Italy

Allure of the Hidden Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon

The Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon is approximately 10 kilometres in length with a river that can only be reached by the winding, rocky paths along the steep ravines. The canyon boasts numerous waterfalls, swimming holes and amazing limestone formations. A paradise awaiting exploration.   

After three quiet and restful days at Aurora campsite in Giardini Naxos, near Taormina, we were ready to hit the road again. In our sights was the little known Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon and we were treated to a beautiful, sunny winter’s day.

We drove nearly two hours to reach the car park, near a closed campsite, at the summit of a hill overlooking the canyon. Our location was on the southern side of the Fiume Cassibile river.

White campervan overlooking a canyon with a volcano in the background
View from the car park above Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon with Mt Etna in the background

Of interest here, sited on the northern ravine are the graves of the pre-historic Sicel people who inhabited Eastern Sicily from the Iron Age (1200 to 600BC). The ravines in this area hold around 2000 graves carved out of rock dating from the 11th to the 9th century BC.

Holes in a canyon wall mark the graves of prehistoric people
Holes in the canyon wall mark the graves of the pre-historic Sicel people

The Descent

Parking up, we grabbed some water and a few mandarins and started walking towards the gated entrance to the Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon. The gate was closed and locked. Reading further on this afterwards, the ravines are subject to landslides which block the paths and make them unsafe for travel. Since 2014, funding for the maintenance of these paths has been limited. At least during our visit, in early 2018, the paths were all in good shape.

Black fence blocking the entrance to the canyon
Entrance to the canyon was gated and locked

So undeterred, we jumped the fence and started the descent to the river. We could see there were quite a few S-bends to negotiate. The start of the walk was over rocks with steps cut into them and the surface was quite slippery-definitely requiring extra caution.

Rocky path going downhill with green vegetation on the side
Walking path was sometimes treacherous with water and sand

After a little while the paths became a rocky, soiled path so the going was a little easier.

Winding river between 2 ravines with green vegetation
Our first glimpse of the winding river dividing the Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon

The sound of the waterfalls was becoming gradually louder. You begin to picture in your mind what they might look like but you really have no idea. The path flattened out and paralleled the river before meandering around a few rocky outcrops, which soon led to a small rocky ravine.

Arrival

The bottom of ravine was stepped with natural limestone formations and there in front of us, were the crystal, clear waters of the river. The time from the car park to this point was about 45 minutes.

Natural limestone rock steppes lead to the river
Limestone steps at the river’s edge

This rocky path along the river was slick with water and sand caused from leaching of the soil on the hills. We both slipped a few times resulting in wet butts and a few scrapes but nothing more serious. We gingerly walked further along the path and came upon a series of rock ledges with the flowing water creating a beautiful, soothing sound. The river widened forcing the path up against the ravine wall.

Picking our way over the rock ledges following the river, we saw a series of small waterfalls. The final one, with a fall of about 15 metres, was the biggest of them all. It was an impressive view looking back up the river at all the small, tiered waterfalls.

The many small, tiered waterfalls
The many small, tiered waterfalls

 

The final waterfall with a fall of about 15 metres
The last waterfall had a fall of about 15 metres

Having had a good look around, we took a good gulp of water and set off back along the same path up the top of the ravine. Head down and tail up!

Trek from car park to the falls
Trek from car park to the falls

It was a fairly steep return walk so we took the mandatory break at the half-way point. We ended up with a total time of 50 minutes for the homeward bound leg. That was at a pretty fast pace. It was great exercise and topped off a brilliant day in nature’s backyard.

 

Lars

Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

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