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Provola and Manna (The Madonie)

Provola and Manna (The Madonie)

Valerio Griffa - 2009-09-22

The relationship between a region and its local produce is just as important to its future as its past and, in the case of the Madonie mountain range between Palermo and Cefalu Enna, one that produces exceptional results...small villages, beautiful hiking trails and local producers using traditional methods to create high-quality cheeses and other food.

 
Provola and Manna....products of the region
Caciocavallo is a generic term for cheeses that are dried out two by two onto a bar or ‘squeegee’, creating the “cheese on horseback” (Caciocavallo) image from which such cheeses take their name.
 
Provola delle Madonie, is a local delicacy, currently awaiting protected designation of origin (DOP) status, which is matured in this way and, therefore, belonging to the Caciocavallo family. It’s a smooth, compact cone or pear shaped cheese with a fine crust and a straw-yellow tone. This cheese is produced from cow's milk heated in a wooden vat to 38°C, after which sheep rennet is added. Provola is a pasta Filata cheese* that can be eaten fresh or after 15 days once it has matured. A typical product of the Park, Provola delle Madonie features the distinctive aroma of the plants and herbs of Mediterranean mountain regions.
 
Another local specialty is manna, its name taken from the biblical food used by God to feed the people. The manna in Sicily may not fall from the sky, but is derived instead from the sweet sap extracted from a process of making incisions in the trunk and branches of manna and caucasian ash trees between September and December.
 
The result is a refreshing, slightly bluish sap that is used in the making of breads and pastries. Although Manna was known to the Greek, Roman and Middle-eastern societies, it’s only here that its use has survived.
 
 
Madonie delle regional Park
Madonie delle Regional Park is spread across forty Madonie delle Regional Park consists of forty thousand acres, fifteen towns and villages and, most importantly for outdoor enthusiasts, endless trails. Whether you’re on foot, bike or horseback, San Guglielmo (Castelbuono) makes an ideal starting point and from here you can head for the refuge at Crispi Sempria in Piano, before continuing along to Piano Pomo at an altitude of 1,440 mtrs. Take this route and you’ll come across huge holly bushes, some of which reach a height of up to 15m and are more than 200 years old. Milkweed and wormwood are other examples of the area’s most common flora as well as well as the 900-year-old trees found in an area where coal was once mined. There’s also the added bonus of unique views of Mount Etna, the Nebrodi mountains and the Aeolian Islands.
 
Another destination is the Tiberio gorge with its sugar-white limestone rocks shaped by the waters of the Pollina river. The path winds through citrus and olive groves and down to the river and its banks lined with heather and arbutus trees bursting with fruit. There are also a number of architectural and cultural sights to take in including a shrine to the Virgin Mary at
santuario de Gilbilmanna and its museum of religious artifacts and catacombs, as well as the 14th century Cathedral in Geraci Siculo, a municipality in which, unique to Sicily, the art of falconry is still practiced. Look out for the falconry demonstrations that take place throughout the Summer months.
 
From the Virgin Mary shrine at santuario de Gilbilmanna, you’ll find a nature trail that leads directly to the sea and as you leave the forest there’s a beautiful, panoramic view of Cefalu with its cathedral, rising from the rocks, a Norman church dating back to the 12th Century where you can admire a majestic mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. The mosaic represents Christ bathed in a halo of golden light and dressed in a blue and brown robe to symbolize the duality of nature with a serene facial expression and hands in the gesture of blessing typical of Byzantine iconography. At the foot of the church is the city and the sea and above it the mountains.
 
* The curd is mixed with hot water and then stirred with a wooden ladle.
 
 
Useful Information
AAPIT
piazza Castelnuovo 34
tel.: 091.583847
Comune di Palermo
numero verde 800.234169
 
Ente Parco Regionale delle Madonie
corso Agliata 6
Petralia Sottana (Pa)
tel.: 0921.684011
Ufficio Turistico
tel.: 0921.923327
 
Azienda Turistica di Cefalù
corso Ruggero 77
tel. 0921.421050
 

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