The Three Virgins

An ancient legend tells that in Acquasanta, in the area of Tortorici, a Moor assaulted three virgins. One of the girls died, while the others were saved by a miracle. A chapel was built on the site of the tragedy; inside there is a well of sulfurous water. The chapel has become a pilgrimage destination: on the first Sunday of August, every year, the devoted women, together with an odd number of barefoot fasting virgins, come to say their prayers, hoping the water bubbles again as a sign that the Divine is listening.

According to other sources, the three girls had gone with their father in the wood and were killed by a stranger with an ax, because they had refused to yield to him. After a few days, a miraculous fount, capable of curing many infirmities, sprang where the murder had taken place.

This legend has been with me since when I started doing excursions in MTB on the Nebrodi, and the chapel is one of the destinations I wanted to reach. I identified the place, thanks to the suggestions of some shepherds and the precious IGM maps . So I marked it on my GPS. I then organized an “exploring” tour, and went with some friends of mine, real bicycle lovers, in search of the Chapel of the three Holy Virgins of Acquasanta.

Randazzo (in fact, the bridge on the Alcantara river) is our start point. We enter the town through the Aragonese Gate, ride across the old town centre and go out through the St. Martin Gate. We pedal along a short stretch of the SP185, but soon take the path skirting the Gurrida lake, sole example of natural lake at the foot of Etna, peaceful place equipped for bird watching.

We get on the bank of the river Flascio and skirt it until arriving at the crossroad that leads us to our destination. There’s a short, but challenging climb, after that we start to see a small rural chapel, surrounded by a green lawn where placid cows graze blissfully.

Let’s go inside for a short visit and cast a glance at the well: despite our prayers, the water does not boil!

In a tiny room, next to the hall with the altar, lays a remarkable amount of diverse objects, left by pious pilgrims as ex-voto.

We eat our frugal lunch. Back on our saddles, we ride toward the Trearie pool.

We reach the pool, skirt it and ride on toward Floresta passing through Portella Castagnera and Portella Mitta.

Once in Floresta, we take the narrow street passing by the cemetery, skirting the Alcantara river and leading us up to the Rifugio S. Maria del Bosco. A landslide has wiped out part of the main trail, so we are forced to make a short detour: a single-track, demanding trail made of steep ups and downs.

Here we are again at Randazzo, from where we had started.

The whole tour is long about 60 km. It is not recommended to those who have little training and/or to neophytes. My friend Leo, for instance, accomplished the tour, but could not speak a word until the day after!

The other people who were with me, however, said that the beauty of the places we visited and the precious scenery, ranging from Etna to the Aeolian Islands (it was a wonderful day!) made it one of the most beautiful tour ever.