Cava Grande


19km north. An excursion to Cava Grande provides the opportunity of exploring a small and forgotten corner of the Iblei Mountain landscape, that karst range dominating the southeast part of Sicily. This itinerary off the beaten track will be of particular interest to nature-lovers. Turn off the road from Palazzolo Acreide to Noto for Avola; then take the secondary road signposted for Cava Grande. Leave the car at the viewpoint from where there is a magnificent view over the Cava Grande Gorge plunging down between impressively tall and sheer limestone cliffs. Along the valley bottom winds the river which opens out intermittently to make a succession of tiny lakes, accessible by a path leading down into the gorge. Slightly to the left, a cave may be seen excavated from the rock: this is the so-called Grotta dei Briganti (Bandits Cave), just one of the many rock-hewn dwellings in this settlement, and another example of the type so commonly found throughout the rocky landscape of south-east Sicily. It is thought that this particular cave was used as a tannery.


Descent It takes half an hour to walk down to the river, or cava as it is known locally allow twice that time to climb back to the top. The track, which at times becomes quite difficult to follow, cuts its way along the river through luxuriant vegetation. After a few hundred metres, the bush gives way to an open clearing around a series of natural rock pools created by the river, complete with flat rounded slabs of rock ideal for whiling away a moment or two in the sunshine. In summer, the cool water is very tempting. Furthermore the rock pools are surrounded on all sides by the most idyllic scenery far removed from anything found elsewhere in Sicily, and so providing an unusual and highly recommended alternative to a swim in the sea off the Syracuse coast.