Walk 2: Polizzi to Sanguesughi (with optional loop past the fire-watch tower)
The main walk is a lovely, fairly gentle stroll which can easily be reached on foot from the centre of Polizzi. It meanders gently upwards through pine and mixed forest on well-kept forest tracks, with great views of Monte Scalone and Monte Cervi. It is also offers access to much longer hikes up onto the massif and over to the Madonna del Alto.
Time: 2-2.5 hours (3-3.5 hours with optional loop). Degree of Difficulty: 1-2 (Loop 2-3)
Total ascent/descent: 300 metres (1000 feet)
Starting/finishing point: Sanguesughi gate, 0.8 kms outside Polizzi on the SP119 (P on map)
Access to starting point: Walk (or drive) out on the SP119 through the aquaduct at the top of the town – after about 700-800 metres, the entrance gate and parking area are on your right (photo 1 above).
Walk up the track into the forest and after 5 minutes pass a building on your right, which is the operations centre for the park's fire service. Directly opposite is an extensive picnic/ barbecue area, which is heavily used by locals on Sundays in the summer months. Even on such days, you soon leave the noise and activity behind. Carry on up the track, which rises steadily in long zig-zags through pine trees and then mixed forest, offering ever more extensive views. In spring, the grassy areas between the trees may be covered with extensive displays of beautiful, blue-purple vetch.
After about an hour you come to a '10kph' sign at a junction (photo 2, A on map) – you will approach it from the rear. The track off on your right is the start of the additional loop (see below) and the climb past Monte Cavallo and on to Madonna del'Alto. For the main walk, carry on forwards on the main track and in 10 minutes you will reach Casa Sanguesughi, a Corpo Forestale house below Monte Cavallo, with a small picnic area and shaded seating area in a small rose garden. Return by the same route.
Additional Loop past the Fire-watch Tower (an extra 50-60 minutes)
On reaching the '10kph' sign mentioned above, take the wide forest track going off on your right (photo 3 below), which soon curves back on itself, through mixed woodland, dominated by oaks. After about 10-12 minutes steady climbing, you will reach a gate with a turning on your right – this leads down to the Sanguesughi fire-watch tower, which is occupied by fire service watchers from July to September or even October, if the weather is very dry. You can walk down to see the tower and return (add 10 minutes).
At the gate, carry on straight ahead – the track soon emerges from dense woodland and becomes more open, with a mix of Atlantic cedar, deodars, umbrella pines and mountain ash. After 10 minutes from the gate, the track emerges on a mountainside, with great views.
Photo 4 - start of the Loop
Photo 5 - marker by the track indicating where you turn back down to Sanguesughi
After 5 or 6 minutes of uphill walking on the broad track, look out for a post and stone on your left, marking the descent (photo 4, B on map). Turn left down a narrow, steep and stony path, which zig-zags down the hill through shrubs and flowers (in the spring early summer) and with great views – you will see numerous Sentiero 16 signs on the descent. After 20-25 minutes descent you will pass a striped, plastic water-pool on your left and come out on a road. Turn left and Sanguesughi (C on map) is 150 metres further on to the left – it has a little rose garden and seating area, for a break. Carry on down the cobbled ramp in front of the house, walk straight ahead, with a dry stone wall on your left. After about 10 minutes, you will see the 10kph sign (A). Return to Polizzi on the same broad forest trail.
NB: For an even longer out-and-back walk, with increasingly spectacular views, carry on up the hill, past the post and stone marker. You will reach the plateau after another 45 minutes of climbing and Madonna del Alto across the plateau in 1.5 hours