the riding trip

The trip permits to participate in one of the oldest, busiest and unknown pilgrimage on horseback of the world and to visit Nebrodi and Etna Parks plus the Sambuchetti Campanito and Lake Gurrida Natural Reserves. The number of riders involved in each year is more and more. Last time they were 740 participants coming from all over Sicily with their best mounts, tacks and riding dresses on horses of every breed and even on some mules and donkeys. More news about Pilgrimage in General Info below. The trip starts from Villa Rainò to match the date of pilgrimage with arrival and departures.

Pilgrimage to Etna Riding Experience.

The trip is of medium difficulties. There are some long trots and canters. It is for intermediate and advanced riders but also “advanced beginners” can participate.

Program Day by Day.

Program can vary depending weather conditions, trail situations, Park / Reserves decisions.

Day 1. Thursday 31 /08. From Catania Airport to Villa Rainò Country House (www.villaraino.it)

After arrival of planes, riders are moved to Villa Rainò Country House in around 1, 5 hours by minibus. Gourmet Dinner and night.

Day 2. Friday 01/09. From Villa Rainò to la Perla di Pancallo (www.laperladipancallo.it).

Will be followed the dry bed of a river (water only in winter) to reach the asphalt road that head up to the trail that crosses a Wind Turbine park. That asphalt road cannot be avoided and gives to horses an important water pool to drink. The large and long trail along the edge of the mountain where lie the wind turbine park will be done mostly at canter/gallop. Then will be followed the long dirty road that cross the Natural Reserve of Sambuchetti – Campanito, an oasis of woods that give shade almost all along the way. Picnic lunch is served before to exit from the Reserve. Then we will continue to reach Capizzi village to leave horses in a pasture with one of the guides. Riders will be moved by minibus to La Perla di Pancallo country house and riding centre. In these years there are works to enlarge the road that lie at exit of Nature reserve, so in the immediate vicinities there are “work in progress” and need to be careful in that area.

Gourmet dinne at La Perla di Pancallo.

After dinner: back to Capizzi by minibus for the ceremony of distribution of bread and wine of Saint Antony from Padova and statue of Saint taken down from altar. At end of ceremonies transfer in minibus to Perla di Pancallo for the night.

Day 3. Saturday 02/09: The Pilgrimage from Capizzi to Piano della Cannella and back to Capizzi.

Transfer to Capizzi by minibus (15 minutes) at 5,00. Visit at church to look at first riders preying and starting the Pilgrimage. Breakfast in a bar. At 7, 00 a.m. starting with horses from pasture to Piano Cannella (3 hours) with other local riders. Camp Mess on the mountains with crowd of pilgrims, outdoor barbecue with a family of local shepherd, siesta, return to Capizzi on horseback with all the other riders, parade on horseback along the village’s road with lot of public. Horses left in Capizzi. Transfer in minibus to Perla di Pancallo for dinner and night.

Hours of riding: 6

Asphalt: 1 km.

Day 4. Sunday 03/09. From La Perla di Pancallo to Rifugio del Parco Hotel www.rifugiodelparco.com .

From this moment the trip follows a normal Etna trip itinerary.

In the beginning of the day we will go up again to reach the mountain divide of NEBRODI Mountains. Some little asphalt leaving La Perla di Pancallo then only trails. The picnic lunch is done with sandwiches in a scenic location. Then will be cross a valley, a river and then up to the mountain divide. Then is a day almost all into woods of old beeches. Some parts of the way up to the mountains are without trail going up on the open side of mountains with wonderful landscapes. The Main Trail then will follow the divide in thick shaded woods and opens. Will be reached the only water pool available (not always with water). Then again in the woods till to reach the pass of FEMMINA MORTA (the Dead Female) where is the end of the day. Horses will stay during night in an electric fenced corral made by us around a water source with one of the guides sleeping with them. This permit to save at least 1 more hour of “nothing special” to ride to the stables of hotel. Riders will be transferred by minibus (6 minutes) to the hotel. To reach that corral need to follow for 1 km the asphalt road.

Dinner and night at Hotel Rifugio del Parco.

Horses are hosted in the electric fenced corral made by us around a water source in the wood close to the main trail.

Hours on the saddle: 6

Asphalt: 1, 5 km.

Day 5. Monday 04/09. From Rifugio del Parco Hotel to Tre Arie Refuge.

This is the day of Lakes. One after the other will be seen the Maulazzo, Biviere, Cartolari, and Tre Arie natural lakes. All of them absolutely not expected by all visitors in a Sicilian landscape. The trail goes on the mountain divide with landscapes on Eolian islands and Etna volcano. Very easy to meet along the trail “Sanfratellano’s horses” and “Little black pigs of Nebrodi” roaming free in the mountain pastures. Picnic will be done with sandwiches because impossible for the minibus to meet the group. After long trot and canters, at end of day will be reach the Tre Arie Refuge of the Forestry Service (Azienda Foreste Demaniali). This because the closest acceptable sleeping places are too far away. The refuge has Kitchen, 3 bathrooms, hot shower, 1 dining room, 2 sleeping rooms. All rooms have a big fireplace. Riders will be divided “girls & boys” and will sleep in 2 rooms in comfortable camp beds with air mattresses, linen, pillow and sleeping bag. Hot shower can be done one by one only before dinner, not in the morning. We will provide wide towel to each. A very tasty Gourmet pizza will be cook in the wood oven of the Refuge by Paolo (a pro pizza man in the past). It is an extraordinary experience of full immersion in nature. Who want can help and waiting dinner is possible to play cards and to chat around the fire place drinking a glass of red wine. It needs to go to sleep not late because in the morning wakeup call will arrive earlier than other days, at 7, 00, with noise made by forestry service people arriving to work. A normal breakfast is served inside the dining room.

Day 6. Tuesday 05 / 09. From TRE ARIE REFUGE to La Nave refuge (night at FUCINA del VULCANO Hotel (***)

www.fucinadivulcano.it )

Today is a shorter day to give rest to riders and horses before the last day on Etna that will be the longest. When all is packed in the minibus, we will start along a scenic trail that goes down to the valley between Etna and Nebrodi, where it spreads the Lake Gurrida Nature Reserve. From the top of a hill, the landscape of this valley with Etna is impressive. Lake Gurrida it is a seasonal swamp area created seasonally by the waters of Flascio river that flows down in spring and are blocked by very ancient lava fields (between the first to build up the volcano). The reserve will be opened for us by personnel of the Forestry Service (there are gates to stop cars and people without permission) with a special permission. Inside will be seen an area with an astonishing ancient primary eruption that is the northern limit of Etna. Here there are huge lava banks and a lava field full of “volcanic bubbles” (the guide Franco will explain this astonishing volcanic phenomenon). Picnic lunch is served just outside reserve. Out of the reserve’s gate will be used an ancient trail on lava that will allow to cross “Circumetnea railway” to go then up the volcano for around 2 hours to reach the Refuge La Nave (1400 meters) where horses are left for the night with one of guides. Riders will be moved by minibus to Fucina del Vulcano Hotel in 15 minutes. Dinner and night in Fucina del Vulcano. Horses are hosted in the electric fence corral build by us around the Refuge La Nave.

Hours of riding: 4

Asphalt: 0, 3 km.

Day 7. Wednesday 06 / 09. From MALETTO to 2800 meters on Etna and to Piano Provenzana (night at RAGABO Hotel (**). www.ragabo.it )

We will reach the large trail that surround Etna volcano at the quote of around 1.650 meters (was a very ancient road of woodcutter enlarged to allow firemen to reach highest part of Etna’s woods in case of fires). Along the trail can be seen various stages of colonization of lava by the vegetation and some of the endemic plants that are able to conquest again the soil. There are many old lava fields and lateral craters. After Mount Spagnolo crater (totally covered by woods) the trail cut the 1981 lava fields and the lateral craters that made a 3 months long eruption that almost hit the town of Randazzo, visible in the valley. At the very “last minute” the lava went on the right of the town stopping close to Alcantara River. Cutting at canter and trot woods of pines, oaks, birches the wide trail arrives at a junction. If weather and visibility condition allows will be follow the trail on the right going up to reach Mount Timpa Rossa crater and close by craters of the eruption of 2002 (at around 2.000 meters of altitude). Picnic will be made at Timpa Rossa refuge at 1800 meters with good sandwiches because are not allowed cars into the A area of Etna volcano. Then, if visibility conditions allow, will be crossed the craters and the lava flows of 2002 along a very narrow trail then we will go up to the higher craters of this eruption which are at 2500 meters of altitude. The trail on the border of these craters is impressive! Then, if weather permit, we will follow the wide trail that goes on top of Etna reaching around 2800 meters to look at landscapes from that height. Then we will go back down to reach Piano Provenzana at 1900 where the trip will end up. Riders will be moved by minibus (7 minutes) to Hotel Ragabo, a nice mountain chalet.

Along the main trail is possible to see the low valley where flows the Alcantara river, famous for his Gorges. They cannot be reached by horseback because heavy car traffic and too much asphalt.

Dinner and night at Ragabo Hotel. Horses are transferred at lower altitude (2 hours by truck) to pass the night and then moved back to our base camp in Madonie next early morning.

Hours on horseback: 6 / 7

Asphalt: 0 km

Day 8. Thursday 07/09. Transfer from RAGABO Hotel to airport.

Depending departure of first flight will be given a normal breakfast (even very early) and then done the transfer by minibus to Catania airport. Who has a late plane can visit Catania or to ask for a private transfer by car. The cost is 100€ (see also Transfer policy down).

End of services.

The formula is full board, all included. Arrival on Thursday, leaving on Thursday. Cannot be different to match properly pilgrimage with rest of the trip to Etna.

8 days, 7 nights, 6 days on horseback

Departures assured with 4.

Maximum number of riders: 10

Insurances.

Each rider MUST have his own personal insurance for damages along the ride. In case of incident the insurance will cover all costs if rider need to be transferred and cured in hospital and may be moved at home like Europe assistance or other similar traveller /outdoors insurances.

Cancellation Policy.

+ 30 days before arrival: full refund

30 to 21 days before: 30% fees

20 to 8 days before: 50% fees

7 to 2 days before: 75% fees

1 day before: 90% fees

no-show: 100% fees

Airports for arrival / depart.

Arrival and departure from Catania.

Transfer policy:

Arrivals. Riders can arrive in the morning and afternoon but they need to be out with bags no later than 17, 30 because the transfer to Villa Rainò is around 1, 5 hours long and need to arrive at dinner time. We suggest to riders to try to arrive between 10 and 15 to do not have a too long “transfer day” especially because planes may have delays and if the arrival time is later and there is a delay the “transfer day” will be really long. If a delay in afternoon flight will cause a too late transfer (let say effective arrival out with bags after 19), for the riders in delay or arriving later it can be arranged a private transfer. It will cost 150€.

If the times of arrivals will allow, we will do with riders a guided short visit of Catania historical centre with a Sicilian fast food lunch (price not included in the package). If not, we will wait planes reaching with already arrived riders a shady comfortable area (in full summer will be reached a beach) not far from airport. Camp chairs and fresh water will be available for the riders. We want to have mobile phone number of all riders to have the best organization of arrivals and transfers. Operators must give to all riders my mobile +39 340 6883596.

Departures: All riders will be transferred from Ragabo hotel to Catania airport in one trip depending time of FIRST departure flight. A full breakfast will be served at whatever early hour of the day before transfer (thanks to availability of Ragabo personnel). If riders have a very later flight they can visit Catania on their own. In this case we will leave them at Catania railway station where they can leave bags in the bag deposit. We will give those indications about what to visit and where to have a good lunch. From Catania railway station starts the buses that go to Airport (every 30 minutes). Cost is 1, 5 €. Time of run: from the bus stop in front of railway station time of the run is 1 hour. From bus stop at 50 meters from Railway station is 30 minutes. We will explain to riders where this last bus stop is (very easy to reach). If riders want to have a private transfer by car at the hour of the day they want this can be easily arranged. The cost is 100€.

Lost Bags.

Luckily it happen very rarely but it can happen and it happened. We suggest always to travel wearing the most important riding items as pants, shoes and to keep the helmet as carry on into hand bag. Like this damages will be a lot less in case of bags lost.

being a trip that change sleeping place every night:

Need to explain this at lost and found and give the Franco& Paolo phone numbers to fix in which hotel to move the bag lost and found.

Franco: 340 6883596

Paolo: +39 3478125470

We will try to help as much possible riders to receive back their lost and found bag before the end of the trip but all depend ONLY by the lost and found office of airport which, almost all the time, do not answer at their phone number.

About Food.

We like to affirm that our trip is also a gourmet culinary experience on horseback. All dinners menus and restaurants were studied and choose to give to riders a real top Sicilian food experience. All recipes are made with “Zero kilometres” products coming just from the area. So are used only very fresh local vegetables, meats, cheese, wines, and breads. Even mineral water mostly comes from the Madonie Mountains and Etna volcano. All dinners have 4 courses: entry, pasta dish, main course, dessert and /or fruit. Local red wine and mineral water (or spring water) is included.

The barbecue with the shepherd’s family is “something” for quality, quantity and kind of food, practically all kinds of meats and lots of classic Sicilian family food.

Breakfast: continental breakfast, juice, croissant and cakes (where available). Those who prefer a savoury breakfast with boiled egg or cold cuts and cheese have just to advise in advance.

Picnic Lunch. All picnic lunches are cold with local fresh bread, local cut meats, cheeses, typical Sicilian products like olives, dried tomatoes, mushrooms and greens with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and salad, fruit. Menu change almost every day. In two picnics lunch (day 4 and Day 6) the minibus cannot reach riders so will be eaten sandwiches along the way. Our minibus transport a big gazebo to protect riders during picnics if need shade or if it is raining.

Beverages.

Drinks included at picnic lunches: water, local red wine and Diet or Zero Coke.

Drinks included at dinner: mineral or spring water, local red wine.

Other drinks: If customers will like to find at picnic lunch /dinner cold beer or other special beverages this will be provided paying their costs. The Customers will ask what they like and at end of trip they will pay the bill.

If they would like to drink beer or other beverages in the country house before or after dinner they can order them on the number of room or their name and pay directly to the hosts before leaving.

Special food needs.

Those with particular food requirements (vegetarian, allergies, various) must advise at booking to have individually personalised food.

Picnic Lunches.

Picnic lunch menu is every day different.

Products used are locals and typical of the area.

Picnic lunch in day 1,2,5 is served on tables with chairs, rigid plates, glasses, forks and knives (NO PLASTIC TO DUMP IS USED). In days ,4,6 it is impossible to meet the group with minibus and will be served sandwiches with cold cuts, cheese, lettuce transported in the saddle bags. In day 3 is served a carry on rise salad. Picnics sites and menus can change depending daily conditions.

In February and March is often a hot lunch, cooked on the spot.

At picnic we provide a wide gazebo to give to rider’s shade or protect from rain

At picnic lunch we offer at least 1-hour siesta (weather permitting) and at least one blanket for rider to be spread on ground.

Daily Time table (indicative)

Breakfast: from 8

Ready at the horses: 9, 15 /9,30

Departure: 9, 30 / 10,00

Picnic lunches: between 12, 30 and 13, 30 depending different places. Stop can vary from 1 hour to 1, 30-hour siesta time included

Dinners: 19, 30 / 20,00

Single rooms management.

Because some accommodations are small in number of rooms to make manageable and easier the management of single room requests, for ALL trips of 2015, the single room’s request are managed as follow:

The customers will pay the 25 € single room supplement DIRECTLY TO US at end of trip depending the real number of nights with a single room available in that precise trip.

This because may be in some accommodations the single room will be not possible to have it. In that case the people have to share room with one other rider.

Guides.

With groups till 6 will be along the trail one riding guide only. Plus 6 riders will be 2 guides.

One more guide will drive minibus all along the trip. He is also a rider, helping to groom and saddling and a spare guide in case of any need (even guides can be sick, have incidents or any kind of problem and can need to be substituted).

Photography.

The guide Franco Barbagallo (www.francobarbagallo.com) was for 30 years a top globetrotting photographer. When he is guiding a trip as interpretive guide or third guide and/or interpreter, he will be more than happy to take photos with camera of riders for souvenirs during the trip, to give advices and tips to make better souvenir pictures.

Interpretation along the trip.

Franco Barbagallo wrote as a nature journalist many books and guides about Nature parks and reserves of Sicily. Along the way and at dinners will be given to riders lots of news about history, flora, fauna, geology, traditions, food and local products. All questions will be welcomed.

Each rider at departure of trip will receive a very detailed day by day program with lots of news and the Map of the trip.

Communications.

The official language of the trip is English. Franco speaks relatively very good and fluent English and also good French and he try to use it in case of French riders that are not speaking English. Paolo speaks a very Basic English. To help guides to have a better communication and avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations is VERY important that communications are on both ways: from guides to riders and from riders to guides. So if explanations and news are not fully understood or clear or not completely listen, or riders have any question or need more clarifications and details, we ask to all our riders to ask, to tell, to talk. To be active and not passive in communications. This especially in situation that need to change program, trail, sleeping or lunch places or whatever it can happen during a horse trek in the nature. If there is any kind of problem about horses, food, accommodations, whatever other aspect of the trip need that riders make it VERY CLEAR, IMMEDIATELLY AND ALWAYS, talking right away with guides.

Mother language English speaking riders have always to remember that they are not travelling with mother language guides and riders. So it will be kind to use simple talking, better speaking slowly, avoiding slang or idiomatic forms impossible to be known and understood by not mother language speaking people and guides.

Speed of the trip.

Outfitters that do not want to exploit horses and give to riders fun normally use along the way 40/50% at walk, 30/40 % at trot, 20/30% at canter/gallop, even if terrain will allow more canter/gallop. There are some trips in deserts, plain areas with more speed BUT horses normally are exploited and “changed quickly” at end of season. We do not exploit our horses, we invest a lot of time and efforts in their training to became PRO trekking horses and we want that they stay with us for all their carer so we follow the above normal speed rule about speed.

TranSiciliana to Etna is a mountain trip reaching 2.000 meters of altitude but, as a mountain trip, can be considered a really very fast trip. Every day there are really many trots and long canters. The fastest day are 4,5,6. All our riders were happy about speed. This year in 2 trips we had to cancel many canters for the weather and trail conditions after a terrible winter but, in normal conditions, this is a really fast mountain trip.

Daily Hours of riding.

The most frequent questions during a trip are: “how long to arrive”, “how long is the ride”. Riders need to have always in mind that the hours of riding depend by very many components that can change even drastically at any trip and any day: weather conditions, state of the trails, how many stops are done for pictures, for explanations, for toilette stops, how many and how long stretches of trot and gallop can be done depending kind of riders, their fitness, state of the ground found that day. It can be easy for all that reasons that same ground can be covered in even very different times depending daily situations. So for guides it is not so easy to answer giving precise times. The times on horseback indicated cannot include delays caused by horses injures, tired riders not able to ride at designated speed, unexpected surprises along the trails and any other unexpected occurs.

Is very important to explain this to riders before departures: The hours of riding indicated in the program are just to give idea thinking at an average situation in normal conditions. Answers about how long need to arrive cannot be also precise but can give just a rough indication.

ALL ABOUT HORSES & RIDERS.

Personal Equipment:

Helmets.

We decided to have Helmet MANDATORY ON THE RIDE. SAFETY FIRST! A really stupid fall that can happen even to the best rider can transform the trip miserable.

We strongly suggest carrying personal helmets. Helmet is a personal item for size, hygiene and model. IF someone do not have and do not want to buy we can rent them at 25 € per person per trip (payment here before departure). IMPORTANT: Who wants to rent a helmet has to advice in advance at booking before departure and give us size in centimetres.

We will be crossing mountain areas at heights of up to 2.000 meters. It is mandatory for all participants to have the following personal equipment:

- Serious, Good and Complete rain gear consisting of a long waterproof coat, waterproof over pants, rubber over shoes, water proof gloves. Waterproof helmet. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. IN THE MOUNTAINS IT CAN RAIN with sun at low levels.

- Dress in layers. Temperature during the day that can be anything from hot to really cold depending on the conditions, wind and/if snow. Clothing requirements vary from a shirt all the way up to a wind jacket with pile.

- glovers

- waterproof helmet or plastic cover on the helmet

- waterproof shoes. We suggest NOT wearing any kind of long riding boots. We DO suggest short riding shoes, short or long chaps. No running shoes or sneakers.

- Sun glasses.

- Anti UV solar cream at least factor 20 (30 or 50 for north European people)

- We prefer that any rider bring his own water bottle for hygiene.

- Personal baggage will be moved by car. There are no weights limits at the bags and their number.

Ear plugs.

Sleeping in countryside or nature it may happen to have during night some noises like: wind, rain, storms, lightings, barking dogs (this due we travel in shepherd’s country), snoring of room partner, early shower from other riders in other rooms, toilettes noises from other rooms, riders going to sleep later, noises coming from other guests of accommodation, and so long. Because it is so important to have a good sleep, we suggest to riders that has a light sleep to take with them always ear plugs “just in case”.

Assistance to riders.

If riders need assistance to mount or dismount for age, size, weight or any other problem we will give them full assistance. Other riders will mount and dismount always on their own following the rule to try to find as much as possible natural mounting blocks along trails and at beginning and end of the day to save backs of horses. Horses do not move and are easily moved to mounting spot so we never use to help a normal rider to mount or dismount if not needed. We ask to all riders that may need assistance to tell us about their eventual problems.

Grooming / Saddling:

Basic grooming and all saddling/unsaddling is made by the guides.

Before departure of the trip will be shown how to prepare the horse to be quickly unsaddled by the guides and how to prepare the horse for picnic stops.

Riders have to clean every day only snaffle bit at end of the day, girth at end of the day, feet of horses in the morning. We groom very well only the areas where tacks will go on. Riders may complete to clean/groom their horse if they like at their wish before departure.

Change of injured horses

If one horse has a problem that will not permit it to continue the trip he will be changed during the night. Unless really extreme cases (never happened before) horses cannot be changed during the day. In four years of activity we had to change horses only 3 times for some health / injure problems and were done always at night.

First aid for riders.

One guide has in the saddle bag a complete first AID kit for all small injuries that can happen during a trek in wilderness (bruises, cuts, bumps after a fall) with: spray for ice, Voltaren, Anti pains, straps, oxygenated water, a spray to cover cuts with an antiseptic layer that isolate the skin from air, haemostatic and antibiotic creams, elastic bandages. In the minibus there are more medicines for other eventual disturbs.

First Aid for horses.

The same first aid kit can be used for horses during the trail for small scratches and cuts that can happen easily during a trip. Plus, there is the classic antiseptic antibiotic blue spray. In the minibus we have horse’s antiseptics, antinflammatory, as creams or shots.

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