The Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo, Italy

Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo
photo © mytouristmaps

The Great Ficus in the Botanical Garden of Palermo is a truly extraordinary plant from various perspectives, including its history, biology, culture, and size. It is the oldest known Ficus Macrophylla in Italy, having been planted by Vincenzo Tineo in 1845, making it 173 years old.

At present, it is the second largest ficus in Italy, with a crown that covers an area of approximately 1,200 square meters on the ground. The largest ficus in Italy can be found in Piazza Marina in the Garibaldi Gardens and was planted in 1863. It has a volume of 10,000 cubic meters of vegetation, a height of 25 meters, and a trunk girth of 40 meters.

The Great Ficus is native to the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales and is the ancestor of the large ficuses found in gardens in Palermo, Sicily, and southern Italy.
It has a polycaule structure, meaning it has multiple stems, and has a central body that is shaped like a radial symphysis, which is formed by the fusion of corms and aerial roots. The overall shape of the plant is sinuous and radial. The tree grows in all directions, with its central body extending vertically and laterally through higher order ramifications, and downward through columnar aerial roots that support the branches. It also grows on the ground surface through tabular roots.

In particular, this specimen in the Botanical Garden of Palermo has 44 stems, the largest of which have a circumference of around 3.60 meters, and supports the growth of eleven large main branches that have a mostly horizontal development. These main branches then give rise to lower order branches.

Valadier Temple, Italy

Valadier Temple
photo © Alicudi

Located in the central Italian region of Marche, about one hour drive west of the city of Ancona, this gorgeous temple designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier in 1828 was originally a refugee for Christian pilgrims.

The temple is at the entrance of the Frasassi caves complex, whose Abisso Ancona is one of the biggest cave chambers in the world, 180 meters long and 200 meters tall, enough to accommodate the Milan Cathedral.

Beside the temple stands the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Infra Saxa, built in 1029 and completely carved into the rock.

Margherita di Savoia salt pans, Italy

Margherita di Savoia salt pans
© Paolo Uboldi, award-winning artwork at Apulia Land Art Festival 2017
The Margherita di Savoia Salt Pans Natural Reserve is located about 10 km north of Barletta (Apulia, Italy). It is the largest salt pan in Europe, the third in the world after the Makgadikgadi Pans (Botswana) and the Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia).

The salt pan area is 20 km long and 5 km wide, with a total surface of about 45 square km; each year 30 million cubic meters of marine water is used for the production of about six million quintals of salt.

The clay soil guarantees a high level of impermeability. 
The natural reserve has a great biodiversity of bird species, among which the pink flamingos, perfectly camouflaged with the salt pans (some areas are pink colored given the presence of the micro-algae  Dunaliella salina, one of the few organisms that can live in hypersaline conditions).

Baceno, Italy

Orridi di Uriezzo
photo © mytouristmaps
Although not spectacular as its distant relative Antelope Canyon (USA), the Uriezzo Gorge (Orridi di Uriezzo) has the charm of a place you do not expect to find in Piedmont, more precisely near Baceno, Verbania province.

Formed by the water erosion during the glacial period, the gorges can be walked on, allowing visitors to admire the rock formations illuminated by the few light beams penetrating from above.

The Southern gorge is the most spectacular, about 200 meters long and up to 30 meters deep.

In the nearby, along the Toce River, can be observed the impressive Marmitte dei Giganti: cylindrical rock potholes formed by water erosion.

Milan, Italy

photo © mytouristmaps

The Navigli are a system of navigable canals around Milan, Italy, consisted of five canals: Naviglio Grande, Naviglio Pavese, Naviglio Martesana, Naviglio di Paderno and Naviglio di Bereguardo.

The construction of the system lasted from the 12th to the 19th century; in 1805 Napoleon completed the construction of the Naviglio Pavese canal, connecting Milan to the sea by the canal of Pavia & Po river, to the Lake Maggiore through the Naviglio Grande canal & Ticino river and to the Como Lake through Martesana canal & Adda river.

From the Ossola Valley, through the Naviglio Pavese, was transported the marble used for building the Duomo of Milan.
After 1850, due to the advent of the railway, and later of the automobile, the canals transportation system suffered an inevitable decline; today, most of the canals are used for irrigation.

In downtown Milan, the Navigli area is now one of the best nightlife poles in the city; the Naviglio Grande and the Naviglio Pavese operates a tourist navigation service.