Sicily is an island where you can get lost in art cities, archaeological sites, amazing landscapes. And then, you can go from the peaks of Etna covered with snow to the blue waves of the sea, on the coast from which you can see some legendary archipelagos. You can enjoy the most hidden towns; they are small gems located in these unique corners of the world. Welcome to the villages in Sicily, so secret that you will want to reveal them to everyone! Our journey takes to Castelbuono and Porto Empedocle. Let’s pack…gooo!
On the slopes of Colle Milocca, nestled among Pollina, Geraci Siculo, Cefalù and the Madonie, we can visit the village of Castelbuono. Movie-lovers may have noticed some of some glimpse in famous films like ‘Cinema Paradiso’ or perhaps they have read exciting descriptions of this town in books like ‘Castelbuono la città gentile’ by Roberto Alajmo and Mimì Mollica, but the beauty of this place must be discovered by going live. Although the first traces of settlement date back to the Neolithic era, probably attributable to Sican populations, Castelbuono was founded by the Ventimiglia family, lords of the County of Geraci, who at the beginning of the fourteenth century decided to build a castle on the hill overlooking the ancient hamlet of Ypsigro. The first document in which the name of Castelbuono is found dates back to 1329.
What to visit once you arrive in Castelbuono?
The main point of interest is undoubtedly the Castle. During a restoration carried out in 1997, the structure of a building older than the one of Ventimiglias was rediscovered, so much so that the construction we can see today – the result of countless renovations – hardly allows us to deduce how it was originally. You can see details of the Arab style but also the towers typical of the Normans and still parts of the Swabian military buildings. Inside the castle, there is the Civic Museum, where the rooms are set up with permanent and temporary exhibitions in which visitors can learn from archeology to sacred art, from city planning to modern art.
Castelbuono, city of the events
One of the characteristics of Castelbuono is being a city that is always vibrant, at any time of the year! Carnival, for example, is the moment in which one of the most ancient traditions of the place comes to life: people organize satirical theatrical performances to make fun of characters and events that have occurred in the village during the previous year. The authors, gathered in masked groups, get to work already close to Christmas period in order to have the right time to write the scripts and create the choreographies.
In summer, the first or second week of August, it’s time for the Ypsigrock Festival, one of the most important music festivals in Italy. Art and music come together, there are many events on the calendar for an audience of all ages. And always in the hottest season, the Castelbuono Jazz Festival takes place, which lights up the summer evenings with cheerful concerts that fill the streets of the village with notes and harmonies.
After visiting Castelbuono, let’s move to Porto Empedocle in the province of Agrigento. This is the birthplace of the writer Andrea Camilleri, and in 2003 it was decided to add ‘Vigata’ to the official name of the city. Fans of ‘Inspector Montalbano’ are well aware of the reason for this choice, Vigata is in fact the imaginary town where the famous policeman, who was born from the pen of Camilleri and has become a cult all over the world, lives. Unfortunately, in 2009 this denomination ceased … but only officially, so much so that just the same year a statue dedicated to Salvo Montalbano was erected in Via Roma, in the city center. During a walk through the streets of the town, it is worth stopping by the Cathedral, taking a photo in front of the Charles V Tower and still discovering the monument dedicated to Luigi Pirandello.
What to do in Porto Empedocle
Folklore is part of the soul of Porto Empedocle. Take note of this date: July 16th. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday following this day, the Feast of Madonna del Carmine is celebrated: this is the oldest event in the city (since 1863). Since 1955, it has also been combined with the Feast of the Sea which consists of a beautiful procession through the sea following the boat bearing the sacred effigy of Virgin Mary, and in a lot of traditional games. Finally, in September, San Calogero is celebrated. On this occasion, the nineteenth-century simulacrum of the saint leaves the chapel of the dockers’ house, where it is usually kept, to reach the Cathedral.