Le Madonie are similar to the neighboring Nebrodi Mountains – equally untamed, bare, and scenically different, and protected by a parco regionale (regional park). The main differences are that they are higher – the highest point, Pizzo Caronara, is 6,493 feet (1,979 m) – slightly more accessible, and offer more hiking opportunities.
The Madonie also have more villages of intrinsic interest, most of them easily explored from Cefalu, the best base if you only wish to devote a day’s driving to the mountains. Otherwise, the area can be seen en route between Cefalu and Enna, the latter a well-placed stopover at the heart of the island. Thereafter you can use the A 19 express to return to Cefalu (or Palermo) or head east for Etna, Taormina, or Syracuse.
Alternatively, continue to the villa Imperiale del Casale to the South. To egin a tour, take the A 20 or coast road east form Cefalu 5 miles (8 Km), then follow S 286 into the Madonie foothills to Castelbuono, 7.5 mile (12 Km) south, an attractice town built around a 14th century castle (phone 0921 671 211) that is now used for exhibits. It also has an interesting museum, the Museo Minà Palumbo (Via Roma 52, phone 0921 671 895 or 0921 671 124, closed Mon. p.m. $) with exhibits of fossils, decorative arts, archeologocal finds, and natural history.
Continuing to the south, the road passes Geraci Siculo, a hill village where it’s worth pausing to climb to the ruins of the castle (1072) for superb views. The road that meets the S 120, where a 2.5 mile (4 Km) detour southeast leads to Gangi, an impressively situated town.
Retrace your steps on the S 120 and head west to the appealing Petralia Soprana. The views of the Madonie form here are exceptional, and the medieval streets are full of incidental interest. Continuing on, turn north on a side road to see the mountain-ringed villave of Petralia Sottana.
Much the same can be said of Polizzi Generosa, a delightful village that requires a 7.5-mile (12 Km) detour west, and is distinguished by its many churches and small Museo Madonita (phone 0921 649 478, closed p.m., Tues., Thurs., & Sat., $$).
The minor road north from Petralia Sottana via Isnello offers a far more scenic alternative to the S 643. This spectacular road leads through the heart of the Madonie, with the best views between Piano Battaglia and Piano Zucchi.
Head south form Petralia Soprana to Enna. This fine town sits atop a colossal crag whose sweeping views have earned the title of the “Belvedere di Sicilia” (Balcony of Sicily). A combination of good restaurants, reasonable hotels, and interesting sighs makes this a good base. Visit the castle (phone 0935 40 347), the Duomo, and excellent Museo Alessi (off Via Roma, phone 0935 503 165).