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Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie/Italy

Introducing Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie

Travellers making their way between Palermo and Cefalù have the option of visiting two very different destinations within the space of a few days. After spending time jostling with armies of sun-seeking holidaymakers on the overdeveloped coast, savvy visitors inevitably choose to abandon their deckchairs and head to the hills to savour the spectacular scenery and tranquil surrounds of the 400-sq-km Madonie regional park.

The Monti Madonie (Madonie mountains) are crowned by Pizzo Carbonara – at 1979m the highest mountain in Sicily after Mt Etna – and the regional park takes in farms, hilltop towns and ski resorts.

Here, the seasons are distinct: spring sees spectacular spreads of wildflowers carpeting the mountain slopes; autumn brings with it wild mushrooms and the rich hues of forest foliage; winter prompts downhill action on the ski slopes; and June and July offer blissfully cool temperatures and an escape from the coastal crowds.

This is an area where people live and work, not just a nature reserve, meaning that you can combine hiking with visits to historic hilltop towns and meals in some of Sicily's best restaurants. It's perfectly suited to slow, culturally rich travel.

Park offices in Petralia Sottana and Cefalù offer details about several one-day walks, as well as information about transport and accommodation. They also stock the 1:50,000 Madonie/Carta dei Sentieri e del Paesaggio map (€3), which highlights the region's walking trails.