This hike starts at the south entrance to the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro,
traverses the main mountain ridge and the two highest elevations of the parc
- Monte Speziale (912 m)
- Mote Passo del Lupo (868 m),
visits old "baglios" - now abandoned farm houses -
gives opportunities to explore some caves
and returns on the coastal trail of the national parc which offers some nice possibilities to take a refreshing bath.
What else would you expect on a perfect vacation day ?
To reach the south entrance take the highway A 29 from Palermo or Agrigento / Mazara del Vallo or the A 29 dir from Trapani. Leave the highway at the exit "Castellamare" and follow the SS 187 in direction Trapani.
You can take the SS 187 from Trapani too, direction Castellamare del Golfo.
About 5 km west of Castellamare when the SS 187 leaves the coastline there is an intersection (Contrada Guidal-Barone). Take the road in the direction of Scopello.
At Scopello follow the signposts to Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro. The road ends at the south entrance to the parc; there is a good parking area at the entrance.
After the entrance station the road continues until it reaches a tunnel. It was intended to build a road along the east shore of Capo San Vito to the village of San Vito lo Capo. People stopped that project in order to establish the National Park. It was the first Riserva Naturale on Sicily. So the tunnel is a monument of the victory of those who want to preserve nature.
After passing the tunnel the coastal trail starts. Follow it until you reach the visitors center at Punta della Capreria with many useful informations on the park and its wonders.
North of the visitors center there is a trail junction. Leave the coastal trail and follow the left trail which starts to climb the east slopes of the mountain ridge.
At about 250 m altitude the trail reaches a maintenance road. Turn right and follow this road in northern direction. The road ends soon at some buildings, after passing the buildings another trail runs in northwestern direction. You pass a trail junction (don´t use the left trail!), traverse a small - maybe dried out - creek, running down from Monte Scardina and soon reach the entrance of a valley between Monte Scardina and Pizzo Passo del Lupo. Leave the trail to the left and begin ascending into the valley passing a water reservoir. In the lower section of the valley you will hardly find a trail - just keep on the left - south - side of the - maybe dried out - creek; you will find better conditions half way up. Unfortunately this is a place where ticks may be active, so use long trousers or zip-off pants.
The trail gets better and better and zigzags up the valley and finally leaves it traversing the north slopes up to the plateau of Pizzo Paso del Lupo. On the plateau it turns in western direction. After about 400 meters there is another trail junction. Take the right trail, it traverses the plateau in northwestern direction, passes some ruins - obviously old farmhouses - and ... disappears.
But don´t worry: Follow a narrow subridge up the east slopes of Monte Speziale until you reach another trail which traverses the summit slopes of Monte Speziale. Follow this trail in northern direction.
If you want to climb Monte Speziale summit leave this trail immediately after reaching it and continue your off-trail ascent on the eastern slope up to the ridge and the highest point of Monte Speziale (I hope this is within park regulations ...).
There are very nice views over the whole Riserva Naturale, to Monte Inici in the south, to Monte Cofano and Erice in western direction and over the beautiful Golfo di Castellamare to the mountains west and north of Palermo. If the air is clear you will see Rocca Busambra in the far east, too.
There is a lonely tree standing below the summit on the northeast slope - this might be a good shelter on hot days for a little bite and drink.
Follow the ridge in norther direction and descend to the always visible trail using the northeast slopes of the summit. The trail continues to the north reaching a broad col - Portella Mandra Nuova - between Monte Speziale and Monte Passo del Lupo. The trail traverses the east slopes of Monte Passo del Lupo to Portella San Giovanni and another fire and maintenance road of the park.
Peak baggers will climb Monte Passo del Lupo from Portella Mandra Nuova, following the south ridge up to the summit, from where you have a nice viwe on San Vito lo Capo and Monte Monaco. Go back to the Portella Mandra Nuova and proceed on the trail or use the steep east slope to regain the trail.
From Portella San Giovanni near the north boundary of the Zingaro park use the maintenance road down to Baglio Cosenza, an old abandoned farm house. You can explore the structure and architecture of those Sicilian farmhouses and imagine how harsh and full of privations this live must have been. It is a good place for a break, too.
From Baglio Cosenza you start your descent to the coastal trail. There are two possibilities:
1.) Take the trail which leads directly down to the coastal trail, passing the Grotta del´Uzzo, an old prehistoric cave. You reach the coastal trail north of Torre del´Uzzo, another old farmhouse.
2.) Traverse the eastern slopes in southern direction to Contrada Sughero, where you can rent small stone cabins for overnight stays in the parc (see the Accomodation section of the Monte Speziale main site). At Contrada Sughero there is another trail descending down to the coastal trail, reaching it south of Torre del´Uzzo.
Follow the coastal trail in southern direction back to the southern entrance. This very good maintained trail takes its ups to stunning vista points and downs, passes through beautiful dwarf palm groves and offers stunning views over the coast and the Golfo di Castellamare. You have the possibility to hit the hidden beaches along this rocky shoreline; there are many coves and little bays, mostly with pebble beaches. In early and late summer the water is just wonderful.
Too soon this beautiful hike ends at the southern entrance gate.
Hiking, looking and bathing normally makes very hungry. Enjoy the wonderful Sicilian dishes - why not a good fish "in umido" .....
Mountain Conditions and Essential Gear
Monte Speziale is, due to the Mediterranean climate, a whole years hike.
Best time is early spring until early summer (February through June) and October/November. February through early April there are wildflowers blossoming. You might see many orchids within the Riserva Naturale.
July through September is normally too hot for mountain excursions - but the coastal trail and its coves are very popular in summer. And a short walk on the coastal trail on a fine summer evening is very special ...
In late autumn, winter and early spring it is raining sometimes very hard in Sicily. With this there may be dense fog on the highlands of the park. Don´t hike then, you will surely loose orientation on the mountain ridge. Be aware, too, of strong winds on the ridge even when it seems fairly quiet at the entrance gates.
Bathing season starts normally June until late October.
You need normal hiking gear, something to eat, plenty of water (!!!) and your bathing equipment. Don´t forget a hat and good sun protection.
Bring long trousers and good hiking boots. Long pants are good against thickets of thistles "blossoming" from may to october - this is real fun on naked skin ....
At the valley below Pizzo Passo del Lupo there are ticks in the dense gras waiting for your blood - don´t give them a chance ! That was the only location I´ve met them in the whole park, don´t know why they like this valley so much.
For more informations about the Riserva Naturale see the following links:
- site of the National Park
- Wikipedia informations in German
- Informations in English