Among the many pearls of Sicily, one you must visit is the Alcantara Gorges. Given that the rest are: the mythical Taormina, the panoramic medieval town of Castelmola, the beautiful city of art that is Syracuse, the Valley of the Temples and Agrigento, the Aeolian Islands, the lively and colorful Palermo, the mosaics of Monreale, the historical sites of Segesta, the Villa Romana del Casale, the Wetlands of Vendicari, the artistic metropolis that is Catania and the beautiful artistic border town of Messina. You therefore realize that visiting the Gorges is a must.
And, needless to say, the Jurassic Giardini Naxos, whose origins are firmly aggregated to the Gorges of Alcantara!!!
Nature gave us the wonderful landscape of the Gorges of Alcantara during the Tertiary period (about 35,000 years ago) , and it has enchanted travelers of any age and nationality.It has always been a place of pilgrimage visited by a huge parade of tourists in search of the origins of nature. In the middle of the Alcantara Valley, the fertile vegetation is cut by a long and deep crevasse-a real CANYON inside which flows the river Alcantara.
Thatâ€™s how you see THE GORGES once you get off the bus or the car; you look down from the crags overlooking the riverbed. To get down on the bottom of the great river-canyon there is still a steep path â€“ left-crudely drawn in the past with many rough steps, that allowed for so long access to the Gorges. This path is certainly not easy to follow, but there is also a lot more comfortable way to get down: a well-equipped lift-facility in less than a minute takes visitors within walking distance of the mouth of the gorge, which from the outside offers a highly suggestive scenario. The horrid beauty (really like something from Danteâ€™s Inferno) is increasingly being enhanced â€“ as it continues within the bottleneck â€“ the niches, the eddies and the gloomy light of the sun that illuminates only by reflection. You become astonished when you admire the geometry of the infinite prisms of lava that make up the structure of the walls, from which cracks and oozes welling cold water.
These GORGES are defined a monument of nature, but let us say that it is also a masterpiece of nature as we shall discuss later on trying to explain how they were created.
The name of the river, and of the valley, dates from the period of Arab rule, and refers to an arched bridge built by the Romans that they called â€œAl Qantarahâ€ ,able to withstand the flooding of the river that still offers an impressive sight. The bridge is assumed to be the same that crosses this river near the border of Giardini Naxos, in Calatabiano Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this bridge can still be seen, although it is now almost a ruin abandoned to itself. Throughout history every ruling people called the river in their own way: the Greeks called it Assinos, the Romans Sines, and Federico III called it Flumen Cantaris.
It is believed, because supported by newspaper reports in old scientific texts, that it was the volcano Mojo that erupted, perhaps 28,000 years before the birth of Christ, the tongue of lava, some thirty kilometers long, which arriving in the sea of Giardini Naxos formed the peninsula of Cape SchisÃ² over which during the 8th BC Teocle
founded the town of Naxos.
The eruptions of the volcano Mojo also created the characteristic landscape of the Gorges ofÃ‚Â Alcantara, that are located in between the territories of Motta Camastra and Castiglione di Sicilia. Here the running water, during thousands of years, managed to sculpt the hard lava stone that came out of the volcano, thus creating a landscape that is unique in the world for its savage beauty.
After finding yourself at the bottom of this resort and having admired the mystical panorama, you can really imagine the Dante-like hell that it was about 35,000 years ago.
By foot it is possible to go through the Gorges for a distance of about 200 meters, where the water remains low and does not require immersion. It is however advisable to wear swimsuits and sneakers without socks, although it is well to remember that the cold water comes down from the gorges originates up in the mountains. In fact, the water comes from a small spring that comes out of the crags of the mountains of Chirico, more specifically mount Musarra (1254 m high). Resisting the cold water can be a problem, so for those of you that are chilly you can rent overalls and rubber boots at the beginning of the Gorges in order to avoid direct contact with the icy water and the sharp rocks. You will need a good ability to balance, climb the rocks and avoid the most difficult steps in water, but also good swimming technique, if you want to play across the lakes and dive in the deep waters from the top of a waterfall.
The descent by foot allows you to have a better overall view of the first part of the gorges. When you reach the riverbed the lava walls rise in the middle of a tongue of water and appear in all their ambiguous beauty; black geometric structures that stand facing each other and chase each other toward the sky.
The gorges can be visited by foot when the water is shallow, which means a water-level between 50 and 200 cm. Normally the riverbed is passable from May to September. The rest of the year you can only reach the mouth of the gorges. The ascent can be done by lift.
It is possible to agric-camp in special places. The spectacle of the Gorges fascinates tourists from around the world.
When you leave it is with the impression that here nature has given us a piece of its origins.
HOW TO GET THERE
From the Giardini Naxos junction of the motorway Catania â€“ Messina (A18), take the SS 185 in the direction of Francavilla di Sicilia. After about 13 km, just before arriving in Motta Camastra (yellow sign indicating
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