Rocca Campanito with Monte Etna
The Monti Nebrodi Range is the largest of Sicily’s mountain ranges. Almost all summits are covered with dense forests and except for an antenna or two on the highest mountains the area is as remote as it gets. The mountains all have a hill-like aspect though they reach up to more than 1800m. Most of the range is made up from limestone rock – like the rest of Sicily – but there are some notable exceptions, granite islands, one of which is Monte Campanito.
Together with its higher neighbour Monte Sambughetti, Monte Campanito is located at the south-western end of the Nebrodi mountain range, overlooking the Tusa and Calogino Valleys. Both mountains can be reached from Colle Contrasto, one of the high and remote mountain passes of the area. The summit of Monte Campanito is shaped like a heap of house sized granite boulders, very picturesque, with nice little grass covered meadows and ledges in between. But for the last 100m the access to the mountain is easy along marked trails and roads. From there on, however it turns into boulder-hopping, scrambling and a bit of UIAA II climbing towards the summit block.
The most impressive feature of Monte Campanito, however, is located to its east. There you find a massive granite crag, starting almost directly from Colle Contrasto and reaching 1509m, only three metres lower than the main summit. The crag is called Rocca Campanito, a structure with sloped layers and an overgrown rocky summit. At its base you find a picturesque set of lakes, the Laghi Campanito, which are hidden deeply inside the beech forest of the area. From the lakes both Rocca and Monte Campanito are accessible only over steep slabs, from the shoulder between the two summits, however, a short climb along the 45° layers and ledges leads to the summit without too many problems.
Thanks to its location at the southern and western end of the Monti Nebrodi Range Monte Campanito and its satellite both are excellent lookout summits. In the immediate neighbourhood there are no higher mountains so that Sicily’s two highest ranges – Monte Etna in the far east and the Monti de le Madonie in the near west – can clearly be seen. For a good view of Monte Etna be sure to come early – otherwise the eternal Sicilian smog will hide it.
Summit View: Monte Etna in the east
Sicily can be reached from all Italian and the major European airports by plane. There are two large international airports, one at Catania in the east and one at Palermo. Since Palermo is much closer to the mountain than Catania my itinerary starts here. Also, Palermo is the main ferry port in the area.
From Palermo airport
- Take motorway A29 direction Palermo
- In Palermo the motorway turns into a four laned city highway which circles the city to its south
- The city highway turns into motorway A20 direction Messina
- Turn off at the exit Santo Stefano di Camastra. Here a complicated and quite unneccesary detour leads you to a roundabout on the valley floor only to head back up to the motorway exit and to follow SS 117 south in direction Mistretta and Colle Contrasto.
- Shortly behind the pass on the right hand side of the road there is a sign and a small parking space for the recreation area at the Laghi Campanito.
The whole of the large Nebrodi Range belongs to the Parco delle Monti Nebrodi, a natural park in which the obvious restrictions apply. You can climb and hike almost everywhere and there are quite a number of picnic and recreational areas. The range is popular among locals as the dense forest canopy offers a welcome protection against the intense Sicilian heat. Obstacles are the many barbed wire fences, which however can be crossed. They serve only for the pastures and to keep cattle sheep and horses from getting lost in the vast terrain.
Camping is not tolerated in the parks, better look for accommodation in the nearby villages. The northern coast is close by and there you will be able to find all kinds of accommodation (see below).
You can quite easily find hotel rooms and apartments everywhere on the coasts. All European travel companies offer accommodation so a visit to your nearest travel office will find you some (Cefalu or Santo Stefano would be the nearest seaside towns). In the mountains themselves accommodation is much harder to come by. Since camping is not allowed (see red tape) you have to ask at the local inns. Moreover there are some farms which offer “agriturismo” though on Sicily this often means only food and no rooms.
Sicily is located very close to northern Africa (Marsala on the west coast is closer to Tunis than to any place on the Italian mainland), thus temperatures can get very high. March, April and early May are the best months if you plan to hike the mountains, the winter can be wet, the summer scorchingly hot. Here the nearest weatherunderground link for Palermo:
Maps & Books
Unfortunately there are no current topographic maps of Sicily. The best are reported to be more than 50 years old and probably are the same as the basis for the digital maps of atlanteitaliano.it
As a workaround you can use street maps for general orientation together with a good guidebook (see below). The most accurate maps are scaled 1:200000, sometimes detailing everything down to forest and dirt roads through the mountains. I settled for
Mairs Geographischer Verlag
Since there are no good topographical maps of Sicily you should take care to get a good guidebook. The one I used is in general excellent. In it Monte Campanito is only dealt with as a variation climb instead of nearby Monte Sambughetti. The book is available in German and English.
- Sizilien / Sicily