Published On: Fri, Sep 30th, 2016

Head off the beaten track in Sicily, Italy

Sicily is the largest of the Mediterranean islands and is located like a misshapen football off the point of Italy’s “boot.” While the island is an integral part of Italy, Sicily has its own unique personality and a rich cultural history, offering much in the way of interest to visitors.

The island offers incredible beaches, coves and mountainous scenery, as well as quaint medieval villages to explore. With its delicious Sicilian cuisine and so much to offer, the island is perfect for a relaxing break in the sunshine, with world-class accommodation on offer for comfort.

Sicily is also well known for Mount Etna – the island’s active volcano – and Mount Stromboli, the island has several famous historic sites, left behind by several ancient cultures. The Cathaginians, Elymians, Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans have all left their mark on the island, but Sicily has some more recent history, offering less known, but equally fascinating, places to visit. The following are two examples of an off-the-beaten-track experience in Sicily.

The ruins of Poggioreale

There are two towns by the name of Poggioreale on the island of Sicily. One is a modern, functioning town and the other is the ruins of the original town, devastated by an earthquake back in 1968. Back then, a series of massive quakes hit Sicily, killing more than 200 people and injuring many more. All over the island, thousands of families were left without a home. However, the worst hit was the small town of Poggioreale. The buildings in the village were so badly damaged, residents had to abandon Poggioreale and start a brand new village a short distance away.

Photo: Poggioreale by Davide Mauro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo: Poggioreale by Davide Mauro / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today visitors can see the remains of the original town, with its streets filled with rubble and the eerie ruins of the original shops and homes. While the town might remind people of today’s popular Zombie apocalypse movies and TV shows, the local community is committed to ensuring that their original home does not completely disappear, along with other small communes destroyed by more recent earthquakes.

The many faces of Il Castello Incantato

Filippo Bentivegna originally left Italy and moved to America, to avoid military service under Mussolini. However, back in 1929, after seven years of living in the U.S.A., Bentivegna returned home to Sicily. He was considered the village madman, with some believing he had sustained brain damage and others that a woman had broken his heart. Whatever the reasoning for his madness, Bentivegna built a huge sculpture garden, which still amazes visitors to this day.

Photo: Il Castello Incantato by magalibobois / CC BY 2.0

Photo: Il Castello Incantato by magalibobois / CC BY 2.0

On his return home to Italy, Bentivegna bought a small plot of land on the outskirts of Sciacca and built a small cabin. He then began work on the rocky land surrounding his new home. Taking inspiration from people he had known in America and back home in Sciacca, Bentivegna began to carve a series of heads from the native rock. Over a period of 35 years, he sculpted more than 1,000 of these heads, which can still be seen today. When Bentivegna died in 1967, his family opened up the site to visitors, dubbing it “Il Castello Incantato” or the Enchanted Castle. The site is now a popular destination for visitors to Sicily, keen to see the many carvings around the site and the frescoes he sculpted inside his small home.

Author: Anne Sewell


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