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If you think that the Sicilian experience ends at the golden beaches and crystal-clear waters of its seas, you may consider it a big mistake. Sicily, in addition to more than 3,000 years of history and art, boasts an unparalleled variety of natural landscapes, one of which is the Controlled Natural Reserve of Cavagrande del Cassibile, a complex system of caves and ponds created by a thousand-year, non-stop erosion of the rock by the Cassibile River (in ancient Greek, Kakyparis), which became a nature reserve in 1990.

The reserve encompasses the municipalities of Noto, Avola and Syracuse, extending over an area of 2700 hectares or 6670 acres. Originally inhabited by the Sican people, who built the necropolis in the sheer cliffs of the canyon (still difficult to explore), La Cava (The Cave) was the scenery of historic battles, such as the one that saw the surrender of Captain Demosthenes, leading an army of 6000 Athenians, to the Syracusan army, and of human settlements such as the Grotta dei Briganti (Cave of the Bandits), a rupestrian center carved out of a large semicircular cave with more than 20 rooms, inhabited in both Byzantine and Arab times. And then we find the Byzantine Dieri, a fascinating system of caves and tunnels that runs for about a kilometer (0.6 miles) on several parallel levels, counting more than 140 rooms, dating to the Sican period and later reused as dwellings by the Byzantines and the Arabs (hence the term “casa”, originating from the Arabic “diyar”, meaning house).

Despite the important historical value of the site, the real attraction of the reserve is the presence of a system of natural ponds with the purest and most pristine waters, which attracts visitors from all over the world every year.

The complex system of small lakes originates upstream, near the Feud of Baulì and the district of Noto called Testa dell’Acqua. The various tributaries rivers that end in the last pond of the Cave pass through a very narrow passage that filters the water, stripping it of all impurities. The millenary erosive work has transformed part of the cave in this terraced system of small lakes whose visual impact leaves one breathless and whose frame is provided by a thick and varied vegetation.

A unique and fascinating place, which has been considered for several years as a must-see in Southeastern Sicily.


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