Here is a city between land and sky, a shining jewel among all precious treasures of Sicily. It’s an essential destination for art, architecture, history and landscape: welcome to Enna.
Enna: where and what
Splendid Sicily is almost like continent rich in peoples, tastes, nature, sensibilities where everything expands to infinity. A sweet and harsh land, soft and rough, bright and veiled: a world full of art and history. And today I’m taking you with me to one of the unique places on the island. I’m talking about the spectacular Enna and their 10 wonders to see: let’s discover them!
Meanwhile, let’s define where we are. Here we are, in the middle of the Island of Light in the chain of clear limestone mountains called Erean that rise above the wide valley of Dittaino. It stretches out on a plateau over 900 meters above sea level with a characteristic triangle shape: this is Enna.All around, any visitor can see a unique and incomparable scenery that seems to summarize the essence of Sicily: the Mediterranean scrub, the rocky promontories, the clear stones, the wide horizon…
And now let’s discover some curiosities! Did you know that it is called “Umbilicus Siciliae” because it is located in the center of Trinacria and nowadays is marked by the obelisk of the Church of Montesalvo? Did you know that the Romans had nicknamed as the impregnable city because on 3 sides it drops steeply towards the valley? And also, that in the end, the Arabs conquered it because they came into the city through the sewers? Did you know that it holds the unexpected record for being the highest county seat of Italy? And that until 1927, therefore less than a hundred years ago, their name was Castrogiovanni then changed to Enna by the fascist regime? You will be amazed to see Greek remains, Roman mosaics, Arab streets, Gothic churches, Baroque palaces and nature reserves coexist!
Enna: how and when
Nowadays the city, that like the rest of the Sicilian hinterland absolutely deserves to be visited, needs to be rediscovered as a tourist destination, so I start telling you something about the history of Enna. According to the legend, the name refers to the Sicans who called it En-naan that is, a pleasant place that was then Latinized into Henna. During the Islamic domination, the name changed to Qasr Yanna, literally Fortress of Henna, that in Sicilian sounds like Castrianni…wrongly Italianized into Castrogiovanni.
This is the name that was used for many centuries, until the moment in which the Fascist regime decided to use again the ancient name. The first inhabitants after some prehistoric settlements were the Sicans who perched here while they were fighting the war against the Sicilians. Enna was allied against Carthage with the Greek city of Syracuse, however, it was conquered by the Punic army in the 3rd century BC and finally became a colony of Rome.
Then the city belonged to the Arabs and the Normans who built a grandiose defensive complex that is still visible and includes the castle and the tower. Then it was the time of the Aragonese who, thanks to Frederick III, renewed the architecture of the center and turned it into the seat of the court and the ancient parliament. So, like the rest of the Island of Light, the other dominations came to Enna until the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. Today Enna is a city that differs in the historical upper part on the promontory and in the lower modern in the valley. With pleasure I point out that in 2004 it became the seat of the fourth Sicilian university, the Kore University.
10 wonders to see in Enna: let’s find out the top three!
Well now you know enough to go further and as I promised, I will list one by one 10 wonders to see in Enna: let’s discover them!
1 – Lombardy Castle and Torre Pisana
Let’s start our day from the historic center of Enna that stands on the promontory and overlooks the valley. It will be easy to see the major attractions during a walk: everything is pleasantly close so let’s go! The starting point is the highest peak of the city you can see the Lombardy Castle, the symbol of the city. It was built by the Normans in the 13th century in the most impregnable place.
Its name is related to the Lombard knights who presided over it. Do not be shocked when I tell you that it extends for about 27 square kilometers and that 6 towers are still perfectly preserved (in the past there were 20 towers). Among these towers, the largest and most fascinating one is the Pisana that is so called because it was protected in Norman times by some infantrymen from Pisa, the famous Tuscan city. Take some pics, don’t miss the spectacular view at sunset!
2 – The Rock of Ceres
Let’s keep on walking and after a few minutes, we are at the Rock of Ceres that stands on one of the three rocks that form the plateau on which Enna was built. It was used as a defensive fortress against the enemies as we can understand looking at the remains of two towers and two hypogea. Some studies carried out in the last century have highlighted much older finds in the area that date back to stone age. In fact, some archeological sites can be visited. The name derives from the temple dedicated to Demeter, the Greek goddess of crop who became Ceres in Roman mythology. Almost nothing remained.
3 – The Cathedral of the Holy Mary of the Visitation
And now, let’s continue our visit, welcome to the Cathedral of Enna dedicated to the Holy Mary of the Visitation. The original building dates back to 1307 and was built thanks to Queen Eleonora, the wife of Frederick II of Aragon. Almost nothing remains of the native architectural style because of a huge fire in 1446 and some subsequent reconstructions. Today, on closer inspection, the cathedral has various architectural styles even if the predominant one is the baroque that appears in the beautiful side portals. I remind you that it has become a national monument and is certainly one of the major artistic expressions of this area.
10 wonders to see in Enna: let’s find out two more!
4 – Museo Musical Art 3M and Regional Archaeological Museum
This visit through the streets of the city is stimulating…isn’t it? In the center, if you appreciate a new way of being interested in art, history and traditions, don’t mis the Musical Art Museum 3M. Get involved in a permanent virtual exhibition with over 600 works by Sicilian artists between images and music. On the contrary, if you prefer something traditional, enjoy the Regional Archaeological Museum located in the fascinating Varisano palace. In 10 rooms there are more than 1500 artifacts including ceramics and jewels from human settlements on the hills of Enna. A tidbit: the Varisano palace hosted Garibaldi who right here exclaimed his motto “either Rome or Death!”.
5 – Tower of Frederick II
Let’s discover another truly unique attraction…about a 20-minute walk from the center or 5 minutes away by car, here is the Tower of Frederick II. This is another medieval defensive construction of the Norman period then restructured by the Aragonese with a peculiar and rare octagonal shape. They say that Frederick II wanted to use it as a summer residence during his trips to Sicily. It is 24 meters high and placed in a strategic place, it was also used for astronomical and physical studies. A tidbit: show off your adventurous spirit…are you ready to be a ghostbuster?
10 wonders to see in Enna: let’s find out more and more!
We visited 5 out of 10 wonders to see in Enna! Now it’s time to get to know the surrounding area: let’s go!
6 – Calascibetta and the Byzantine Village
It’s time to drive and discover another town suspended in the Erean Mountains at 700 meters above sea level: welcome to Calascibetta. This city is 6 kilometers away from Enna, it is a small village, and the names derives from the Arabic Kalat Xibet, means ‘a natural castle on the summit’. Have a walk through the narrow medieval alleys to discover the small but precious churches and some ancient palaces. But do not miss the visit to the Byzantine Village about 4 kilometers away from the center. We are talking about an old settlement that proves the Byzantine domination first and the Arabic one later. These people have dug some places in the rock such as the Byzantine churches and the houses of the village.
7 – Nicosia
Don’t stop! Let’s drive and in less than an hour (45 kilometers), we’ll be in Nicosia. This village is very special, here you can still breathe the scent of the past…close your eyes and travel back to the Bourbon era, when it was the fifth most important city in Sicily! In the snow – yes, even in Sicily it snows sometimes -, and the woods of the Madonie and Nebrodi, discover an unexpected place. Walk through the narrow streets that climb the hills, be amazed by the medieval and baroque churches, the elegant squares, the noble palaces. Nicosia is so rich to count over 50 churches and countless aristocratic families for which it was known as the “city of 24 Barons”.
8 – Piazza Armerina and the Villa del Casale
Now let’s go to a place that you must not, YOU MUST NOT, miss and I am talking about Piazza Armerina and the Villa del Casale. Let’s drive about 40 minutes to go 33 kilometers away from Enna and here we are, in the fine historic center of the town surrounded by churches, monasteries and castles. Piazza Armerina stands on a hill in the Erean mountains at 700 meters above sea level and has a medieval layout with a nice Norman and Baroque historic center. It is known as the “City of Mosaics”, and not only for the event called “Palio dei Normanni”, one of the oldest events in Italy organized to celebrate Roger of Altavilla who chased away the Saracens in the 12th century,
This territory is famous thanks the Villa Romana del Casale – an ancient Roman Villa – and its mosaics that since 1997 are one of the 10 UNESCO sites in Sicily. It was built in the 4th century and is one of the largest and most luxurious villas in the Roman world, these mosaics are acclaimed as the most beautiful in the whole world.
10 wonders to see in Enna: let’s find out the last two ones!
9 – Nature Reserve of Lake Pergusa
After so much art, history and architecture, do we want to take some time to relax and enjoy nature? It’s easy, if we drive about 10 minutes away from Enna, there is the Nature Reserve of Lake Pergusa. Certainly, this is one of the most fascinating and naturally relevant places in Sicily because it includes a lake known since ancient times. The incredible thing is that despite the sea is over 50 kilometers away, the water of the lake is brackish! The 402-hectare reserve was established in 1991 and is perfect for birdwatching. You can do trekking while observing many species of birds in the wood: exceptional!
10 – Sicilia Outlet Village
Finally, we are at the last of the 10 wonders to see in Enna. You know that I generally never recommend where to go for shopping during our journeys. But this time it is completely different: I want to present you a truly unique place for those who love high-quality brands, especially luxury brands. 20 minutes away from Enna, follow the Dittaino-Outlet exit (A19 Palermo-Catania highway), and have fun at Sicilia Outlet Village. 30,000 square meters for shopping, here you can buy clothes and accessories in more than 140 stores of the best Italian and international brands. Do you want to know the brands you will find? Here are just some of them: Gucci, Armani, Polo Ralph Lauren, Versace, Hogan, Tod’s, Dolce & Gabbana, La Perla, Michael Kors, Trussardi, Brooks Brothers, Nike, Puma, Adidas, Lacoste, Guess…
Did I surprise you with these 10 wonders to see in Enna? Don’t think that’s all! Sicily is much more than this: come and discover it thanks to the itineraries organized by Dimensione Sicilia. One of the best ideas? Eco-tours by electric cars! These itineraries are customizable itineraries according to your time and budget to enjoy 8 days in Western and Eastern Sicily or 14 days, if you prefer. You will visit the most beautiful places on the island such as 10 UNESCO sites of Sicily including Enna and its surroundings. Or if you want to enjoy the beauties of the island in a different way, pick one of the tours suggested by Sicilian Secrets. In safety we trust, let’s go!
See you soon!
Translated by Gaia Guarino