Pantalica Reserve, the "holes" of the Hyblaean MountainsThe Pantalica Nature Reserve covers an area of 3,700 hectares and, in addition to its role as a nature reserve, it is an area of significant archeological importance due to the presence of one of the largest stone necropoli in Europe. Pantalica is located near Syracuse and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. The site is located on a plateau surrounded by canyons which were formed over time by the Anapo and Calcinara rivers. In the first half of the 13th Century B.C., all of the coastal settlements suddenly disappeared with the arrival of the Siculi people and other peoples from the mainland of Italy. The indigenous population abandoned the coast and sought refuge in inaccessible and inhospitable mountain regions, chosen for their defensive characteristics, and re-grouped in large settlements. King Hyblon allowed the Megaresi people, lead by Lamis, to live in a strip of his territory and found the city of Megara Hyblaea in 728 B.C.. However, the subsequent founding and expansion of the city of Syracuse lead to the downfall of the kingdom and the continued expansion of the kingdom of Syracuse into the hinterland with the founding of Akrai in 664 B.C.. From this period traces of the so-called "Palazzo del Principe" or Anaktoron remain visible today as do the vast necropoli of over 5,000 tombs carved out of the rock face and traces of the stone oratories of Crocifisso, San Nicolicchio and San Micidiario. Various paths run through the reserve. The Anapo valley can be accessed via two inter-connected trails, one from the direction of Sortino and one from the direction of Ferla. The trails run for more than 10 kilometres along traces of the abandoned railway line that ran from Syracuse to Vizzini. The plateau can be visited from the so-called Sella di Filiporto which is accessible from the town of Ferla or, on the other side, from Sortino where you will pass over the Grotta dei Pipistrelli. The area is well maintained and accessible by bicycle, on horseback or on foot, however, there are few signs and limited information available so we recommend that you take a map and a guide book with you.