The Bosco della Ficuzza is the largest contiguous forest in the area around Palermo. In contrast to the more widely known Nebrodi und Madonie parks, very few enjoying their holidays in Sicily spend their time trying to get lost in the Bosco della Ficuzza.
It's a real find then, and has a few interesting features ready for you to discover. One of them is especially evident in the wintertime – the appearance of waterfalls.
The video to the right was not taken in winter, but in summer. It shows the Bosco della Ficuzza from a bird's eye view – and as host of a wedding. The Royal Palace of Ficuzza (hunting lodge) and the old railway station are perfectly suited for that. The Bosco della Ficuzza is not only green, but romantic.
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The Bosco della Ficuzza offers holidaygoers an interesting contrast not just between mountains and sea, but also countryside and city.
Of course, since it's in the country this means plenty of space for parking. On the map above parking is only indicated in areas outside of Ficuzza where it might be harder to find.
From 1282 till 1860, Sicily was part of the Kingdom of Spain. The governor, a member of the Spanish royal family, carried the title of "viceroy" and lived quite fittingly in the Norman Palace in Palermo.
Of course, even a viceroy needs a little rest and relaxation every once in a while. Looking for something suitable, at the end of the 18th century Ferdinand III settled on the Bosco della Ficuzza – then the property of the Church.
He purchased it from the Church and built a "hunting lodge" in 1799 (Marker 1 on the map above). Around this a little village sprang up: Ficuzza. Both the castle and the village can be seen in the nice video above taken from a model airplane.
The castle, village, and naturally, the forest have all been preserved – though the monarchy has not. The grand hunting lodge now serves ordinary citizens and people enjoying their holidays in Sicily. The castle was the starting point used in December 2012 in the video.
Castle tours bring the life of yesterday's aristocracy to today's visitors. The forest and its well-maintained roads and paths (a recommended route can be found on the map) provide excellent walking and fresh air. Opposite the castle in the village, bars offer refreshment and a bit of rest to all eager holidaygoers enjoying their holidays in Sicily.
Travel time was shortened considerably all across Europe back in the latter half of the 19th century. This new reality extended to Sicily as well. In 1884 a little station was built in Ficuzza and was connected by a narrow-gauge railway to Palermo.
The Spanish royals who had once ruled over Sicily had by now disappeared. The new king was Italian and was living in Rome. So Ficuzza developed on its own as a kind of natural retreat, helped by the railway connection to Palermo.
In 1901 Ficuzza was considered a place offering its visitors health benefits. Nevertheless, over time the automobile made a number of rail lines obsolete, and in 1959 the rail link between Ficuzza and Palermo was ended. Today the old train station stands as a reminder – as well as a restaurant and event venue (Marker 2).
The station platforms now are used for wonderful natural views of the Bosco della Ficuzza (free of charge). The old tracks lay out the space for a large garden and a playground. The station connects to a hotel where you can enjoy holidays in Sicily out in the same countryside enjoyed by kings.
The old station is also well known now for two other things: weddings and jazz music. The weddings part you can see in the video above. The video in this section presents some Sicilian jazz.
The Bosco della Ficuzza comes to an abrupt end on its southern border. One giant rock, the Rocca Busambra, fences in the forest.
At an altitude of 1600 m (Marker 3) it is the highest peak on the western side of Sicily, and naturally offers a breathtaking view. The very steep drop-off toward the northern side toward the forest makes the Rocca Busambra particularly impressive.
On the other sides the slope is more gradual. So you don't have to be a mountaineer on this part of your Sicily adventure – though it's better if you don't suffer from vertigo and are at least a little fit. Sicily's Alpine Club has marked a path for you from the eastern side.
On the map above, this route corresponds to the turquoise markers 1 to 12. These points were recorded in 2007 using GPS (WGS 84 with coordinates in decimal degrees) and it is possible there are differences today. Keep in mind that they may be approximations.
At around Marker 8 the path starts to get harder. Hikers don't need any special climbing skills, but they should expect more than a simple walk. Hiking boots are a definite must, and hiking poles are recommended.
Hikes should only be attempted – at best – in springtime as snow is not impossible even in Sicily at 1600 m. This is shown very well in the video above, taken by some enthusiasts.
The Gola del Drago, that is, the neck or the throat of the dragon, is an excellent tip for the wintertime. Lots of water collects in Sicily's mountainous inner territories during the winter – and naturally, it has to make its way out.
At the western edge of the Bosco della Ficuzza visitors encounters a miniature version of the Roccas Busambra. A deep groove in the rock forms the perfect path for water to flow, and one can see a waterfall – a whole cascade of small waterfalls. They are best observed from Marker 6 onward. But don't try to copy the young people in the video! There the Sicilian Alpine Club canyoning group uses the Gola del Drago for practice.
From SS118 the route can only be driven on by local residents. Please park at Marker 5 – if there isn't a lot of agricultural equipment present. The Gola del Drago isn't just for fans of waterfalls. The rock also has a lot of interesting and colorful fauna to offer, even in winter.
For those who don't like a lot of crawling around on rocks during their holidays in Sicily, but who still enjoy waterfalls, there is an alternative: the nice little falls on the edge of Corleone. But it only comes out completely in the wintertime.