Newest Review: ... warm clothes for the ascent! Some other places of interest are the 'Castagno dei Cento Cavalli' which means the chestnut tree of one hund... more
The nature reserve of Fiumefreddo
Date: 28/10/00, updated on 03/11/00 (207 review reads)
Advantages: Nature, sun, sea, etc etc
"Quadare" or "quarare" are terms for the ancient copper large pans used in Sicily to boil water, in which women washed laundry near rivers, or used for the preparation of food like jam and mustard. Therefore, the word "quadara" reminds people, particularly the elderly, of large boiling pans. Thus, it is surprising that a "quadara" is associated with very cold water, so cold as to characterise the name of a river: Fiumefreddo. Let's clear up the mystery immediately: how can a hot large pan, becoming the container of cold water? The answer is in the effect of the boiling water. The "quadare" of Fiumefreddo are circular puddles, a few metres wide, from where water emerges from underground and which, coming up, forms bubbles similar to boiling water in a pan. That is why they are commonly called after the aforementioned pots. The "Quadare" are one of the characteristics of the Natural Reserve of the River Fiumefreddo, a small oasis, on the Ionian-Aetnan coast, saved by environmentalists from the destruction that would have come from the planned collection of water decided in the 70's. Underground water emerges from the "Quadare", coming from snow melting from Mount Etna and from rain, forming the main branch of Fiumefreddo. The smaller branch gets its waters from the Capo d`Acqua spring, which in Sicilian dialect is "Testa di Ciumi". Another small contribution of water is given by a third spring. Fiumefreddo, once navigable, as is testified in old photos, is trying, today, to recover from the droughts that, in the last decade have sometimes left its bed without water. However, environmentalists of WWF, who have tried for years to safeguard the area, hope for a new perimeter of the reserve that would protect it better. In Fiumefreddo the old Lake Mascali resides, a system of ponds located between Riposto and Fiumefreddo reduced due to reclamation. Of this area, Fiumefreddo and the Mar
sh of Gurna remain, in the area of Mascali, a damp area where numerous kinds of birds stop and nest. However, it is necessary to stress that Fiumefreddo, contrarily to other naturalistic areas, has not been attacked by the building industry. The problems which torment it derive exclusively from the collection of watersm which has been reducing the flow for years. Agriculture doesn't represent a threat either. However, the use of water by farmers must be controlled, in order to reach a phase in which human activities are compatible with the safeguarding of the environment and in which reserves and agriculture cohabit in harmony.
Arriving in Fiumefreddo means bathing in a small oasis, where noises do not penetrate except those of nature and of traditional human activities. The entrance, signalled from the exit from the motorway, is from via Marina di Cottone, which from Fiumefreddo of Sicily leads to the sea. WWF volunteers welcome visitors. Inside the mill, the only one left among three which were working up to the 50's and today are the site of guides, a permanent photographic exhibition with old and new photos concerning Fiumefreddo, has been prepared. In black and white photos there is the man, who represents the memory of the river: Salvatore Finocchiaro known as "Turi u pisciaru", busy every day with his boat cleaning the banks and fishing trout and eels. The coolness of the mill doesn't make going outside very tempting, especially in summer. Only the idea of diving into the luxuriant vegetation of the reserve, where the cold waters of the river exhale pleasant refreshment, can convince one to advance along the nature path. Walking along the path, the profile of the Belfiore-Continella Farm can be seen, whose lands host industrial and agricultural activities. The first visit is to the different points leaning out towards the "Quadare" from the "Caldare and Fiorini" springs. One's foot sinks in the soft ground th
at, under vegetation becomes so muddy as to induce ancient people to imagine the existence of terrible quicksand that would swallow unlucky people. According to another popular legend, the water of the river is itself deadly. A story is told, in fact, of an innkeeper who killed three wives, with the water of the river; the fourth survived as she refused to drink. The legend was probably born because of the stomach-ache which may occur if you drink it in large quantities and because of its very low temperature and the mineral salts that contains. Actually, in the past, good herbs which were used to cure illnesses were also extracted from the river. The benefits of the medical herbs were known by Donna Lunarda, a teacher to which the whole village would rely on for various illness: infusions of leaves, flowers and roots accompanied by gestures, prayers and exorcisms cured every real or imaginary indisposition. Continuing the walk, there is the typical river landscape in which there is domestic cane, the cane of swamp, the iris with its elegant yellow flower, the plume with the unmistakable flower (in warm periods) which will become like cotton, the horse's tail, the rush and the esteemed papyrus (which in Sicily is also found in Syracuse), stand out from the others. The water temperature, that in summer doesn't even reach 14°C, allows the growth of species typical of Atlantic Europe. In water, submerged or almost submerged, ranunculus "pennello", watercress, water celery, water veronica and gamberaia are visible. The shade in the oasis is guaranteed by white willow-trees, with sinuous branches, and by white poplars.A strong smell of mint announces the presence of aquatic mint. If the sun is high enough to overcome the umbrella of poplars, the bottom of the "Quadare" can be perceived (there are 14 "Quadare"), whose boiling waters are coloured with an intense blue-green. The various view points now allow the observation of the "
;Quadare", and the river where, with a bit of luck it is possible to observe the passage of the water fowl that, if disturbed, runs to hide behind bushes. Here, the songs of river nightingales and of cannaiola are often audible. Among the fauna to be seen, we point out those of the mallard, of various kinds of ducks, of herons (cenerino and red), of garzetta and of nitticora. In the water there are eels and, more rarely, trout. After the small woods of American walnut-trees, planted decades ago, there is the belvedere where remains of a small balcony can be noticed. This was built by the owners of the land, to enjoy the cool of the river as antidote to the summer heat. Here, the two branches of the river (that formed by the "Quadare" and that of the Capo d`Acqua spring) are reunited and Fiumefreddo begins its final run toward the sea. After a wooden footbridge, the surrounding landscape shows on one side the unmistakable outline of Mount Etna and, on the other side, Taormina. In the reserve there are also important archaeological remains: those of the Greek epoch in Naxos; a villa of the imperial Roman age; the Tower of the Cotton and the basement of the Tower of the Corvaja. The guided tour now finished, it is possible to move toward the sea up to the mouth of the river. You can cross the entire via Marina di Cottone and then turn left, into the Royal trazzera Riposto-SchisÚ, along the beach in which oases created by the acacia saligna are noticed, under whose umbrella shelter can be found. After a few hundred metres there is the Arc Bridge over Fiumefreddo, made of lava stone, leaning out from which you may see the last line of the river. In less chaotic moments, waiting in silence for a few minutes, it is possible to notice the small water fowl singing its unmistakable song. Bathing in Marina di Cottone or on the near beach of St. Marco, means to bathe in an icy, but invigorating water, that enjoys of the "doc" mark of cleanliness. The Fi
umefreddo reserve is part the boroughs of Fiumefreddo of Sicily and Calatabiano. Regarding the territory of the first one, we have historical news concerning the Norman period, but only in the 1500's was a first nucleus of houses, shops and mills near the river and a fort built, around which, in the 1600's, the inhabited area developed. The actual place-name, which has replaced the previous, "Putieddi" (small shops), clearly refers to the river. The most representative monument is the eighteenth century Castle of Slaves, in via Marina di Cottone, that is in private ownership and is situated inside the Directed Natural Reserve. The face of a Saracen is carved on the entrance door. The residence has four angular turrets, in an octagonal shape and a small loggia with arcs, from which protrude the busts of two Moors, to which comes the name Castle of Slaves. It is told, in fact, somewhere between legend and reality, of the capture - on the nearby beach - of two Turkish pirates (the same that are in the loggia) and of their imprisonment in the castle as slaves.
Palazzo Diana (on the State Road) that shows a rectangular symmetrical structure with two towers on its corners and decorations in lava stone, the eighteenth century church of St. Vincenzo Ferreri, the Mother Church devoted to the Holy Immaculate Mary and the ruins of a Phoenician tower are also important. Also minor works of arts are connected to the river: for instance, the artisan Michele PatanŽ, who has a workshop on the State Road, extracts paper from a small cultivation of unprotected papyruses, which when worked with traditional techniques, he uses as the base material for paintings and furnishing.
Regarding the local cuisine, among sea specialities, there is watercress (a plant that grows, almost submerged, in the river) made into pancakes or boiled and seasoned with oil and chilli. The local confectionery is particularly appreciated.
It is tied up with the traditi
on of the Greco family, in which the spumone and the cassatelle of Easter are notable. During recent years crops of bougainvillaea and mango have been planted by the Dutch Jan Petit in Fiumefreddo, winning prizes even in Florida. Among the most important events, there is the Poseidon prize, in recognition of those who have been distinguished in naturalistic tourism in Fiumefreddo (in August) and the feast of the aubergine (at end of summer). Surrounded on three sides by the sea and the rivers Fiumefreddo and Alcantara, the territory of Calatabiano has been inhabited since 400 BC. The place-name derives from Kalaat (which in Arab means a castle) and Bian (the name of the Saracen who transformed the fortification into the castle). The fort (which can be visited via the council) had notable importance in the defence of the Sicilian hinterland; in fact, it was built on the highest point of the territory and it became the first outpost from which the invaders from the sea were spotted. After the Arabic period the rampart acquired notable importance in the Norman era. The inhabited area developed at the foot of the castle from the 17th century. In the area, the Castle of St. Marco (erected in the 17th century near the sea) and the Mother Church (devoted to St. Phillip Ciriaco) where a wooden painted Cross of the sixteenth century is kept, are also important. In the territory of Calatabiano there is also part of the atmospheric Gorges of Alcantara, carved by the river in the lava basalt and remains of Greek epoch inside the reserve (mentioned above) and in the region of St. Mark. In Calatabiano, the festival in honour of St. Phillip, in May, sees the procession of the simulacrum of the saint, with black skin, through the countryside and up a tortuous stairway. The statue, from the Church of the Holy Crucifix (on the cliff of the castle), is brought by running men to the Mother Church; eight days after, St. Phillip, this time downhill, completes the return journey. In Cala
tabiano the feast of the medlar, in May and the delicious ice cream of medlar flavour are a must.
How to arrive: Motorway Catania-Messina, junction Fiumefreddo of Sicily.
Tourist information: Town of Fiumefreddo - tel. 095/642432
Town of Calatabiano - tel. 095/645229
Shopping: in Fiumefreddo products and paintings in paper of papyrus; mango; cherry tomato; verdello lemon; and in confectionery spumone and cassatelle of Easter. In Calatabiano there are medlars and ice cream of medlar flavour.
Restaurant: Restaurants Boscomarino and Mare Kambo on the Royal Trazzera Riposto-SchisÚ, not far from the Natural Reserve of Fiumefreddo
Accomodation: in Fiumefreddo of Sicily at the agri-tourist firm Borgo Valerio; in Calatabiano at the Village "Castle of St. Mark", in the castle of the same name. There is the possibility of accomodation in the nearby towns of Mascali, Giardini and Taormina and on the sea-mountain road (hotels and shelters) that from Linguaglossa leads to Mount Etna.
I'm sicilian and I live in Palermo! so I love Sicily