The first itinerary offers a full immersion experience throughout history, values and the scenic diversity of rural hinterland of Palermo.The traveler delves into a dimension suspended in time, where tasting the popular culture and the typical products of Sicily countryside. The itinerary Dai Giardini dell’Emiro alle pendici della Brinja goes through one of the ancient royal trazzere
(13rd century), main roads connecting rural communities to this day. Along the way, there are some trace of the railway line S. Erasmo - Burgio (1886), linking the capital to the small towns of the interior.
The route start from the village of Misilmeri, Piazza Comitato 1860, enlivened by the sound of the abundant stream of water flowing from the Fontana Grande (1529). On the square appears the Church of S. Giovanni Battista (1553), where are guarded the fine stuccos of the Serpotta’s school and wooden works of the 18th century. Up to the S.P. 38, you can find the ruins of the Castle of the Emir (10th cent.), placed on a rocky upland, with a large cavity at the base, connected to the village. The most striking feature is the wonderful view overlooking the wide plain, commonly known as jardini, where was founded one of the first European botanical gardens, the Hortus Catholicus (17th century), forerunner of the present Botanical Garden of Palermo. Along the River Valley Eleutero, fed by the Risalaimi source, you can find the remains of ancient water mills (10th cent.), proof of the unrest that animated the district.
Beyond the valley, the S.P.77 leads to the city center of Bolognetta, where you can find the Church of Maria SS. del Carmelo (1603), containing several oil paintings and sculptures of the 18th century. A building of reliable historical and anthropological interest is the Museo della Casa Contadina, a typical rural house built at the end of ‘800, where it is exposed a rich collection of objects of daily use of the folk tradition. In the valley below, along the course of Milicia river, a natural gradient gives life to the Falls of St. Nicola, a place of impressive natural beauty, characterized by lush vegetation and large cavities that spread on the clifftop. The landscape from the access road to the Tumminia district, an ancient estate of the 16th century, shows the typical colors of the Sicilian latifundium, beginning a journey into the authentic rural Sicily: the golden yellow of the wheat fields, the green Mediterranean scrub clinging to the many rocky outcrops, the rural dwellings, stone troughs and ponds scattered everywhere along the valley. Inwards of the feud leads at Antica Masseria Di Salvo (1500), once a baronial residence and center of intense agricultural activity, which consists of a central courtyard surrounded by the homes of the “keepers”, today retrained for the accommodation offer. In the background, the imposing west ridge of the Natural Reserve of Pizzo Cane, Pizzo Trigna e Grotta Mazzamuto, shows the two large cavities of the Grotta del Leone. Not far from Antica Masseria, there is the agritourism Bosco Tumminia, where you can taste different specialties produced by the company: pecorino, primosale, ricotta, sheep and pork meat, olive oil, prickly pears and vegetables. During the visit to the farm, you can attend in the production cycle of cheese, coming in close contact with animals. Continuing the itinerary along the S.P. 77, we arrive at the Natural Reserve of Bagni di Cefalà Diana e Chiarastella, a site of great historical and natural interest. From the north-eastern slope of Pizzo Chiarastella, you can reach the caves Buffa I and Buffa II, where were found rock tombs of the neolithic period.
Downstream from the Reserve flows a hot water source, known for its therapeutic virtues since 50 A.D., that merges in the Bagni di Cefalà Diana, one of the only two examples of “Arab baths” in Europe. Inside the building, the wonderful atmosphere shows the typical features of the Arabian architecture. The thermal water pours into a small pool surrounded by a diaphragm wall with arches, flowing subsequently into three parallel pools, at the time for the exclusive use of the emir. Crossing the Natural Reserve Bagni di Cefalà Diana e Chiarastella, the tour continues to the center of Villafrati. Filangeri Palace, ancient aristocratic residence, dominates the main street, a sort of backbone of the village. The Palace, consist in three large courtyards, still holds some frescoes of the time.
The route goes on along the S.S. 121, up to Mezzojuso. The town is located at the foot of the picturesque hill of the Brinja, extreme eastern side of the Natural Reserve Bosco di Ficuzza, a natural environment consist of a wide woodland and a rich biodiversity. Walking through the winding alleys of the city centre, you can discover very picturesque views and amazing landscapes. On the main square, there are the two towers of the Church of the Annunziata (Catholic ceremony) and the Church of S. Nicolò di Mira (Orthodox rite). Mezzojuso is an representetive model of multi-ethnic integration between the local and the arbëreshë community, living together for five hundred years. An item of great historical and artistic value of arbëreshë tradition is represented by the iconostasis of the Church of S. Maria di tutte le Grazie (15th Cent.). Close to the Church, there is the ex-basilian monastery, seat of the Laboratory of the Ancient Book Restoration “Andrea Reres”, where are preserved rare greek codes and wooden miniatures of fine workmanship. The double soul of Mezzojuso is well represented by the two main traditional events: the Mastro di Campo, the oldest carnival festival in Sicily and Arbëreshë Easter, which end sharing the traditional “red eggs” symbol of new life.