Let me start off by telling you right away it is a bit tricky finding the entrance to the park (directions at end of post) that is the start of a beautiful hike along the Anapo River Valley in the province of Syracuse (more info here if you read Italian). But don't let that discourage you because it is so worth it!
Hiking along the Anapo River is just lovely. The water is crystal clear and changes from a gray blue to the most gorgeous green color in some places. The hiking paths along the valley floor are quite easy. The 6 year old had no trouble at all. This park is not very well visited, so chances are you will have the company of more water bugs (the cutes ones that can walk on water) and black dragonflies, than people.
The main trail actually follows an old railroad track. The tracks are gone, but the trail still passes through several pitch black tunnels carved right through solid rock. We didn't see any bats, but we were sure looking. After passing through the first tunnel, almost immediately after leaving the park entrance, we took a trail that went down to the right towards the river. Here the trails are tree-covered passageways through thick greenery (this is where the 6 year old exclaimed we were in the rain forest!), and will eventually lead you to the river's edge. From here we saw sections of rushing water as well as wide shallow pools where it was possible to spot freshwater trout swimming along the bottom.
Back on the main railway trail we decided to continue further along through a second tunnel. At the end of this longer tunnel we found a flight of stairs carved directly into the rock going up and to the right. They were too enticing to pass by, so we followed them up and found ourselves peering down at the most beautiful green pool of water I have ever seen. We scooted down the trail until the pool was ours. Some local college kids were already in the water. We found our own spot and waded around a bit. How could I have forgotten the bathing suits! We gave the 6 year old permission to strip down and go for a swim bare-bottomed. I highly regret not being able to join him myself.
While the beautiful swimming hole was enough to have made the trip worth it, we also greatly enjoyed the free nourishment we had along the way. Wild blackberry bushes and fig trees were just about everywhere. And deliciously perfect. We really did stuff ourselves silly. Another reason why late summer is the perfect time to come to this place. Although in spring there must be lovely things blooming, and in the fall there maybe some nice foliage...yes, I will be coming back!
Had we continued furthered, we would have been able to see some tombs and necropolis that are part of the Pantalica archaeological park.
Following the sound of the river
Black berries everywhere
Fig trees full of the dark purple figs, everywhere
How to get there:
We followed the directions in one of my favorite Sicily guidebooks, Walking In Sicily. The walk is a total of 4 miles, but we only covered a fraction of it. The trail begins at the Fusco entrance. We came from the town of Sortino, and were pointed in the right direction by one of the locals and eventually found a sign confirming that we were indeed on the way to Fusco (taking the Floridia-Sortino provincial highway). The dirve from Sortino is beautiful as you start up high at the top of the rocky cliffs, and slowly wind down to the valley floor. Along the way we spotted some Kingfishers as well as a hawk and enjoyed the lovely scenery.
Eventually, after 12 km along this road, we came to large yellow sign with the words "Valle dell'Anapo" on them pointing us to turn right. This part gets confusing because there are several turnoffs from this road and it is unclear which is the right one. After some mishaps we asked a nice man driving a truck who gave us very specific directions: don't take the first left, don't take the second left, but do take the third left, that is the the right road. Look carefully because this road is painted red. It is a bit worn off now, but if you look closely you will see it is red." We followed this nice man's instructions very carefully and found ourselves on the red road that lead us straight to the park entrance. Good luck!