The Castle of Caccamo, between history and ghostly legends

castello di caccamoHere is a Sicilian fairy tale…with a horror twist! We are in Caccamo, in the province of Palermo, and here, what strikes the visitor’s eye is the Norman castle. The Castle of Caccamo is one of the largest in Italy, as well as one of the best preserved. What does it make so charming? A scary story! Let’s investigate it together on Sicilian Secrets.

Architectural jewel, historical testimony, a rare beauty in short: this is what appears when observing the Castle of Caccamo. It presents itself as an excellence of Sicilian and Italian cultural heritage, with majestic strength it dominates the whole village and what intrigues is primarily its legendary character. It is for this reason that, in addition to its appearance, many like to call it ‘the castle of fairy tales’. A perhaps overly romantic way that traces the highlights of its identity…although the ‘fairy tale’, in this case, has no happy ending.


On the slopes of Mount Rotondo, more than 500 meters above sea level, this manor stands like a warrior placed to guard and protect the entire surrounding area, up to the valley of the San Leonardo River.

The history of the Castle of Caccamo begins, at least according to the earliest records that have come down to the present day, around 1160. What concerns the period prior to that date is obscure to us; we imagine that the site was probably occupied by a lookout tower or fortress, but it is only from the 12th century that we can trace the events surrounding it. We know, for example, that it was here in 1160 (our ‘year zero’) that some Norman barons plotted a conspiracy against the ruler William I of Sicily, and it was also here that the prefect of Charles I of Anjou took refuge when the Sicilian Vespers broke out in Palermo, only to be executed by the locals.

castello di caccamo
King William I

Over the centuries the structure was modified: the first to act were the Chiaramonte family in the 14th century, but other transformations were added in later eras. It was in 1813, when members of the De Spuches family became dukes of Caccamo, that the building took on the appearance of a royal residence on the inside and a newfound medieval grandeur on the outside. Unfortunately, like every fairy tale, it met the enemy’s pitfalls, in this case decay that between collapses due to neglect and earthquakes brought the palace toward the abyss. Today, thanks to an intense restoration that began in 1974, the Castle of Caccamo knows a new splendor and inside it houses the first Museum of Ancient Weapons in Southern Italy.

castle of Caccamo
Museum of Ancient Weapons (Credits:

Who is afraid of ghosts?

Like any self-respecting castle, Caccamo’s also has its ghost! Who is it? Once again we have to go back to 1160, when Matteo Bonello was arrested by King William I in the Hall of Conjuration and taken prisoner in an underground cell where he died a few days later. Matteo Bonello, a Norman nobleman as well as lord of Caccamo, after an initial loyalty shown to the Norman court in Palermo changed course by turning against the Altavilla and becoming precisely a rebel. Having failed in his attempt to kill William I (the king was initially put in prison in parallel with the killing of his prime minister Maione, but was unexpectedly freed at the hands of the people), Bonello fell into a trap set by the sovereign who had returned to the throne and it was he who paid with his life after a sequence of horrific tortures.

castle of Caccamo
Matteo Bonello

It is therefore said that Bonello’s ghost continues to roam, with the marks of the wounds and mutilations he suffered, around the castle. Slow, with heavy steps, his spirit wanders laden with rage, terrorizing anyone who spots him. Fear? Curses seem to be aimed exclusively at those who betray him, so…don’t worry!


Spotted…or so say some of Caccamo’s elders and visitors who claim to have caught sight of Bonello’s ghost in the Conjuring Hall. The specter seems to manifest itself carrying a cold trail, like a silhouette wrapped in torn clothes, its head low, silent, and then screams. Screams echoing as they once did during torture.

castle of Caccamo
The ghost (Credits:

If all this sounds frightening enough, the mystery deepens…according to some there is in fact a second ghost who is a guest of the Castle of Caccamo. A very beautiful girl (daughter of the lord of the Castle) who was the protagonist of a sad love story: separated from her lover she was forced to become a nun and was worn out by grief. Now, when the full moon is high in the sky, she returns there within those walls walking with a pomegranate in her hand. Mind you, the story goes that whoever manages to eat the fruit without using his or her hands and avoiding even a single kernel falling to the ground will become immensely rich and fortunate…vice versa, only eternal unhappiness lies ahead.

We learned more about the mysteries of the Castle of Caccamo, but our adventures go on. Discover all tours by Dimensione Sicilia and keep on following Sicilian Secretsread the articles on our blog and the interviews, without forgetting the news on our Facebook page and Instagram.

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