This page contains a small introduction to this great city. It merely gives people, from around the world, a sample of what they can experience when visiting here. If you live in this city or have connections to it, NDN wants to know about interesting news items and events that are happening.
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Castellana Sicula is a ‘commune’ (municipality) in the north and mountain region of Sicily, being only an hour from Palermo, the countries exciting capital.
This beautiful commune is a great example of the 15 that make up the area known as Parco Delle Madonie, which is the most important mountain complex in Sicily.
This Regional Natural Park is spread over 40,000 hectares and has differing geo-morphological and climatic characteristics, therefore varies from one region to another. It is divided into Zones; A – total reserve, B – general reserve, C – protection and D – control. This was done to protect and conserve the natural environment, plus sustain development for the resident population.
It is in the European Geoparks Network, which means it possesses scientific importance, rarity, aesthetic appeal, educational value and actively contributes to the economic development of the territory.
This area has vast varieties of trees; Olive, Myrtle, Lentisk, Strawberry, Heather, Chestnut, Ash, Euphorbia, Oak, Holly and Beech, some being over 400 years old.
The park has a rich diversity of fauna, in fact it has every type of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate that can be seen in the whole of Sicily. It also has its prize possession, the queen of the skies; Golden Eagles, whose wing span can reach over two metres.
Butterflies were first recorded in the park over 150 years ago and it is believed there are over 90 species, many endemic, but many that have colonised. They add such a relaxing, calming and colourful beauty to the countryside.
Madonie has centuries of agriculture and live stocks rearing, so the gastronomy is vast; cheese (especially ricotta), olive oil, wines, mushrooms, peppers, honey, beans, manna and sweetmeats. Meal time in this region is not just about eating, it is about celebrating the local produce, so is an enjoyable experience and pleasure to the taste buds.
The origins of Castellana Sicula as a tourist destination started as early as the 18th century, when Villa Casina Rossi was built there. Popular religious venues are the churches; San Francesco Di Paola, which was also built in the 18th century and Santa Barbara, which was built in the 14th century.
There are also several Roman Archaeological Sites throughout the area and the most interesting ones are in Muratore, Margi and Cozzo.
Tufo Gipsy has a stunning panoramic view that represents a perfect example of the geology of the whole of Madonie. From this advantage point, it is clear to see how the older and higher rock formations dominate the region, some dating back to over 34 million years ago. Then there are the younger and lower rock formations, plus examples of the various coloured clay, limestone and sandstone.
‘Carcara’ is an old mill and workshop with a furnace that was used for cooking the gypsum rock, which was dehydrated, crushed and turned into powered cement. There are many popular caves, rock formations and chalk pits too. The wooden bridge above Maimone Stream gives a great view of how the local waterways have shaped the region, with alluvial dregs and sweeping thalweg’s alluvium (appreciated by the geologists and rock lovers amongst visitors).
Many myths and legends herald from this area; due to the terrain, countryside, streams and caves that inspire thoughts of angels, fairies and magic. Truvatura (treasure) hunting throughout the countryside was believed to make people extremely rich, but in reality this myth is thought to have come from villages retrieving their valuables that they had hidden from the invading Barbarians and Romans. A strongly believed legend, with no recordable explanation, is that if a person picks up a pebble from the floor with their mouth and then cleans it with holy-water they will have ever-lasting health? Add ghosts sightings, heroic acts and magical deeds and it really does give this place a special feel. You can lose YOURSELF in the spiritual and thought provoking atmosphere of this region.
Today, this commune is thriving and the heartbeat of the community is Centro Addestramento Sicilia, which on first look appears to be an Equestrian Centre, but it is far more than that. It has large stables and many horses, mainly belonging to the Natural Park Police. It organises a riding school, events and competitions, plus tours throughout the Madonie, either on horseback, cycling, hiking or by use of vehicles. They also use the horses for theory with children and adults with a number of physical and mental illnesses. The reason this venue is so important to the community is that it opens itself up to virtually every and any occasion; weddings, birthdays, gala’s, fate’s, national days of celebration or anniversaries etc.
One of the outstanding and important buildings in the region is the Sanctuary of Madonna Dell’Alto, which is 1819 meters above sea level. This can be accessed via a lengthy hike up the mountains anytime, but the best time to do this would be on the first Sunday in July. Thousands take part in a pilgrimage from Castellana Sicula, to give homage to the statue of the Virgin, which is in this old and religiously significant monastery, at the top of the mountain.
If a visit to the ‘sanctuary’ is a must for some, then on a totally different level, a visit to Dolcesse Delle Madonie is essential for cake lovers. This shop is run by an award winning cake and bread maker, so produces the tastiest, traditional and creative foods in Sicily. Forget calories, ignore sugar content and just enjoy a feast of delicacies and don’t forget to buy some more for later?
Just outside of the centre is the Museo Civico Di Castellana Sicula, which has many artefacts from the history of the whole region, plus important archaeological remains.
In the nearby countryside is Agriturismo Villa Padura, which is a tranquil villa with accommodation, restaurant, grounds, gardens and outdoor pool. It has a reputation for its quality of food, which is not only a great example of traditional cuisine, but is sourced locally too. Although the accommodation is unique and stylish, it is very cheap. The countryside around the villa is amazing and reminds many of the dream scene from the movie ‘Gladiator’!
The surrounding mountain roads provided the route for the famous Targa Florio, which was an endurance sports car race, which was started in 1906 and the first ever of its kind. Due to safety reasons it is no longer a race, but a rally for sports car enthusiasts. When visitors follow some of the route through Madonie, they can see why it is still popular, as weaving roads cutting through the mountains and countryside, provide unbelievable
A famous person from this area is the internationally acclaimed artist Croce Taravella. He has a studio next to the villa, which gives great insight into how he creates his amazing pictures and works of art. He travels the world constantly, but when not there his brother is more than willing to show people around this great venue.
The two mountain towns of Petralia Soprana and Gangi are unusual sites from below, as they appear to have been built, on top of or out of, two nearby peaks. Both have charming narrow streets, lovely churches, accommodation, eateries and stunning views. They also look as beautiful in the winter as the summer, but can be inaccessible when the snow fall is heavy. If a visitor to Petralia Soprana was lucky, they may be granted time with Don Calogero an infamous Sicilian Guru or Elder. Being in the presence of such a humble, wise and intelligent man, is a privilege for anyone?
This whole region is stunningly beautiful all year round, due to its mountainous terrain and weather conditions. It receives many visitors in the winter too, as it has two Ski Resorts, so it really does have a 12 month season.
Castellana Sicula is a great example of a Sicilian mountain commune, with its flora, fauna, archaeology, scenery, cuisine, history, culture and many activities. It has bit of everything for everyone, but with an added slice of Sicilian magic.
For real Sicilian Confectionary MGM Dolciaria is the company to get them from. Anna and Filippa Milazzo run a 50 year old business that provides an amazing range of locally made products; nought, biscuits, snacks, cakes and much more.
Other destinations in Sicily to consider including in a tour of this stunningly interesting country is Palermo (try staying in the Casa Mosaico) , Mezzojuso, Trapani and Marsala.
A recommendation is to use a tour company that wants to know you and your needs, so they can show you the country they love, in a way you would want for ‘yourself’. Therefore, we recommend visitors to us Y-ourself, a travel/tour company who specialise in just that.