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Cycling tourism

From Milazzo to Bagheria: riding the bike along the northern coast of Sicily

Pedalling along an seemingly suspended itinerary. Up there, vineyards and olive groves where ancient watchtowers stand out. Further down, the sea reserves are overlooked by abandoned tuna fisheries and villages that look like film sets.

3 minutes

The road, winding through the Mediterranean maquis and on scenic undulations along the northern coast of the island – known as Settentrionale Sicula – is the perfect route for riders tackling this stage of the Giro di Sicilia. In all, there are 199 kilometres with no major difficulties, to the delight of the sprinters who will cover the course in one go.

But for those who are just bike enthusiasts, the route we are talking about here is an invitation to slow down the pace, to enjoy the lush nature and important historical traces. Watch out, however, not to be too distracted by the view: you are on a Statale road (No. 113), so keep your eyes on the road and, if you are with others, proceed in single file.

In Milazzo, immersed in history and science

View of Milazzo from the sea

The itinerary begins in Milazzo, in the far north-eastern corner of the island. From its port ferries take tourists to the Aeolian Islands. But this town is more than just a starting point. The Castle, for example, must be visited. It is in the territory of Capo, an extension of land jutting impertinently into the sea, almost touching the Aeolian Archipelago.

It was here, during the Swabian domination, in the 13th century, that Frederick II had one of his manors built, later remodelled by the Aragonese sovereigns and the Spanish viceroys, who enlarged it until it became the largest fortified citadel in Sicily.

Inside its mighty walls, there is a gem not to be missed: we are talking about the MuMa, the Museum of the Sea, which boasts a collection of videos, multimedia installations and art pieces dedicated to the relationship between man and the marine environment.

Tindari, where legends and ancient ruins abound

The sanctuary and the beach in Tindari

30 kilometres into the course, the riders are faced with the only climb today: the ascent to Tindari, founded on the ancient Greek city of Tyndaris, perched more than 260 metres above sea level. The climb is almost within everyone’s reach, with a final prize: in addition to the wonderful view, at the top of the promontory is the Basilica Santuario Maria Santissima del Tindari, which houses a Byzantine statue of the Black Madonna.

Legend has it that it was part of the cargo of a ship returning from the East, which had to take shelter in the bay below, due to a storm, and only managed to leave again after abandoning the chest containing the precious sculpture. A few kilometres away, still on the route, you’lle find another gem: Patti, famous for its pottery production and the entrance to its archaeological area.

Continuing along the Costa Saracena, along hairpin bends suspended over panoramic terraces, after about 60 kilometres you arrive at Capo D’Orlando, the ancient Agatirso, that has been one of the most important emporia in the Mediterranean over the centuries.

Bagheria, in the heart of Baroque

The Villa Palagonia in Bagheria

The route of this stage of the Giro di Sicilia continues along the northern Sicilian coast and reaches the Norman town of Cefalù, on the edge of the Madonie Park. One of Italy’s most beautiful villages, it has a historic centre dominated by the Duomo, a masterpiece of Arab-Norman architecture, listed as a World Heritage Site in 2015 along with “Arab-Norman Palermo” and Monreale Cathedral. Something else invites you to linger: the urban beach, squeezed between the village’s typical houses and a ‘Caribbean’ sea.

A refreshing dip is the best way to tackle the short steep climb in Termini Imerese, after about 30 kilometres, and the slight ascent (with an average gradient of 1.5%) of the final section of the route. Three kilometres from the finish line, the course leaves the Statale road and enters Bagheria, a small Baroque jewel, known for its villas, which date from the 18th century mostly.

Which one to choose? The oldest is Palazzo Butera, built in 1658. The most famous is Villa Palagonia, also known as the ‘Villa of the Monsters’, because of its numerous statues of deformed creatures. In 1787 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited it, and in 2009 it was the set for Giuseppe Tornatore’s film Baarìa.

By RCS Sport editorial staff.

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