The Castles of Sicily are the envy of the Loire Valley


Italy, Sicily – Collesano, Carini, Caccamo, Mussomeli, Taormina, Monreale, Marineo, Burgio, Cammarata, Alcamo, Salemi and Vicari are the twelve municipalities that have so far joined the initiative promoted by Mario Cicero, Mayor of Castelbuono, to enhance and promote the ancient castles of Sicily. Other than the Loire Valley! A new route will be created studded with Wonders with breathtaking views, where art, nature and history become pure magic, giving visitors emotions that only the land of Sicily with that frame of scents and colors, shadows and mysteries, can offer.

In Sicily there are more than two hundred buildings dating back to various eras, survived time and events, each with its own glorious or disturbing past that oozes from every stone. Here we can not tell so much wonder but we take the opportunity of this desirable synergy between municipalities to accompany you on a first journey.

In Castelbuono, a town in the province of Palermo, at the foot of the Madonie, stands its castle built in 1316 by order of Count Francesco I of Ventimiglia. Between underground, dungeons and an internal gallery, today it is the seat of the Civic Museum, which houses the sections of archaeology, sacred art and art gallery. In the most recent past it lent itself to being the set of the famous film “New Cinema Paradise” by Giuseppe Tornatore.

The quadrangular castle has undergone numerous renovations that make it difficult to reconstruct its original appearance but considering the characteristics we can read the various periods that influenced the Sicilian architecture. The cube volume recalls the Arabic style; the square corner towers echo the Norman one; the round tower instead refers to the Swabian military constructions. In the earthquake of the early nineteenth century disappeared the battlements, Ghibelline in shape, dovetail, the walls, towers and arches have been destroyed. On the other hand, incredibly, some defensive structures of the thirteenth century and some environments of the fourteenth century have remained intact.

The building is spread over three floors: the first dedicated to the servants, the second lived the nobles and the third housed the court and guests.  Inside, the rich rooms have carved and decorated coffered ceilings, Gothic windows and portals. The first renovations date back to the 15th century, following the transfer to the castle of the relic of St. Anne, later proclaimed patron saint of the city.

A jewel of Baroque art is the chapel that in 1683, Francesco Rodrigo Ventimiglia moved to the highest floor of the imposing castle and hired the brothers Giuseppe and Giacomo Serpotta to decorate it.

Also in the province of Palermo is Vicari and its castle that stands on a rock 700 meters high. It seems that the construction of the castle dates back to the Roman period and in 1390 its restructuring at the behest of Manfredi di Chiaramonte. In 1278 the castle of Vicari was counted among the royal fortresses of Sicily. The most important episodes date back to the time of the battle of Vespers, when in 1282 took refuge there the minister of Charles of Anjou, John of St. Remigio. Originally, in the early Christian period or at the latest in the Byzantine era, it seems that the castle had a vestibule at the entrance, later transformed into the church of Santa Maria del Boikos, and was surrounded to the west by crenellated walls, the existing remains prove its existence. Inside there are two towers, one called “del Mulino” which has ogival windows on four sides and another open towards the inside of the castle containing the famous Porta Fausa or Bummara, names that attest to the ancient Muslim presence in the territory.

 

The Castle of Salemi is located at the top of the hill on which stands the village of the same name, in the heart of the Belice Valley, in the province of Trapani. The castle was built by Roger the Norman around 1077, on pre-existing Greek-Roman-Arab fortifications and then reworked by Frederick II of Swabia in the thirteenth century. In 1789 it was used as a prison, and on May 14, 1860 on the round tower in this castle, Garibaldi raised the flag tricolor, proclaiming Salemi “capital of Italy. In 1968 the terrible earthquake damaged it and it was closed for 35 years to make the necessary renovations. the work ended definitively in 2010 and is now available to the public.

 

The medieval castle of Alcamo is located in the center of the city of the same name, in the province of Trapani, Sicily. The construction of the castle began by the Peralta family around 1340 by Raimondo Peralta Count of Caltabellotta, and was completed in 1350, under the lords Henry and Frederick Chiaramonte, was used as a residence and defensive structure until the sixteenth century.

 

The Norman Castle of Cammarata dates back to 1141, in an elevated and strategic position in the town of the province of Agrigento. Later, between 1384 and 1398, thanks to Bartolomeo d’Aragona, a restoration was carried out and some bastions were added. In the following centuries they saw a carousel of owners, administrators, regents, who gave active life to the castle and the territory of Cammarata. Although around the 80s of the last century was made a consolidation work, currently there are few remains and parts incorporated into structures created later and of widely different types.

 

Burgio is a municipality in the province of Agrigento in Sicily, its name comes from the Arabic burg, tower or stone house. On a hill above the village stands the Peralta Castle of Burgio, built on hard rock and surrounded by two streams (Garella and Tina) that once served as a moat to delimit the castle and make it impregnable. It seems that it dates back to the twelfth century, the building is attributed to a Saracen colony then became the property of the Peralta, later became the property of the De Cardona, then for a period of time of about three centuries, were lords of the barony of Burgio: Alfonso, Diana and Caterina de Cardona Salluccio, Alfonso and Tommaso Gioeni Tagliavia, Lorenzo Gioeni Bologna, Isabella Gioeni Aversa and Filippo Colonna D’Este. The latter held the barony until 1812, when feudalism declined in Sicily at the behest of Parliament. We leave to you the emotion of guessing where the history is intertwined with the legend, transported over the centuries by events of all kinds. In 1981 a restoration was carried out by the Superintendence of Agrigento and currently the castle is owned by the City which uses it as an exhibition space.

 

Marineo and its castle rise on a limestone hill that stretches transversally into the Euterio valley, almost obstructing it and creating a steep gorge. The castle overlooks the valley. We know for sure that the first and most important construction took place immediately after the victorious epilogue that Charles of Angio supported against the Swabian house for the conquest of Sicily and southern Italy. At sunset of the power Angevin, driven out of Sicily following the popular motion of Vespers, followed the domination of the House of Aragon, a dark period characterized by baronial anarchy and the fratricidal struggle. The Angevin Castle must have actively participated in this struggle between noble families against the central power, until it suffered such damage that the inhabited center was wiped out.
In the sixteenth century, Emperor Charles V handed over the feud to Francesco Beccatelli Bologni, Quaestor of the island and lord of Cefalà and Capaci, who in 1553 gave rise to the current Marineo building a hundred houses, soon followed by another two hundred, built by his son Gilberto, which at the same time provided for the reconstruction of the castle, transforming it into a country palace surrounded not by massive defensive walls, but by capable barns and a wall covered with loopholes on the access ramp to the main floor, form of defense, not by fierce armies but by street bandits. The surfaces of its altered and scarified elevations, the purity and simplicity of its lines, combine to create around this castle an atmosphere that conquers the soul. The walls that merge and blend with the steep walls of the ravine below fully satisfy the ancestral vision of a mighty castle.

to be continued…



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