MADONIE DETAILED GENERAL INFO

GENERAL INFO ON PARK AND AREA.

Protection of nature in Sicily.

Sicily has 5 Natural Park and 77 Nature Reserves. 14% of the island is protected. Not too many regions has that in Europe.

Madonie Park General Introduction.

Geology.

Madonie Mountains are called the” Dolomites of Sicily “for their unique carbonate limestone rock formations. Till the XVIII century the MADONIE were part of the NEBRODI. Was the French scientist Deodat de Dolomieu, who discovered the special limestone of the mountains in the Alps that had from him their name, that saw the analogies between the limestone of Madonie with the Dolomites and the huge difference between the rest of Sicilian mounts. Madonie were the first mountains to come up from the very ancient ocean existing before the formation of Sicily. They are very rich of fossils of ancient sea creatures. Madonie are divided in three main mountain complexes: Mount Carbonara, Mount Cervi, and Mount Pizzo di Pilo. The highest mountain is Carbonara with his 1979 meters. This mount is characterized by very many depressions (doline) formed by the action of snow with limestone which is slowly dissolved in spring when snow became water. Looking at the Carbonara from a helicopter it looks as was bombed by war planes for the hundreds of these natural depressions existing. On the bottom of “doline” there is a very particular micro-clime that permits the life of many species of endemic plants. All water collected by doline goes inside the mountain through some fixtures in the rocks called “swallowers” (Inghiottitoi) and it is saved by a complicate system of underwater lakes and channels that give water in hundreds of springs at lower altitudes all year round. That’s why in the Madonie villages there is always plenty of source water all year round.

Botany.Few people know that before the Romans conquered Sicily it was covered for 92 % by primary forests. Deforestation started with the Romans during the three Punic wars with Cartagine. They established two navy ship yard on the coast down the still existing villages of Caronia (Nebrodi area) and Pollina (Madonie area). They used the centennial oaks to build the ship bodies and the very tall Abies nebrodensis (Fir of Nebrodi) for the mast trees of the war boats. They cut this fir almost till extinction. Only 22 of them survived in a narrow and secluded valley of Madonie. Nowadays the Abies nebrodensis is reintroduced in the Nebrodi and Madonie by the Sicilian Forestry Service (Azienda Foreste Demaniali).

Madonie host an enormous amount of botanic species (5500 of the 6500 of all Italy) with many of them endemic of the place (35). There are also very many species of wild orchids that attract scientists and foreign orchids lovers. There are many endemic species and, inside the doline, some very little endemic plants with a cycle of life very short. There are in the Park around 200 the species of orchids. Along the trails used is easy to see many interesting or endemic plants like Genista cupani, Astragalus, Cystus, Crocus, Primula, and so long. Madonie host the most wide botanical biodiversity of Italy. In Piano Pomo there is the most ancient and wide wood of holly trees of Europe, not far away there are some of the oldest oaks of Europe. Till 1500 meters, mountains are mainly covered by mixed woods from five different species of oaks, higher starts huge woods of beeches. All the hills now occupied by fields of hey and wheat was covered by oak forests with secular trees cut down by the Romans. From the second century B.C Sicily became the “granary of Rome” and the homes of Rome were build mainly with wood coming from Sicily and Calabria.

Wildlife.Wildlife is also rich despite were extinct all the big games like elk (during the XVII century), bear (Neolithic), wolf (1959), lynx (late Neolithic). Deer were extinct during XVIII century but reintroduced around 10 years ago. It is easy to see from horseback deer, wild boars, Sicilian partridges (and endemic specie called Alectoris grecae whitacheri) a nesting couple of King eagles, many species of day and night bird of prey. It was reintroduced around 5 years ago the vulture (Gypsus gypsus) that is easy to be seen in the sky exploring the territory looking for carcasses of cows and sheep. Very elusive and difficult to see are wild cats and martens.

People and Traditions.

Madonie were used by the men from the Paleolithic times. There are some grottoes that show signs of their use as home by the men from that time. They were reaching the mountains in spring to hunt and collect wild plants and wood. From the Neolithic started the activity of breeding sheep for milking and meat. Before the huge emigrations to Americas and Australia after the world wars, were bred on Madonie more than 100.000 sheep! The life style of the shepherds did not change too much from the Neolithic times. The same was the hut used (Pagghiaru) made by a circle or a square of stones 1 meter high, then a roof made with trunks of oaks and branches. The same was the organizations of the shepherd work place (Marcatu) constituted by some huts, then the stone corrals for the sheep, the corral for the lambs, the working area to make milk. Before the arrival of 4x4 cars the shepherds were living in summer up in the mountains for long periods, going home a couple of days every some weeks. Today the breeding of cows, sheep and goats to make meat and cheese it is still very important in the local economy. Tourism became more and more important in the last 15 years. The principal traditional cheeses made are: “Pecorino” (with sheep milk), “Caciocavallo” (with cow and goat or sheep), “Ricotta” (from cow or sheep or goat) some goat cheese. The method it is the same from Neolithic times, using the dried and cured interior of intestine of a lamb as “cheese maker” and traditional tools made with some specific woods.

Madonie people are very gentle, hospitable and hard workers used to live traditionally, especially in the less touristic villages as Isnello, Polizzi, Petralia Soprana and Gangi.

History.

Madonie area saw Sicani and Siculi people living mostly on the coast interacting later with Phoenicians and then Greeks for commerce. The Rock of Cefalù was always a very important strategic and sacred point with his megalithic remain dated from the IX century B.C. The location was then enlarged by Greeks and conquered by Romans which started the exploitation of the forests of Madonie. Petra Lileum (Petralia Soprana) was founded by the Romans as main center in the interior to control the cultivations after deforestation. Pollina was a Roman fortified village on top the hill where lie the actual village. Just down on the coast there was the shipyard where were build the war ships used in the 3 Punic wars against Cartagine. In the IX century A.C. Moors coming from today Tunisia Libya Algeria conquered Sicily and Madonie saw the presence of many Arabic villages destroyed by the Normans in the XII century A.C. when they liberated all Sicily from Muslims. The golden age of Madonie was under Frederic II, German Emperor of Sacred Roman Empire. He choose Palermo as capital of the Emperor and he developed there all arts and culture of the time. Madonie were domain of one very important family of Feudal Lords with Norman ancestors: the Ventimiglia. They had a sort of kingdom inside the Empire. They were the only one to have permission from Emperor to make their own coins (In Castelbuono still exist the Money factory in the central square). After the conquest of Madonie (XII century) they were living in the Castle they build in Geraci. In the XIV century they preferred to move at a lower altitude with a better clime building a Manor around an ancient Arabian Tower. Around this new castle was born Castelbuono (which mean: Good Castle). In each village of Madonie there was a castle of Ventimiglia family to host them during their temporary visits. In Castelbuono castle, in the XV century, many years before Naples and Versailles, was founded by the Ventimiglia the first Horse Riding Academy of history: The Academy of the Star. The best horses and trainers of that time were concentrated there to do carousel on horseback with hundreds of riders and even theatre representations on horseback.

The ancient Sicilian horse culture and the 3 Sicilian horses.

Not too many people know that during the ancient Greeks Olympic Games, the majority of equestrian games were won by the Horses of Syracuse. Greeks were the first to import in Sicily high quality horses. They were all Orientals coming from Mesopotamia, Lebanon and Syria regions. In Sicily these horses found a very good environment very similar to their original but with a better soil (lots of limestone with calcium) and grass. So they fortified their bones becoming stronger and bigger.

The oldest horse race known was done every year in Sicily in Agira (in the centre of Sicily) along the road that was going from the Greek village up to the Agorà on top one high hill. This race it is held every year from that times till nowadays. The Romans imported and breed in Sicily the Eques italicus, the breed developed by them for their cavalry and they mixed with local oriental horses forming a quicker and most endurance horse. When Arabians invaded and conquered Sicily for three centuries, they imported more than 10.000 Berber and Arabian horses followed by the Norman’s battle horses arrived with the heavy cavalry of the Normans army. After their conquest, new horses came with a group of Celtic speaking language emigrated from the North Italy that had permission to settle in the nowadays Nebrodi mountains founding the village of Sanfratello. They took with them their black, strong horses that became the today “Sanfratellano” Sicilian horses, always living free up in the mountains.

The Ventimiglia family, in the XIV century, established in their Manor in Castelbuono the Academy of the Star, the very first horse academy in history, long time before the schools of Naples and Versailles. They were making carousels with hundreds of riders, theatre on horseback and a top level military cavalry corp.

A very important moment of the Sicilian horse culture was when Ferdinand II°, King of Two Sicilies Kingdom, moved the Capital of the Kingdom from Napoli to Palermo after a revolution that forced him to leave the city. He loved in life only two things: women and horses. So in Sicily he opened another huge horse breeding farm after the one opened in Naples: Ficuzza, not far from Palermo. In this facility the local Sicilian horse mares (all with Oriental and Arabian blood) were breed with Andalusia stallions to develope a new light cavalry horse: smaller, faster, endurable and overall really beautiful also to parade. When the English build the English thorough bred they came to Palermo to buy 100 mares of this “Sicilian indigenous horse” that was developed there.

Unfortunately, when Ferdinand II° died, his brother Ferdinand III° was not interested at all in horses and so closed Naples and Ficuzza breeding farms and sold all horses! An enormous genetic patrimony was going to be disrupted. Luckily few Sicilians noble families bought some of these stallions and mares maintaining some of that blood lines but the most of the Sicilian indigenous were sold to anybody and they were mixed with any kind of other horses. One of these families that bought that Sicilian indigenous and still is breeding that ancient blood lines is the Salomone family from Tusa. Nowadays they have the best samples of what was and still is the original Sicilian indigenous. 12 years ago was formed the Association of the Sicilian indigenous to re-establish the guidelines to have again alive the breed. Our horses are mostly Sicilian indigenous (some more, some less pure). The third Sicilian horse is the Sicilian Pure Oriental (Puro Sangue Orientale: PSO). In 1876 was established the stud book of these horses imported by the Italian Cavalry in Catania after a trip of a Colonel to buy top stallions and mares from the area of Syria/Lebanon. These horses were used to improve the blood of the horses of the Cavalry and to be breed in purity. After so many generations breed in purity on Sicilian soil, this horse became a specific Sicilian breed. There are now only around 190 horses left. They are under the UNESCO protection. Comparing the forms of oriental horses imported by the Greeks and drawn on vases and coins of the time now in museums, we can see that head and proportions are exactly the same of the PSO. Genetic studies found that the DNA of PSO it is coming from one only aplotype so without the “crazy” mix of different Arabians bloods that there are in many Arabian horses of today made by the man to enhance “necks and noses” as the actual fashion want. Some of our horses has PSO father.

Castelbuono.

Castelbuono born when the Ventimiglia family decided to move from Geraci (in winter very cold place at 1200 meters to live) to the 400 meters of the valley between the Madonie mountains and the sea coast. Before the conquest of the Normans, in the place there was only an Arabian defence tower and a very tiny village with a Mosque. The Ventimiglia build a big Manor and around soon born the village that became the capital of the sort of “Kingdom of the Madonie” of the Ventimiglia family inside the Sacred Roman Empire. The city became quickly very important attracting noble families and very many religious orders with lots of churches and monasteries. Many peasants came to cultivate in the valley the Manna tree imported and planted by the Arabians. The historical centre of Castelbuono is very interesting with many places to visit as the Castle with his museum and art gallery, the churches, the little medieval streets with their very ancient names. Today Castelbuono is full of activities in agriculture, food and tourism hosting very many good restaurants. In summer his population became triple and the main street and the squares are very alive till late.

Madonie 6 days daily program

Madonie 6 days 2017.

“Mountain trekking for all, families included”

General introduction of the Experience.

Between one Etna trip and the next, we offer a trip in Madonie which is 6 days long (6 days, 5 nights, 4 days on horseback) with base in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO Country House (3 nights) which is perfect for all kind of riders: beginners, intermediate, advanced and families due the possibility to adapt itinerary to all kind of riders, even in the same group (with 2 guides if necessary). This trip can be also made custom with a different length and program, if need to a group or family.

MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO offer very good services and in his vicinities there are a lot of points of interest to be visited on horseback. The week is a 6 days, 5nights, 4 days on a horse, designed to give to riders around 2/3 hours on horseback in the morning, 2/3 hours in afternoon, 3 nights at MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO and 2 nights up high in the mountains in PIANO FARINA Shepherds hut and Pomieri Hotel during a 2,5 days minitrek. Like so riders can enjoy horse ridesin the heart of Madonie Park sleeping one night in the comfortable HOTEL POMIERI and one night in renovated shepherd hut on comfortable camp beds and with a dinner cooked by Paolo. The trail rides are for all levels of riders. The 2, 5 days mini trek will take riders in the heart of the Madonie Park, up in the mountains till the 1800 meters of Mount Madonna dell ‘Alto.

Program day by day:

Day 1 Monday: Transfer from Palermo airport to MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO, siesta or swimming pool, dinner, night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 2 Tuesday: breakfast, visit of CASTELBUONO CASTLE on horseback, picnic lunch, dinner / night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 3 Wednesday:breakfast, Day 1 mini trek, picnic lunch. Dinner and night in Pomieri Hotel.

Day 4 Thursday: breakfast. Day 2 minitrek. Up to Madonna dell ‘Alto Mount and Monastery (1870 m). Picnic lunch. Dinner and night at PIANO FARINA Shepherd hut.

Day 5 Friday: breakfast. Departure for ride to go back to Masseria Rocca di Gonato. Picnic lunch. Dinner and night at Masseria Rocca di Gonato.

Day 6 Saturday:transfer to Palermo airport

End of Services.

Madonie Park Customer Riding Experience:

This is a trip for all kind of riders and families with kids (minimum age 8 years old). If in a group will be present different kind of riders, will be used 2 guides to do not mix beginners (or mix families) with better riders. Kid must be able to ride independently at least at walk.

Price: ask a quote. Price depend by number of riders in your group

The formula is full board, all included. Arrival on Saturdays, leaving on Saturday. 6 days, 5 nights, 4 days on horseback

Departure assured with 2

Maximum number: 10

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.

The airport for arrival and departure of MAD 6 days trip is PALERMO

Transfer policy:

Note that in our price transfer is included. Many other operators ask for an extra payment.

Arrivals. Riders can arrive in the morning and afternoon but they need to be out with bags no later than 17,30 because 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 the “transfer day” can became really long. If a delay in afternoon flight will cause a too late transfer (let say effective arrival out with bags after 18, 30 or later), for the riders in delay it can be arranged a private transfer. It will cost 100€. If the times of arrivals will allow, we will do with riders a guided short visit of Palermo historical centre with a Sicilian fast food lunch (price not included in the package. We will wait planes with already arrived riders at a beach area not far from airport. Camp chairs will be available for the riders.

Departures:

All riders will be transferred to Palermo 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 Drinzi personnel). If riders have a very later flight they can visit Palermo on their own. In this case we will leave them at Palermo railway station where they can leave bags in the bag deposit. We will give them indications about what to visit and where to have a good lunch. From Palermo railway station starts the metro train that go to Airport (every 30 minutes). Cost is 5 €. Time of run: 1 hour. 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€.

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. 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 picnics in this trip are saddle bags lunches with sandwiches and fruit.

Beverages.

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 a saddle bag lunch excluding day 2 that will be in Castelbuono with “Sicilian fast food” in a bar.

- Products used are local bread, cold cuts, cheese, lettuce, fruits.

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.

Single room supplement is 25 €

Info about MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

www.agriturismomasseriaroccadigonato.net

It is situated at 1.000 meters on the Madonie Natural Park not far from to the village of Castelbuono rich in history and monuments The country house it was realized restoring an ancient farm of a medieval Monastery. It is surrounded by oak woods facing the valley of the Gonato River.

MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO has: - 25 cozy rooms with bathroom and shower. - Indoor and outdoor dining room for break/lunch/dinners - 2 living rooms with fireplace and TV big screen - Garden and gazebos for relax - The building is surrounded by oak trees - Swimming pool. - SPA, massages service, water trail, indoor Jacuzzi.

About HOTEL POMIERI.

www.hotelpomieri.it

It is nested on a dominating hill in the middle of the Valley of Pomieri oak wood, dominated by Mount Pizzo Canna and Mount Ferro. It is a big Alpine chalet without any other building in the whole valley except a few scattered shepherds’ huts. From his windows the landscape is gorgeous. The place is very well known for his restaurant.

Hotel Pomieri has:

- 30 rooms with bathroom and shower. - Living room with TV - Dining room - Terrace. - Billiard - Pasture for horses and saddlery

About Piano Farina Shepherd’s Hutt.

It is a very ancient shepherds’ working place that was entirely renovated and enlarged to host visitors at lunches and dinners, to show them how are made local cheeses and to host them in one common room for sleeping. Used beds are our very comfortable camp beds with air mattresses, pillows, linen and sleeping bag.

Piano Farina Shepherd’s hut has:

- One Sleeping common room - Dining room - One common Toilette (no shower) - Kitchen - Terrace - Traditional cheese working place - Cows, goats, sheep - Pasture for horses

Silence and tranquility are the everyday ingredients of these 3 places out of any classic touristic route.

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 move bags. If big differences of skills of riders can be used a second guide forming 2 groups: beginners and others.

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 rider’s 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.

Being a high mountain trip it is a medium /low speed but always with some trots and canters depending skills of riders.

Personal Equipment:

Helmet is 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.

Other Riding gear.

We will be crossing mountain areas at heights of up to 1880 meters. It is mandatory for all participants to have the following personal equipment: In July and august rain is very rare so:

- Rain / wind gear with rain /wind jacket. - one light pile - 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 30 or 50 for north European people. - We prefer if anyrider 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.

July and august stay and ride

Madonie July & August 2016.

“Riding and pool swimming in the Sicilian high mountain nature.”

General introduction of the Experience.

During July & August only, we offer a 1 weeklong stay in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO Country House which is perfect for riders that want in full summer a holiday on horse plus a 2-day trek experience in very high mountains. MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO offer very good services and in his vicinities there are a lot of point of interests to be visited on horseback.

The week is an 8 days, 7 nights, 6 days on a horse designed to give to riders around 2/3 hours on horseback in the morning, 2/3 hours in afternoon, 5 nights at MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO. Riders can enjoy horse rides along the trails in the Madonie Park then a 2, 5 days mini trekking (around 5/6 hours every day riding) in the heart of Madonie Park sleeping one night in the comfortable HOTEL POMIERI and one night in renovated shepherd hut on comfortable camp beds and with a barbecue dinner. The trail rides are for all levels of riders, even for families with kids (minimum 10 years old).

The 2, 5 days’ mini trek will take riders in the heart of the Madonie Park, up in the mountains till the 1800 meters of Mount Madonna dell ‘Alto. As optional can be used for one night also Marini hotel to have one more high mountain ride to reach also Carbonara Top. This will be decided with riders before departure of the trip depending their wishes. In the remaining time of the day the customers may enjoy the swimming pool when in Masseria Gonato.

Program day by day:

Day 1 Saturday: Transfer from airport to MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO, siesta or swimming pool, dinner, night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 2 Sunday: breakfast, morning ride, picnic lunch, siesta, afternoon ride, dinner / night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 3 Monday: breakfast, visit of CASTELBUONO CASTLE on horseback, picnic lunch, siesta, afternoon ride, dinner / night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 4 Tuesday: breakfast, Morning ride, picnic lunch, siesta, afternoon ride. Dinner and night in MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 5 Wednesday: breakfast. Departure for 2, 5 mini trekking. Picnic lunch. Dinner and night at POMIERI HOTEL.

Day 6 Thursday: breakfast. Up to Madonna dell ‘Alto Mount and Monastery (1870 m). Picnic lunch. Dinner and night at PIANO FARINA Shepherd hut.

Day 7 Friday: breakfast, Cheese making at Shepherd hut, cheeses tasting. Pizzo Canna short excursion, lunch, arrival at MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO, swimming pool. Dinner and night at MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.

Day 8 Saturday: Breakfast. Transfer to airport.

End of Services

Madonie Park Customer Riding Experience:

Riders must be able to manage their horse without problems. Riders must be able to ride for 5 /6 hours a day. It is beginners, intermediate and advanced riders with a good degree of fitness on the saddle.

The formula is full board, all included. Arrival on Saturdays, leaving on Saturday. 8 days, 7 nights, 6 days on horseback

Departure assured with 2

Maximum number: 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.

In 2016 the airport for arrival and departure of MADS&S trips is PALERMO

Transfer policy:

Note that in our price transfer is included. Many other operators ask for an extra payment.

Arrivals. Riders can arrive in the morning and afternoon but they need to be out with bags no later than 17,30 because 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 the “transfer day” can became really long. If a delay in afternoon flight will cause a too late transfer (let say effective arrival out with bags after 18, 30 or later), for the riders in delay it can be arranged a private transfer. It will cost 100€.

If the times of arrivals will allow, we will do with riders a guided short visit of Palermo historical centre with a Sicilian fast food lunch (price not included in the package. We will wait planes with already arrived riders at a beach area not far from airport. Camp chairs will be available for the riders.

Departures: All riders will be transferred to Palermo 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 Drinzi personnel). If riders have a very later flight they can visit Palermo on their own. In this case we will leave them at Palermo railway station where they can leave bags in the bag deposit. We will give them indications about what to visit and where to have a good lunch. From Palermo railway station starts the metro train that go to Airport (every 30 minutes). Cost is 5 €. Time of run: 1 hour. 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.

Madonie S&S trip:

Being a trip going around same mountains need to give to lost and found office the following Address to consign lost and found bags:

Sicily on Horseback c/o Hotel Pomieri Contrada Pomieri (strada per Piano Battaglia) Petralia Sottana (PA) Give also the following phone numbers to advice arrival: Franco: 340 6883596 Paolo: +39 3478125470 Hotel Pomieri has a central position so very easy to be reach from everywhere 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.

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. When the minibus cannot reach riders at lunch times will be provided good sandwiches to be eaten along the trails.

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.

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.

Info about MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.www.agriturismomasseriaroccadigonato.net

It is situated at 1.000 meters on the Madonie Natural Park not far from to the village of Castelbuono rich in history and monuments The country house it was realized restoring an ancient farm of a medieval Monastery. It is surrounded by oak woods facing the valley of the Gonato River.

MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO has: - 25 cozy rooms with bathroom and shower. - Indoor and outdoor dining room for break/lunch/dinners - 2 living rooms with fireplace and TV big screen - Garden and gazebos for relax - The building is surrounded by oak trees - Swimming pool. - SPA, massages service, water trail, indoor Jacuzzi.

About HOTEL POMIERI. www.hotelpomieri.it

It is nested on a dominating hill in the middle of the Valley of Pomieri oak wood, dominated by Mount Pizzo Canna and Mount Ferro. It is a big Alpine chalet without any other building in the whole valley except a few scattered shepherds’ huts. From his windows the landscape is gorgeous. The place is very well known for his restaurant.

Hotel Pomieri has: - 30 rooms with bathroom and shower. - Living room with TV - Dining room - Terrace. - Billiard - Pasture for horses and saddlery

About Piano Farina Shepherd’s Hutt.

It is a very ancient shepherds’ working place that was entirely renovated and enlarged to host visitors at lunches and dinners, to show them how are made local cheeses and to host them in one common room for sleeping. Used beds are our very comfortable camp beds with air mattresses, pillows, linen and sleeping bag. Piano Farina Shepherd’s hut has: - One Sleeping common room - Dining room - One common Toilette (no shower) - Kitchen - Terrace - Traditional cheese working place - Cows, goats, sheep - Pasture for horses

Silence and tranquility are the everyday ingredients of these 3 places out of any classic touristic route.

Guides.

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

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.

Other Riding gear.

We will be crossing mountain areas at heights of up to 1880 meters. It is mandatory for all participants to have the following personal equipment: In July and august rain is very rare so: - Rain / wind gear with rain /wind jacket. -one light pile - 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 30 or 50 for north European people. - We prefer if anyrider 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.

GENERAL INFO ON PARKS AND SURROUNDINGS

Protection of Nature in Sicily.

Sicily has 5 Natural Parks and 77 Nature Reserves. 14% of the island is protected. Not too many regions in Europe has that.

Madonie, Nebrodi, Etna Parks General Introduction.

Geology.

Madonie, called the “Dolomites of Sicily”, are formed by carbonate limestone. Till the XVIII century the MADONIE were part of the NEBRODI. Was the French scientist Deodat de Dolomieu, who discovered the special limestone of the mountains in the Alps that had from him their name, that saw the analogies between the limestone of Madonie with the Dolomites of Alps and the huge difference between Madonie and the rest of Sicilian mounts. Madonie are the oldest rocks of Italy. They came out first from the bottom of an ancient ocean and they are formed by enormous quantities of fossils of ancient sea creatures. Madonie are divided in three main mountain complexes: Mount Carbonara, Mount Cervi, and Mount Pizzo di Pilo. The highest mountain is Carbonara with his 1979 meters. This Mount is characterized by very many depressions (doline) formed by the action of snow with limestone which is slowly dissolved in spring when snow became water. Looking at the Carbonara from a helicopter it looks as was bombed by war planes for the hundreds of these natural depressions existing. On the bottom of “doline” there is a very particular micro-clime that permits the life of many species of endemic plants. All water collected by doline goes inside the mountain through some fixtures in the rocks called “swallowers” (Inghiottitoi) and it is saved by a complicate system of underwater lakes and channels that give water in hundreds of springs at lower altitudes all year round. That’s why in the Madonie villages there is always plenty of source water all year round.

Madonie are high, sharp, steep, and rocky. Nebrodi Mountains, instead, are sedimentary rocks much younger. They are round, not as high, not as steep and stony. The terrain is a lot softer, and they host many natural lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers. On Nebrodi Mountains the high presence of water depends by the different soil. Water of melting snow is trapped during spring in many ponds of any dimension with a diameter of few meters, called “Margi”, or in lakes like the Biviere, Cartolari, Tre Arie, Zilio, and Maulazzo.

Etna is the biggest volcano of Europe. It is active but is like a “bottle of champagne without cork”. Majority of his pressures goes out from the 4 summit craters. When these pressures are infiltrating lava along the sides of volcano, sometimes starts an eruption with lava flows coming down. Etna volcano is monitored by a huge net of instruments connected by satellite with the Institute of Volcanology of Catania. Nowadays volcanologists see a lot before the signs of a probable eruption and they can activate safety measures closing the access to the areas of volcano that can be involved in the eruption. In the last years from 2002 the Volcano has done only some pretty frequent, short, eruptions of lava from the summit craters, very spectacular but not dangerous at all for the enormous distances existing from the craters and the villages and our trails. All last lava flows went all inside the lonely Bove valley, the enormous caldera of the very ancient volcano Mongibello. All sort of outdoors are normally done on Etna all year round till 2700 meters (Etna is 3300 m. high). Above this altitude (or lower) outdoors are forbidden when volcano is in a possible active phase. The eruptions formed a great varieties of lateral craters, lava flows, morphologies created by the erupted lava like “rope lavas”, “megathumulus”, “dammusi”, open sky lava channels, lava tubes, “Hornitos” all of that can be seen during our itinerary.

The Alcantara valley is crossed by the Alcantara River that forms a long stretch of gorges that cut the basaltic lava of an ancient eruption. The Gorges cannot be visited on horseback. There is only one entrance accessible on foot but not reachable on horseback due intense car traffic. That’s why we decided to do not go down to Alcantara valley as was done the first year of operation.

Botany.

Few people know that before the Romans conquered Sicily it was covered for 92 % by primary forests. Deforestation started with the Romans during the three Punic wars with Cartagine. They established two navy ship yard on the coast down the still existing villages of Caronia (Nebrodi area) and Pollina (Madonie area). They used the centennial oaks and beeches to build the ship bodies and the very tall Abies nebrodensis (Fir of Nebrodi) for the mast trees of the war boats. They cut this fir almost till extinction. Only 22 of them survived in a narrow and secluded valley of Madonie. Nowadays the Abies nebrodensis is reintroduced in the Nebrodi and Madonie by the Sicilian Forestry Service (Azienda Foreste Demaniali). Nebrodi and Madonie are covered variously by woods made by five different species of oaks, higher (above 1.500 meters) start the almost continuous blanket of beeches woods. Madonie has the higher and richest botanic bio-diversity of Italy with the presence of more than 5.500 of the 6.500 present in all Italy. There are many endemic species and, inside the doline, some very little endemic plants with a cycle of life very short. More than 200 are the species of orchids. Along the trails used is easy to see many interesting or endemic plants like Genista cupani, Astragalus, Cystus, Crocus, Primula, and so long.

On Nebrodi, around Biviere Lake area, it is easy to see the Taxus baccata a coniferous that has plants 25 meters high. All over there are very many single plants or groups of centennial trees of oaks and beeches. On Mount Soro there is the oldest and biggest Beech of Italy. It is 850 years old. Being so young they have only one endemic species of plants: Petagna, to be found in a very few locations. Most f Nebrodi mountains are covered by the most ancient and wide forests of Sicily.

On Etna, plus the species of trees of the other Parks, there is the Betula aetnensis, endemic specie of birch that arrived in Sicily during last ice age and survived only on Etna, assuming specific characteristics. The botanic wonders of Etna are in the species able to colonize the lava. There are numerous endemic or interesting species like Astragalus siculus, Senecio, Cerastio, Rumex, Saponaria sicula. The most spectacular is the Genista aetnensis, the first “big” plant able to colonize lava with his roots able to break it. It can be 15 meters tall and in summer it is entirely covered by yellow smelling flowers. The long process of colonization of lava by the plants takes centuries. Along the trails on Etna is possible to see directly all stages of this very long process.

Wildlife.

There are not big differences between the wildlife living in the different Parks of Sicily. On

Madonie were reintroduced deer, absent in other Parks.

The best is in the sky with nesting couples of King Eagles, a colony of Vultures (Gypsus gypsus), Peregrine falcons, many species of smaller hawks. Before the institution of the Parks was almost extinct the Sicilian partridge (Alectoris graecae whitakeri) that now is back in good numbers and easily seen on Madonie and Nebrodi. In the lakes of Nebrodi are easily seen many species of ducks and the endemic Sicilian water turtle.

People and Traditions.

Sicilian mountains were used by the man from the Palaeolithic times. In Madonie there are some grottoes that show signs of their use as temporary summer hunting home by the men from those times. They were reaching the mountains in spring to hunt big game (bear, lynx, deer, and elk) and collect wild plants and wood. The activity of breeding sheep for milking and meat started from the High Neolithic times without interruption. Before the huge emigrations to Americas and Australia after the world wars, were bred on Madonie more than 100.000 sheep! Nowadays are around 10.000, goats included.

On Nebrodi the main activity is the breeding in the mountain pastures of cows, sanfratellano horses, and the little black pig of Nebrodi, very specific specie of small pig). The number of sheep/goats is very small. On Etna the breeding activity is really ended up today.

Till 20 years ago the life style of the mountain Sicilian shepherds did not changed too much from the Neolithic times. The same was the hut used by then (called Pagghiaru) made by a circle or a square of stones 1-meter-high, then a roof made with trunks of oaks and branches. The same was the organizations of the shepherd work place (called Marcatu) constituted by some huts, then the stone corrals for the sheep, the corral for the lambs, the working area to make milk. Before the arrival of 4x4 cars the shepherds were living in summer up in the mountains for long periods, going home only a couple of days some weeks. In Nebrodi, in the mountain farms there are always stony round pens with a pole in the middle to tame Sanfratellano local horses. Today the breeding of cows, sheep, and goats to make meat and cheese and horse breeding are still very important in the economy of Madonie and Nebrodi. The principal traditional cheeses made are: “Pecorino” (with sheep milk), “Caciocavallo” (with cow and goat or sheep milks), “Ricotta” (from cow or sheep or goat milks) and some goat cheeses. The method it is the same from centuries, using the dried and cured interior of the intestine of a lamb as “cheese maker” and the same very ancient traditional tools made with some specific woods. On Etna volcano breeding is gone. Agriculture is very important with the cultivations of D.O.C. grape to make ETNA ROSSO wine, the pistachio in the north side and with lots of apples. One of them is specific of Etna, called “Puma gelata cola”. Mountain people are very gentle, hospitable and hard workers. They are used to live traditionally, especially in the most isolated villages as Isnello, Polizzi, Petralia Soprana and Gangi, on the Madonie; Capizzi, Floresta, Sanfratello and Cesarò on the Nebrodi; Maletto and Bronte on Etna volcano.

History.

After Sicani and Siculi people, Phoenicians started to reach by ships the coast of Sicily to trade and to build some colonies on the west side. In the VII century B.C. Sicily was colonized by the Greeks that founded their first colony (Naxos) on the lava cape of nowadays Giardini Naxos. Following the course of Alcantara River they went inside the interiors of Sicily discovering their mountains covered by primary forests and very rich in wildlife and minerals as iron, gold, copper, silver. The Rock of Cefalù (Madonie territory) was always inhabited by people, as Taormina Cape, MIlazzo Cape and all the mountains were used mostly in summer for hunting, logging and plants gathering. Greeks started a light colonization of interiors. Were the Romans to start to build real towns on and around the mountains to cut wood for ship and houses building and then planting fields of hey and cereals (Sicily was the “granary of Rome” and homes of Rome, all in wood, were built with trees from Sicily and Calabria). They also start to exploit mines almost industrially (very famous the sulphur mines of the centre of Sicily were thousands of slaves died). Adranon (today Adrano) was the first big town on Etna volcano. Already in 737 B.C. Tucidite, the Greek historian and General, described one eruption of Etna and others philosopher and historians the others occurred in 477 e 427 A.C. Practically all major eruptions of Etna were describer from those times till nowadays.

After the fall of Roman Empire, the Sicilian Mountains remained under the Bizantinian till the conquest of Sicily by the Arabians (started in 827 A.C.). On the mountains were founded by them very many villages with Arabian names. In 1061 started the conquest of Sicily by the Normans. Some very important battles happened in Cerami and Troina, on the foot hills of Nebrodi, and on Piano Battaglia in the high Madonie. After the Norman conquest, all Etna was surrounded by Norman castles and cities. Randazzo, Adrano and Paternò became really important along the very ancient trade routes of the Alcantara River on the North and Simeto River on the South. It’s with the Normans that in the Nebrodi Mountains arrived (with the wife of Roger II°) a colony of people from Lombardy (North of Italy) with their horses. These horses are the ancestors of the nowadays Sanfratellano horses, one of the 3 breeds of Sicilian horses (read below).

In the Madonie Mountains, is very remarkable the history of the Ventimiglia family that, from the XIV century, established a sort of Kingdom inside the Sacred Roman Empire of Frederic II°. They were the only Feudal Lords allowed to make their own coins and they founded the very first Horse Academy of history: the “Academy of the Star”. All Madonie villages still have castles (o remains) of the Ventimiglia. One big change was done up in the mountains by the Bourbons (Spanish) in the late XVIII century. They were the first to build real dirty roads to connect the biggest cities. They were called “Regie Trazzere” (King’s roads) and large 12 meters to allow the movements of big herds of cattle in the mountains. In the following years these mountains roads were restricted by land owners, many were covered by asphalt, many simply disappeared but some of them still exist and we use them in our trips especially on Nebrodi Mountains. The typical Sicilian wagons all painted with bright colours and with stories of ancient knights, came only in the late XVIII and in the XIX centuries. Before all major movements of goods and people was done by boat. On land were used only pack trains of mules and horses. Before the Spanish roads there were not used wagons in long travels on land, the nobles were travelling in small sedan chairs (wagons without wheels with room for 1 or 2 travellers) that were put with two poles between two mules or horses in one line and guided by a man on foot along the narrow trails of the time.

The ancient Sicilian horse culture and the 3 Sicilian horses.

Not too many people know that during the ancient Greeks Olympic Games, the majority of equestrian games were won by the Horses of Syracuse. Greeks were the first to import in Sicily high quality horses. They were all Orientals coming from Mesopotamia, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria regions. In Sicily these horses found a very good environment very similar to their original but with a better soil (lots of limestone with calcium) and grass. So they fortified their bones becoming stronger and bigger.

The oldest horse race known is done every year in Sicily in Agira (in the centre of Sicily) along the road that was going from the Greek village up to the Agorà on top one high hill. This race it is held every year from that times till nowadays. The Romans imported and breed in Sicily the Eques italicus, the breed developed by them for their cavalry and they mixed with local oriental horses forming a quicker and most endurance battle horse. When Arabians invaded and conquered Sicily for three centuries, they imported more than 10.000 Berber and Arabian horses followed by the Norman’s battle horses arrived with the heavy cavalry of the Normans army. After their conquest, new horses came with a group of Celtic speaking language emigrated from the North Italy that had permission to settle in the nowadays Nebrodi mountains founding the village of Sanfratello. They took with them their black, strong horses that became the today “Sanfratellano” Sicilian horses, always living free up in the mountains. The Ventimiglia family, in the XIV century, established in their Manor in Castelbuono the Academy of the Star, the very first horse academy in history, long time before the schools of Naples and Versailles. They were making carousels with hundreds of riders, theatre on horseback and forming a top level military cavalry corp.

A very important moment of the Sicilian horse culture was when Ferdinand II°, King of Two Sicilies Kingdom, moved the Capital of the Kingdom from Napoli to Palermo after a revolution that forced him to leave the city. He loved in life only two things: women and horses. So in Sicily he opened another huge horse breeding farm after the one opened in Naples: Ficuzza, not far from Palermo. In this facility the best local Sicilian horse mares (all with Oriental and Arabian blood) were breed with Andalusia stallions to develope a new light cavalry horse: smaller, faster, endurable and overall really beautiful also to parade. When the English build the English thorough bred they came to Palermo to buy 100 mares of this “Sicilian indigenous horse” that was developed there.

Unfortunately, when Ferdinand II° died, his brother Ferdinand III° was not interested at all in horses and so closed Naples and Ficuzza breeding farms and sold all horses! An enormous genetic patrimony was going to be disrupted. Luckily few Sicilians noble families bought some of these stallions and mares maintaining some of that blood lines but the most of the Sicilian indigenous were sold to anybody and they were mixed with any kind of other horses. One of these families that bought that Sicilian indigenous and still is breeding that ancient blood lines is the Salomone family from Tusa. Nowadays they have the best samples of what was and still is the original Sicilian indigenous. 12 years ago was formed the Association of the Sicilian indigenous to re-establish the guidelines to have again alive the breed. Our horses are mostly Sicilian indigenous (some more, some less pure). The third Sicilian horse is the Sicilian Pure Oriental (Puro Sangue Orientale: PSO). In 1876 was established the stud book of these horses imported by the Italian Cavalry in Catania after a trip of a Colonel to buy top stallions and mares from the area of Jordan/ Syria/Lebanon. These horses were used to improve the blood of the horses of the Cavalry and to be breed in purity. After so many generations breed in purity on Sicilian soil, this horse became a specific Sicilian breed. There are now only around 190 horses left. They are under the UNESCO protection. Comparing the forms of oriental horses imported by the Greeks and drawn on vases and coins of the time now in museums, we can see that head and proportions are exactly the same of the nowadays PSO. Genetic studies found that the DNA of PSO it is coming from one only haplotype so without the “crazy” mix of different Arabians bloods that there are in many Arabian horses of today made by the man to enhance “necks and noses” as the actual fashion want (American Arabians has 18 different haplotype). Some of our horses has PSO father.

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