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Wild Flowers of Sicily

Tour Code: ITA10

An 8-day appreciation of the wild flowers of Sicily's Mount Etna and the Madonie Mountains.

8 days from £1495(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1345 SRS: £160

During this week-long wildflower holiday on Sicily we will inspect the various stages of colonisation on Mount Etna, right up to a stone’s throw from the summit, enjoying many endemic plants in the process. Our next base, the pretty mountain village of Isnello in the Madonie Mountains, will herald a dramatic change of scenery as we leave behind the igneous rocks of Etna and enter a dramatic landscape of Dolomitic limestone. This is always a memorable week, in which we are not only able to enjoy many of Sicily’s special plants but also gain a fascinating insight into the geology and history of this intriguing island.

  • Explore the fascinating and unique flora of Mount Etna, one of Europe's most active volcanoes
  • Discover such endemic flowers as Etna Violet and Etna Greenweed amongst Etna's lava flows
  • Enjoy the rugged limestone scenery and our quaint village hotel in the Madonie Mountains
  • Search for characteristic Madonie flora with its own range of specialities such as the Nebrod Pine (EM>Abies nebrodensis/EM>)


All included in the price.


Two pleasant and traditional hotels serving fine local food, both with private facilities.

Swafly Orchid (unknown)

Swafly Orchid (unknown)

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly Catania; transfer Zafferana

Day 2/3 Zafferana, Mount Etna region

Day 4/7 Isnello, the Madonie Mountains

Day 8 Fly London

Lying in the central Mediterranean Sea, separated from the toe of Italy to the east by the Straits of Messina, from Sardinia to the north by the Tyrrhenian Sea, and from the continent of Africa to the south by the Straits of Sicily, the island of Sicily basks in a warm, mainly dry climate. The history of the island can be traced as far back as 13,000 BC when, as legend has it, the land was inhabited by a race of powerful and invincible giants, descended from Zeus. Their continued tenancy, however, was short-lived as they chose to challenge the authority of the Gods and were banished, in chains, to the underworld below the island’s volcanoes to fashion weapons, such as thunderbolts, for the Gods. To this day they struggle and moan to free themselves from the immense weight of the mountains, causing eruptions when they stir. Next, between the 13th and 11th centuries BC, the Elymian, Sical and Sican peoples colonised the island, giving it its name. By the third century BC, Sicily had become the first province of Rome, its fertile soil earning it the title of ‘Granary of the Empire’. 

It is this fertile soil that we hope to benefit from in our search for the wild flowers of this beautiful island. During our stay, we will be visiting two specific areas — first, the slopes of Mount Etna from our base in Sant’Alfio, on the eastern side of the mountain, and then the beautiful Madonie Mountains which rise steeply from the northern coast. Our 2-centre holiday will begin with a flight to Catania, lying in Mount Etna’s shadow in the east of the island and, as our aeroplane banks, we may catch our first sight of Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano. This smouldering giant has been a menacing neighbour for the Sicilians ever since its first recorded eruption in 450 BC. There have been around 260 subsequent eruptions of varying intensity, which are still occurring to the present day. 

Etna’s inhospitable summit stands at about 3,350 metres above sea level and, with a diameter of 44 kilometres and an area of 1,600 square kilometres, she has a truly massive presence. There are a number of interesting botanical locations on the southern and eastern slopes and our plan for the first part of our trip will be to explore the various stages of the lava’s colonisation and some of the area’s many endemic species. Our hotel, on the outskirts of the charming village of Sant’Alfio, started life as a Benedictine monastery, and was later a winery. It is now an organic farm specialising in fruit, nuts and olives.  

From Sant’Alfio we will visit the Piano Provenzana, with its recent lava flows, where we should find Sicilian Milkvetch (Astragalus sicula), the endemic birch (Betula aetnensis) and the endemic Etna Violet (Viola aethnensis). Other species we should encounter include Etna Greenweed (Genista aetnensis), Etna Tansy (Tanacetum siculum) and Etna Barberry (Berberis aetnensis). On another day we will focus on the volcano itself, driving up to the Rifugio Sapienza where we’ll take the Funivia dell’Etna to the Piccolo Rifugio (about 2,500 metres), before transferring to large 4x4 vehicles to make the slow ascent via man-made tracks through the snow, lava and ash fields to the 2002/3 crater, just below the summit. The views from the top are magnificent. This is generally considered one of the highlights of the tour, but if you do not wish to take this excursion, there is an opportunity to explore the Crateri Silvestri, and to enjoy the many cafés, bars and retail outlets around the Rifugio Sapienza. Later, we will continue down the south side of the mountain onto a minor road where we will have lunch and explore some more lava flows, looking out for such species as Etna Green-weed (Genista aetnensis), French Figwort (Scrophularia canina), Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina) and Rock Bunting. Retracing our steps, we may stop to explore an area of Sweet Chestnut woodland near Zafferana, where we will look for Yellow Vetch (Vicia lutea), a birthwort (Aristolochia rotunda), the yellow and black pea (Vicia melanops) and Violet Bird’s-nest Orchid (Limodorum arbortivum). 

Our transfer west to the Madonie Mountains, our base for the next four nights, will herald a dramatic change of scenery as we leave behind the igneous rocks of Etna and enter a landscape of Dolomitic limestone. En route we will look for the original Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odorata) and Blue Stonecrop (Sedum caeruleum), both endemic to Sicily. From our hotel near Piano Battaglia, with its beautiful views of the mountains, we will explore the mountain meadows and woodlands, with their many orchids, including Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea), Sicilian Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys grandiflora), the endemic Archimedes’ Bee Orchid (Ophrys archimedea) and Ophrys flammeola, and the beautiful purple and lemon Dwarf Bearded Irises (Iris pseudopumila). We will walk up to Monte Quacella and the Madonna degli Angeli Valley, the home of the endemic Sicilian Fir (Abies nebrodensis), of which there are only about 30 mature trees in the world. On another day, we will travel west to the Bosco di Ficuzza, home to nearly the whole world population of the rare Pale Ophrys (Ophrys pallida), the endemic Ophrys oxyrrhyncos plus many other Ophrys species. The woodland is also home to the wild peony, Paeonia mascula, which in this area tends to be white. 

This should be a memorable week, in which we will not only be able to enjoy many of Sicily’s special plants but will also gain a fascinating insight into the geology and history of this intriguing island.



Viloet Romulea, Romulea bulbocodium (Paul Harmes)Azure Stonecrop, Sedum caerulium (Paul Harmes)Pink Butterfly Orchid, Orchis papilonacea (Paul Harmes)Alpine Squill, Scilla bifolia (Paul Harmes)Provence Orchid, Orchis provincialis (Paul Harmes)Slender Broomrape, Orobanche gracilis (Paul Harmes)Madone Mountains near Isnello (Paul Harmes)Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus (Kerrie Porteous)Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus (Kerrie Porteous)Linaria heterphylla (Paul Harmes)Naked Man Orchid, Orchis italica (Paul Harmes)Mount Etna (Paul Harmes)Mirror Bee Orchid, Ophrys speculum (Paul Harmes)Rock Rose, Cistus creticus (Paul Harmes)Campanula dichotma (Paul Harmes)Hotel Abergo Airone (Paul Harmes)Southern Dwarf Iris, Iris pseudopumila (Paul Harmes)Upright myrtle Spurge, Euphorbia rigida (Paul Harmes)Linum pinctatum (Paul Harmes)Roman Hyacinth, Bellevalia romana (Paul Harmes)Annual Mallow, Lavatera trimestris (Paul Harmes)Ophrys lacaitae (Paul Harmes)9 Spot Moth (Kerrie Porteous)Aetherie Fritillary (Kerrie Porteous)Basilica at Gibilmanna (Kerrie Porteous)Bellevalia dubia (Paul Harmes)Bosco di Ficuzza (Kerrie Porteous)Giant Fennel, Ferula communis (Kerrie Porteous)Genista cupanii (Paul Harmes)Knapweed Fritillary (Kerrie Porteous)Green Lizard, Lacerta viridis (Kerrie Porteous)Bumblebee Orchid, Ophrys bombyliflora (Kerrie Porteous)Ophrys incubacea (Kerrie Porteous)Ophrys incubacea (Kerrie Porteous)Ophrys pallida (Kerrie Porteous)Mirror Orchid, Ophrys speculum (Kerrie Porteous)Orchis brancifortii (Kerrie Porteous)Pink Butterfly Orchid, Orchis papilionacea (Kerrie Porteous)Ornithogalum arabicum (Paul Harmes)Paeonia mascula (Kerrie Porteous)Azure Stonecropm, Sedum caeruleum (Kerrie Porteous)Vallone Madonna degli Angeli (Kerrie Porteous)Mount EtnaMount Etna
Superb organisation, everything seemed to go without a hitch. We saw a huge number of habitats which was so interesting. I was in awe of Jessica’s knowledge and both her and Julia’s driving skills along the narrow mountainous roads. It was a wonderful holiday
Jessica, our tour leader, did an exceptional job. Her knowledge was impressive and what she did not know, she investigated in her own time and reported back to us later. Jessica was extremely good when dealing with the local people, she was very attentive and caring.
This was a nice, varied tour - two completely different botanical areas, and the trip up Etna, which was fascinating. Jessica was an excellent leader - informative and very caring.
Paul Harmes is excellent - he relates to clients as individuals and is friendly and efficient, cheerful and dynamic.
Service and food at both (hotels) were excellent and I would be happy to stay at them again.
Paul's botanical knowledge is amazing; so too is his bird and butterfly knowledge. We all enjoyed the very good lunches and like the fact that - where possible - a local fruit and veg shop was used.
Our leader was superb. I am very fortunate to have had her as a leader on my first trip with Naturetrek
Paul Harmes is an excellent leader - full of knowledge, very friendly and takes good care of his clients! Great picnics and good company.
The leader is very unflappable, caring, knowledgeable without flying kites - if she doesnt know a plants identification, she will say so, and research it later. A very safe driver, excellent picnic content, and concerned for the groups welfare.
Both very knowledgeable, enthusiastic and pleasant and this set the tone for a very enjoyable holiday.
Paul really worked hard to make holiday enjoyable and succeeded.
The Airone was a delight. Wonderful food, plenty of choice, delightful staff, fantastic location. Paul is an exceptional leader. He combines enthusiasm and expertise with humour and good company - you rarely get all of these. We had a wonderful time, thanks almost entirely to him (and your companys policies - good food, excellent vehicle etc). He drove well, explained things well, was superbly organised and was always prepared for everything. Thank you all for a really fantastic holiday!
Paul Harmes is enormously knowledgeable, a great enthusiast and has a flair for communicating his enthusiasm. He also has the skills and energy to be resident expert, tour leader, catering manager and driver at the same time. We were most fortunate to have him!
The Mt Etna trip up to the crater was fabulous. Paul Harmes was a very pleasant person and easy to get on with. His knowledge of flowers was prodigious and he had the gift of being able to find flowers which I would not have noticed.
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Wed 1st May 2019 - Wed 8th May 2019



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Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1345 More info

Room sharing options: More info

Visiting: Italy

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Kerrie Porteous
Operations Manager

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01962 733051

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Wild flowers

Tour Reviews

Superb organisation, everything seemed to go without a hitch. We saw a huge number of habitats which was so interesting. I was in awe of Jessica’s knowledge and both her and Julia’s driving skills along the narrow mountainous roads. It was a wonderful holiday
M.I., Kent