Una delle Gurne dell'Alcantara. Parco Fluviale Alcantara.

Alcantara River lakes

The word "gurne derives" (the lakes are known as Gurne) from the Sicilian Ulla or Vulla which in some parts of the island means swimming pool, pond. The Alcantara gurne I am writing about are located between the provinces of Messina and Catania in the municipalities of Francavilla di Sicilia and Castiglione di Sicilia and fall under the protection of the Alcantara river park authority. Let's discover the paths, the best access points and how to have fun at the Gurne dell'Alcantara.

Alcantara Gorges Lakes

The Gurne were formed thousands of years ago, when ancient lava flows following the morphology of the land and then through the erosive action of the water created natural pools which were then filled by the waters of the Alcantara River. Nowadays the Gurne are surrounded by wild and evocative nature, made up of waterfalls, turquoise waters and river flora.

There are 16 gurnes and they vary in diameter from about five meters up to the largest which reach and exceed fifty metres. the depth of these lakes can reach ten metres, the deepest point coinciding with the waterfall. Historically, the Alcantara river has been an important water resource since Greek times, just look at the ruins of the Arab castle that stand out over this enchanting landscape.

The ancient saje (irrigation canals) as well as the archaeological finds discovered during some excavations in the Francavilla stretch of the river testify to the importance that this stretch of the Alcantara river has had over the centuries. The remains of the Ciappa mill where hydroelectric production was experimented in Italy in 1896 represent another significant chapter in the importance of the Alcantara river in this part of eastern Sicily.

What to do at the Alcantara Gorges Lakes

Body rafting alle gurne dell'alcantara
A girl is about to start a canyoning tour at the Alcantara Gorges lakes (The Gurne)

Body Rafting Alcantara Gorges lakes (The Gurne)

Everyone does Body Rafting in the Alcantara Gorges, but the stretch of river at the Alcantara gurne offers stronger emotions and is a fantastic river adventure on a two kilometer long route which visits the wildest stretches of the gurne and the most beautiful lakes of the Alcantara Gorges . With a series of dives, swimming and using your body like a raft to slide into the water of the most beautiful river in Sicily, you will live an unforgettable experience. Guaranteed fun, away from the crowd where you will feel privileged! Some company after hiking on Mount Etna visit the Alcantara Lakes.

  • lenght: 2 km
  • duration: 2 hours
  • Intensity: Medium

The Mill Ciappa trail

This fantastic path winds through nature and history. Along the kilometer and a half you can visit the Ciappa mill, you will pass at the foot of the ruins of the Arab fort, near the large oak tree and you will reach two gurne dell'Alcantara, those of the hydroelectric power plant. The fittest hikers can climb to the top of the hill where the remains of the Arab ruin are located and enjoy a view that sweeps over the Alcantara valley and the towns of Castiglione di Sicilia and Motta Camastra. The entry point of this walk is on the S.S. 185 in front of the crossroads for the Ghiritina district. This trek can connect with that of Francavilla di Sicilia and the length becomes 3 km round trip. At the entrance to the path there is a small equipped area, ideal for spending relaxing moments with friends.

  • Lenght: 600 meters.
  • duration: 1 hour
  • intensity: low

Francavilla di Sicilia Trail

This second itinerary to the Alcantara gorges lakes is similar to the first in terms of its landscape and naturalistic context. Thanks to the Alcantara River Park Authority, the path has good signage and is easy to follow. The entrance to this trekking route is located in the town of Francavilla di Sicilia. This path connects with that of the Mulino Ciappa and the length becomes 1.5 km. one way. Along the path, if you decide to get to the start of the Ciappa path, you will find the road that goes up to the ruins of the Arab fort. In spring the orchid blooms are spectacular.

  • lenght: 800 mt.
  • duration: 1 hou
  • Intensity: low

The most enchanting Gurne of the river

La gurna della passerella
One of the alcantara Gorges lakes 

Del Mulino: It is located in the territory of Mojio Alcantara Emperor: This gurne is located in the Malamugghieri pass on the outskirts of the territory of Francavilla di Sicilia

Schiccio Cataratto: A large and tall gurne located in the territory of Francavilla in the Santa Caterina area, near the old railway bridge.

Schifazzi: Immediately after the Santa Caterina district, it is where a large underground spring flows, most likely fed by the aquifers of Etna. and the water gets really cold.

The gurne della passarella: These lakes are three, one close to the other and are among the most spectacular and visited. The first of this series of gurne has a really beautiful waterfall.

Ciappa: This splendid gurne also visible from the trekking path is the one where the mill of the same name is located which was used for experimenting with the production of hydroelectric energy in the Alcantara Valley.

Di Muna: This gurna is perhaps the largest and most majestic, not easy to reach except with canyoning or body rafting excursions but diving from this gurna is not for the faint of heart.

Arancia: This gurne is located in the Arancia district and can only be reached through silk roads which force you to enter the river.

Quartareddu: This enchanting gurna takes its name from an ancient small settlement made up of a few houses built entirely of lava stone. the  Gurna Quartareddu can only be reached by river or alternatively you have to ask for permission to cross private land.

In Medda: This is the last tour before the famous Larderia gorges, better known as the Alcantara gorges.


The nature along the Alcantara gurne is truly enchanting, at times wild, at times bucolic and poetic. Oaks, plane trees, elms, white willows and ash trees are present and abundant, while the black alder is rare and in this place it finds the Sicilian stations.

Among the plants there are: brooms, euphorbias, oleanders, greater tamarisks and a series of semi-submerged hydrophilic plants including duckweed usually present in more continental climates. among the fauna present along the gurne dell'alcantara we find: dormice, hedgehogs, weasels, nocturnal birds, amphibians, reptiles and even the river crab. Carp, trout and gambusia which was introduced by man to fight malaria, as this fish species is fond of mosquitoes.


Whether you arrive from the A 18 from Messina or Catania you must follow the  motorway exit Giardini Naxos, junction and then continue along the S.S. 185 in the direction of Francavilla di Sicilia, go past the municipal entrance of the Alcantara gorges for approximately five kilometers and at the crossroads for the Ghiritina district which you will have on the right, there is the entrance to the Ciappa mill route, pay attention to a sign saying Parco Fluviale Alcantara marks the start of the trek. Those who wish to start from the opposite side must continue beyond the Ghiritina intersection, enter the town of Francavilla di Sicilia and reach Via San Francesco.,

Where to eat

There are no refreshment points along the entire route of the Alcantara gurne. Just ahead of the entrance to the Ciappa mill path you will find Francesca, "The delicacies of Alcantara", while those entering from Francavilla can choose from various options in the village.


The best time to visit this stretch of the Alcantara river is from April to October. In winter during rainy periods the river level rises dangerously and the basalt rocks are slippery.

Must know

  • The water in all gurnes is always cold so avoid bathing during digestion, always do a little acclimatization to avoid thermal shock. Avoid swimming close to the waterfalls, it can be dangerous, especially when the Alcantara river has an abundant flow.
  • Respect nature, do not leave waste, even if in plastic bags, take the waste back with you and leave no trace of your passage, anyone who visits the Alcantara gurne deserves to find them clean.
  • Don't write about the splendid rocks that form this wonderful ecosystem.
  • Don't camp, sudden rains upstream from where you are can cause the river level to rise suddenly.


  • Sicily Active tour operator: specialized in excursions to the Gurne dell'Alcantara +39 3388255973
  • Alcantara river park: Via dei Mulini - 98034 Francavilla di Sicilia (ME) - Tel. 0942/388020
  • Municipality of Francavilla di Sicilia: 0942 981154


  • The Alcantara Gorges are located five kilometers from the Gurne dell'Alcantara.
  • Castiglione di Sicilia is only eight kilometers away, among the most beautiful villages in Italy
  • Motta Camastra, a hilltop village rich in rural traditions is just 5 km away
  • Francavilla di Sicilia from where the paths to the Alcantara gurne start
  • Giardini Naxos seaside resort is twenty kilometers away
  • Taormina is 25 kilometers from the Gurne dell'Alcantara