Friday, February 10, 2017

A Walk Around the Necropolis of Pantalica

Left: View from San Micidiario Cave, Pantalica. Right: Anemone coronaria at Pantalica.
View from San Micidiario Cave, Pantalica.Anemone coronaria at Pantalica.


We loosely based our day at Pantalica on Walk 11: Wondrous Pantalica and its Necropolises*, which can be found in the guide “Walking in Sicily” [Cicerone]. We started in the southern part of the necropolises (called Part B in Walk 11) and stayed on the promontory, never dropping down to the Anapo river. We accessed the site by car through Ferla, Sella di Filoporto. After exploring the southern part, we went just a little further up the road, which dead ends at the northern area of Pantalica (called Part A in Walk 11). There, we walked down to the Torrente Calcinara. As we pondered whether to cross the stream, a local came up from behind us and gingerly hop across it with a bunch of freshly picked wild asparagus. For us, it was a bit too much to cross in its swollen state due to recent rains. We turned around. If you are coming from Sortino, you will have to cross that stream. Not crossing the stream meant we missed some part of the northern necropolis.

* We use here the English singular “necropolis” instead of “necropolises” following what the UNESCO site does, despite the chapter’s title. Though it may seem like the literal translation of the Italian “necropoli” would be the plural “necropolises”, “necropli” is an invariant noun meaning that "necropolis" is an acceptable translation.

We were based in Ragusa for six nights and Pantalica was a day trip for us. It was a long drive at just under 2 hours to get there due to a road deviation and rough roads with debris across them from recent heavy rains. Coming back, we found a better route and cut the driving time to 1.5 hours. The take away message is that from Ragusa it’s a long drive, 3-4 total hours total by car. It’s not much better from Syracuse at about an hour and 15 minutes each way. If you are interested in this area, consider spending a few nights nearby, for example, at Palazzolo Acreide or Buccheri. One or two days can then be spent at the Necropoli Pantalica and one or two days exploring Palazzolo Acreide (one of the I Borghi più belli d'Italia) and its Teatro Greco and I Santonini (statues carved in rock). At least, that’s what we would do next time.

Views of Necropolis of Pantalica. Left: Multiple tombs above the Torrente Calcinara. Center: Tomb at Filoporto. Right: San Micidiario.
View of Necropolis of Pantalica. Multiple tombs above the Torrente Calcinara.Necropolis of Pantalica. Tomb at Filoporto.Necropolis of Pantalica. San Micidiario.

What is the Necropoli di Pantalica?

The Necropolis of Pantalica or Necropoli Pantalica is area of natural and artificial grottoes on a plateau between the towns of Ferla and Sortino in south-eastern Sicily. The area contains thousands of rock-cut chamber tombs created between the 13th to 7th centuries BC, which give important clues to the prehistory of Bronze Age Sicily. Mixed in with the tombs are dwellings dating from the period of Greek colonization and early Medieval times.

Wandering around the area, you are surrounded by two rivers and lots of interesting flora and beautiful views. You can more or less freely enter in and out of most tombs or grottoes, if you can reach them. The necropolis and the city of Syracuse were inscribed into UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2005 for their historical and archaeological interest and there rich natural landscapes.

Three photos of Calendula at Pantalica.
Photo of Calendula at Pantalica.Photo of Calendula at Pantalica.Photo of Calendula at Pantalica.

Flora of Pantalica

The Pantalica site is part of the nature reserve called Riserva Naturale Orientata Pantalica, known for its significant biodiversity. Most of the plants we list and show here were found high on the promontory above the Anapo river. The ecosystem of the promontory is maquis shrubland, in Italian: macchia mediterranea.

The plant list contains plants that we could identify, and is a tiny fraction of what’s there. At this time of the year (February), the most visible plants, at least in number of flowers, were the Asphodelus spp., C. ruber – red valerian, L. reflexa - Linaria, and O pes-caprae - sorrel. (It's not saying much that the sorrel was there: it's everywhere.)

Plant List

Most of the plants in the list are pictured in this post. A question mark means the we are certain of the genus but not the species.

[Anacardiaceae] Pistacia lentiscus
[Apiaceae] Foeniculum vulgare
[Araceae] Arum italicum
[Asteraceae] Calendula suffructicosa (?)
[Asteraceae] Leontodon tuberosus (?)
[Boraginaceae] Borago officinalis
[Boraginaceae] Cerinthe major
[Boraginaceae] Cynoglossum cheirifolium (?)
[Brassicaceae] Diplotaxis erucoides
[Caryophyllaceae] Silene colorata (?)
[Crassulaceae] Sedum caeruleum (?)
[Dioscoreaceae] Dioscorea communis
[Ericaceae] Erica multiflora (?)
[Euphorbiaceae] Euphorbia dendroides
[Fabaceae] Ceratonia siliqua
[Fabaceae] Lathyrus cicera
[Fabaceae] Lathyrus clymenum
[Iridaceae] Romulea bulbocodium
[Lamiaceae] Phlomis fruticosa
[Liliaceae] Asphodelus spp.
[Oleaceae] Olea oleaster
[Oxalidaceae] Oxalis pes-caprae
[Papaveraceae] Fumaria spp.
[Plantaginaceae] Linaria reflexa
[Primulaceae] Cyclamen spp.
[Ranunculaceae] Anemone coronaria
[Smilaceae] Smilax aspera
[Valerianaceae] Centranthrus ruber

Resources that we found useful for helping to identify plants we saw at Pantalica include:

Left: Pistacia lentiscus - mastic. Center: Ceratonia siliqua - carob tree. Right: Foeniculum vulgare - fennel.
Pistacia lentiscus - mastic.Ceratonia siliqua - carob tree.Foeniculum vulgare - fennel.

Leaves at Pantalica. Left: Arum italicum. Center: Dioscorea communis. Right: Cyclamen.
Arum italicumDioscorea communisCyclamen

Left and center: Smilax aspera. Right: A dance between Calendula and Leontondon.
Smilax aspera.Smilax aspera leaf.Dance between Calendula and Leontondon.

Left: Cynoglossum cheirifolium. Center: Smilax aspera. Right: Fumaria.
Cynoglossum cheirifolium Smilax asperaFumaria

Borage family. Left: Borago officinalis. Center: Cerinthe major. Right: Cynoglossum cheirifolium.
Borago officinalis at Pantalica.Cerinthe major at Pantalica.Cynoglossum cheirifolium at Pantalica.

Plants observed at Pantalica. Left: Silene. Center: Sedum. Right: Heather.
Silene plant at Pantalica.Sedum plant at Pantalica.Heather plant at Pantalica.

Plants observed at Pantalica. Left: Euphorbia. Center: Romulea. Right: Linaria.
Euphorbia plant at Pantalica.Romulea plant at Pantalica.Linaria plant at Pantalica.

Plants observed at Pantalica. Left and center: Centranthrus ruber. Right: Leontodon tuberosus.
Pantalica: Centranthrus ruberPantalica: Centranthrus ruberPantalica:  Leontodon tuberosus

Lathyrus cicera and Lathyrus clymenum.

Asphodelus at Pantalica.
Asphodelus at Pantalica.Asphodelus at Pantalica.

Trail markers at Necropolis of Pantalica.
Trail marker at Necropolis of Pantalica.Trail marker at Necropolis of Pantalica.Trail marker at Necropolis of Pantalica.

Left: Information board for Riserva Naturale Orientata. Center and Right: Views of trail with Asphodelus.
Information board for Riserva Naturale Orientata. View of trail with Asphodelus.View of trail with Asphodelus.

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