Follow the road directions to the Santuario di Gibilmanna. From the belvedere at this town, in front of the little 17th-century church, you can take in a panoramic view of the Madonie, including the peak of Pizzo Carbonara. The Santuario di Gibilmanna is a shrine to the Virgin Mary. The Madonna is said to have shown signs of life in the 18th century when she was restoring sight to blind pilgrims and speech to a mute. Since the Vatican confirmed this claim, Gibilmanna has been one of the most important shrines in Sicily.

After taking in the view, continue southeast, following the signs to Castelbuono, an idyllic town that grew around a castello (castle) constructed in the 1300s that dominates the town. The church here, Matrice Vecchia, dates from the 14th century, when it was built on the ruins of a pagan temple. You can stop over to visit its historic core, Piazza Margherita. By this time, you will no doubt have worked up an appetite, and no visit to Castelbuono is complete without a stop at Fiasconaro, Piazza Margherita 10 (tel. 0921-677132) for some of the most delectable pastries in western Sicily.

The road continues south to Petralia Soprana, at 1,147m (3,763 ft.) the loftiest town in Madonie and one of the best-preserved medieval villages of Sicily, with narrow streets and houses of local stone. A grand belvedere is found at Piazza del Popolo, with a stunning vista toward Enna in the east.

At the end of Via Loreto, you can visit the church of Santa Maria di Loreto, built on the site of a Saracen fortress and framed by a set of campaniles. At the back of the church is Madonie's greatest panorama of Mount Etna.

The next stop is Petralia Sottana, overlooking the River Imera Valley. This little village, perched 1,000m (3,281 ft.) above sea level, is the headquarters of the national park service, Ente Parco, Corso Paolo Agliata 16 (tel. 0921-684011), open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 1:30pm and 3:30 to 6:30pm.

At this point, head west along the S120, stopping at Polizzi Generosa, another hilltop magnificently situated on a limestone spur. The view at Piazza XXVII Maggio is one of the most spectacular in Madonie, taking in its loftiest peaks and the scenic valley of the River Himera.

Here you can begin your journey north back to Cefalù, passing through Scillato until you reach Collesano, where the aura of the Middle Ages still lingers. The Chiesa Madre, reached by going up a flight of stairs, is filled with art treasures. This church contains masterpieces by the 16th-century painter Gaspare Vazzano, who signed his name "Zoppo di Gangi;" his cycle of frescoes illustrates scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ, St. Paul, and St. Peter. He also painted another magnificent canvas, Santa Maria degli Angeli, found in the north aisle. Collesano is the home of the Targa Florio in September every year, where, since 1906, cars have been racing along the death-defying hairpin turns of the mountains. It still runs today, but only vintage cars can participate.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.