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Torre Manfria and Biviere di Gela protected area itinerary

The Tower of Manfria , built around 1500 on the recommendation of the Florentine architect Camillo Camillani, stands on a hill overlooking the hamlet of Manfria and is visible from the entire gulf of Gela. It is currently privately owned and is in a fairly good state of conservation. The tower is about 15 meters high with a base of about 12.50 meters. The archaeological heritage and the landscape value of the “Torre Manfria” SCI are protected by the Regional Heritage Protection Plan and falls within the protected area which affects both the Butera and Mazzarino territories.

In the first quarter of the 17th century the tower was almost completely rebuilt until it assumed its present appearance, and probably, Villabianca infers, thanks to the impulse of the viceroy Pedro Giron, duke of Ossuna. From the archives of the Deputation of the Kingdom of Sicily, it appears that starting from the eighteenth century, in the years 1717, 1757, 1797, the garrison of the tower was composed of four soldiers and a superintendent chosen among the knights of the city of Terranova (Gela). In 1804 from the same source it was placed under the supervision of Don Mariano Carpinteri and Gravina, from Terranova, who in 1805 had the external access staircase built, with two ramps, which still exists today. In 1867 it was included in the military works to be decommissioned. The tower is linked to the legend of the giant Manfrino, good and unfortunate, guarding a hidden treasure, born from the discovery of Greek and Roman coins in the area and a rock formation, no longer visible today, interpreted as his footprint left in the rock .

Oriented nature reserve Biviere di Gela
The area on which the reserve stands was, until the sixteenth century, a brackish marshy environment. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the Duke Giovanni of Aragona transformed it into a fresh water lake by connecting it with an underground channel to the Dirillo river. Until the mid-twentieth century, the lake was a hunting and fishing reserve. In 1991 it was declared a wetland of international importance recognized by the Ramsar Convention.

The vegetation of the area surrounding the lake is characterized by various hydrophilic species such as Potamogeton pectinatus, Ceratophyllum demersum, Scirpus maritimus, Scirpus lacustris and Phragmites australis. The surrounding meadows are home to species such as thyme and rosemary as well as, in spring, several wild orchids including Ophrys oxyrrhynchos, a rare Sicilian endemism. The white broom (Retama raetam), the beach cornflower (Centaurea sphaerocephala) and the rare Leopoldia gussonei, a punctiform endemism of the coast of the Gulf of Gela, thrive in the dune strip that separates the lake from the sea.

The Biviere di Gela is the largest coastal lake in Sicily and constitutes one of the most important resting and wintering areas for numerous species of migratory birds. The avifauna, represented by over 200 species, therefore constitutes the most important naturalistic element of the Reserve.

The route measures 23 km by car from the Tower of Manfria to the Biviere di Gela.