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The 3 Best Walks in the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

The 3 Best Walks in the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

The Capo Gallo Nature Reserve (Riserva Naturale di Capo Gallo) is a captivating coastal area located right next door to the popular Mondello Beach. While most people visiting the area will be lazing around on this busy beach, you’ll find quiet yet breathtaking coastal trails to explore in the neighbouring Capo Gallo Nature Reserve. Below, we’ll talk about the three best walks to do at this underrated coastal reserve.

1. Monte Capo Gallo: Sentiero Piano dello Stinco

Also known as the Monte Gallo Walk, the Sentiero Piano dello Stinco (Piano dello Stinco Path) is the best walk in the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve. Alongside natural beauty, there are fascinating cultural attractions to explore during this walk.

Starting north of the town of Mondello, the walk steeply ascends a winding paved path. Soon, you’ll pass by Pizzo Sella, which is known as the ‘hill of dishonour’. Essentially, it’s a hillside area of around 315 illegally built villas, orchestrated by the Mafia in the 1970s. Many of the concrete buildings were never finished, while others stand abandoned, remaining insitu as the municipality of Palermo cannot afford to tear them down. Beck and I enjoyed walking through this odd landscape, reflecting an intriguing time in Sicilian history when the Mafia ruthlessly ravaged land to establish their authority.

Beck walks on a paved trail passing a hillside of abandoned concreate buildings

After passing the Mafia architecture, you’ll swap the winding paved path for a winding rocky trail of loose scree. Once you complete the seemingly relentless switchbacks, you’ll eventually arrive at another fascinating attraction along the route.

The Semaforo (Semaphore)

The Semaforo, also known as the ‘Hermit House’, is the current mountain-dwelling of a hermit named Isravele, perched atop Monte Capo Gallo. Interestingly, since 1997, Isravele has lived there. Over time, he has turned an old Bourbon building and former 19th-century watchtower into a home (without electricity) and sanctuary covered with religious-themed mosaics and paintings. Indeed, it’s a bizarre yet awe-inspiring site to explore on this coastal trail.

Dan stands in the doorway of a small building covered in mosaic decorations

Not far from Semaforo, the trail then extends further east, soon reaching spectacular views towards Mondello Beach and Monte Pellegrino. If you’re one for gorgeous coastal views, this part of the walk will probably be your highlight. Truth be told, it was our favourite part of the walk.

Dan and Beck take a selfie atop Capo Gallo Nature Reserve with views of Mondello Beach in the background

After soaking in views of Mondello Beach and Monte Pellegrino, you’ll descend through a pine forest to complete the circuit walk. Admittedly, we had read reviews about the lack of a trail through the forest, making it easy to get lost. So, we simply did an out and back hike, returning once we had taken in the awesome views of Mondello Beach.

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2. Barcarello Walk (Passeggiata di Barcarello)

The Barcerello Walk is perhaps the best coastal walk in the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve. Starting north of the town of Sferracavallo, a paved path, that soon merges with a rocky trail, runs parallel to the sea, providing sweeping coastal views.

Dan looks at the coastline surrounding the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

Compared with the Monte Capo Gallo Walk, you won’t encounter much in the way of historical or cultural attractions. Rather, you’ll enjoy views of natural attractions such as the rocky coastline to one side and the opposing mountainside of Capo Gallo.

After a relatively flat walk, the trail eventually ascends towards the rocky mountainside. You’ll then make a loop, following a higher trail, that’s much closer to the cliffs of Monte Capo Gallo. Along this trail, you’ll pass through pockets of forest, while enjoying more far-reaching views of the coastline.

Dan walks towards rocky cliffs near orange-coloured plants

3. Capo Gallo Lighthouse (Faro di Capo Gallo) Walk

  • Type: Out & Back
  • Distance: 4.8km
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 50m
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trailhead: Ingresso Riserva Marinella
  • Parking: Via Gallo (limited free roadside parking or €5 paid parking at the trailhead)

Similar to the Barcarello Walk, the Capo Gallo Lighthouse Walk is another beautiful coastal walk. Starting just north of Mondello Beach, a rocky trail meanders along the breathtaking coastline, towards the Capo Gapo Lighthouse (Faro di Gallo Lighthouse).

Near the start of the walk, to your left, you’ll see small caves in the distance, which have formed on the eastern side of Capo Gallo. Admittedly, Beck and I couldn’t see a way to get to the caves as there are private properties blocking access. However, we’ve read online that it’s possible to access these caves, named Grotta Regina, Grotta dei Caprari and Grotta Perciata. Just don’t ask us how to get to them!

Beck walks on a paved trail by the eastern cliffside of Capo Gallo.

Continuing along the paved path, you’ll soon pass by a small port. Eventually, the path gently ascends, transitioning into a rocky trail that offers superb views along the coastline. During the entire walk, the towering cliff walls of Capo Gallo outstandingly dominate the landscape.

At around the 2km mark, you’ll reach the white-coloured lighthouse, which was built in 1854. Nearby, there is also a WWII bunker, which is interesting to explore; but, sadly, full of rubbish left by inconsiderate delinquents. Just north of the lighthouse (Area di sosta Faro Capo Gallo), you’ll find the tip of the promontory, which is marvellously overshadowed by the cliffs of Monte Capo Gallo. Once you have enjoyed exploring these historical and natural delights, simply retrace your steps to complete the walk.

Is the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve Worth Visiting?

So, is it worth visiting the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve? If you enjoy hiking and exploring the great outdoors, then Beck and I are confident that you’ll enjoy visiting this lesser-known nature reserve in Sicily. While the hoards of tourists are hanging out at the ever-popular Mondello Beach, you can enjoy peaceful and blissful walking trails, just a stone’s throw away.

Where Is the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve?

The Capo Gallo Nature Reserve is located in the northwest of Sicily, just north of Palermo (Google Maps). For your convenience, we’ve included a map of the nature reserve, which shows all three walks described in this guide.

A map of Capo Gallo Nature Reserve.
Image from Comune di Palermo

How to Get to the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

Generally speaking, it’s easiest to explore nature reserves in Sicily by driving there yourself. Indeed, to complete all of these three walks in a day, having your own vehicle is the best way to get to all three of the different trailheads. For that reason, we recommend hiring a car. Personally, Beck and I picked up our car hire from Catania International Airport. For an automatic car, we only paid around €7 ($7USD) per day! By driving, we found it super convenient and efficient to explore the nature reserve on a day trip.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Public Transport

If you don’t have a car and are staying in Palermo, it’s possible to get a bus to Mondello Beach and then walk to Ingresso Riserva Marinella. From Mondello Beach, it’s approximately a 1.5–2km walk (15–20 minutes) to reach this entrance. Similarly, from Mondello Beach, you could do a steeper walk, that’s around 1.5–2km (25 minutes), to reach Ingresso Riserva Barcello.

Also, from Palermo, it’s possible to get a bus or train to Sferracavallo and then walk to Ingresso Riserva via Tolomeo. From Sferracavallo, you can enjoy a lovely coastal promenade walk of around 1.7km to reach this entrance of the nature reserve.

For all of the latest information regarding pricing and timetables for buses, click here. Otherwise, feel free to use Google Maps to plan your journey.

Despite public transport being an option, it’s much easier to drive yourself to each of the entrances of the nature reserve. In that way, you can definitely enjoy all of the walks in one day, plus have enough time to explore some nearby attractions.

What to Do Nearby

Below, we’ll talk about some of the best places to visit near the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve.


Sferracavallo is a gorgeous seaside village, located at the foot of Monte Capo Gallo. As mentioned, from the village, you can enjoy a spectacular paved promenade walk, that connects to the nature reserve. Otherwise, simply stopping at the village for a coffee and taking in the view of the mountain is a worthwhile thing to do.

Beck and Dan take a selfie on a walkway with the mountains of Capo Gallo Nature Reserve in the background

Mondello Beach

Of course, you can’t visit this part of Sicily without visiting Mondello Beach. It’s by no coincidence that Mondello Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Flanked by the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve to the north and Monte Pellegrino to the south, the beach has splendid natural surroundings. While, the town of Mondello has plenty in the way of cafes, restaurants and bars.

Read more: Mondello Beach From Palermo – The Complete Day Trip Guide

Dan at Mondello Beach next to Palermo, near Capo Gallo

Monte Pellegrino

Facing opposite Monte Capo Gallo, with Mondello Beach in between, is Monte Pellegrino. As well as visiting Mondello Beach, you should also try and squeeze in a visit to Monte Pellegrino, where you’ll find the famous Santuario di Santa Rosalia, which is a church built inside a cave. Otherwise, there is an amazing walk to do atop Monte Pellegrino, which provides extraordinary views of Mondello Beach and Monte Capo Gallo.

Read more: Monte Pellegrino and Santuario di Santa Rosalia – A Complete Guide

Beck and Dan look towards the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve
Views of the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve from Monte Pellegrino

Where to Stay Near the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

During this particular trip to Sicily when we visited the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve, we were staying relatively nearby in a seaside town called Balestrate. This town, as well as other seaside towns near Palermo such as Terrasini, are popular places for locals to holiday, but not so much for tourists. Personally, Beck and I did this respective trip in April, and we felt like we were the only tourists staying in the town. Certainly, it was a quaint experience to stay among the locals and local holiday makers in Balestrate.

Other Nearby Accommodation Options

Dan and Beck enjoy wine and sweets at their guesthouse stay near Palermo

Otherwise, the most popular places to stay near the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve are Mondello, Palermo and Sferracavallo. Press the button below to find yourself excellent nearby accommodation.

Other Excellent Walks in Sicily

Want to enjoy more incredible walks in Sicily? Read our comprehensive Sicily hiking guide – The 13 Best Hikes in Sicily (update coming soon).

Bonus Tips For Visiting the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve

  • Parking on Via Grotte Partanna for the Monte Capo Gallo Walk: we recommend approaching this roadside parking area from the west. By doing so, the roads leading to the small parking area on Via Grotte Partanna are much wider and easier to navigate. Needless to say, we accessed Via Grotte Partanna from the east, and driving was a nightmare. From the east, the suburban roads leading there were narrow, busy and stressful to drive, especially in a hire car.
  • Avoid walking in the middle of the day in summer: if you’re not used to the hot climes, you’ll be melting as the temperatures climb to >40°C.
  • Ingresso Riserva Marinella: for some reason, this is a private entrance. This means there are opening hours (see signage at the entrance below). You’ll also have to pay €1/person to access the reserve from Ingresso Riserva Marinella. FYI – the other two entrances in the nature reserve aren’t private and can be accessed without paying an entrance fee.

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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