THE HILLS NORTH OF ENNA (EREI MOUNTAINS)
round trip – allow 1 full day
Enna and follow directions for Calascibetta.
– Benefiting from a glorious setting which consists of a natural
amphitheatre nestling in a rocky hollow on the side of a hill, Calascibetta
was probably founded during the Arab occupation.
Mother Church erected in the 14th century was completely rebuilt
after an earthquake in the 1600s. Remains of the former structure
lie under the building, only visible below the left nave. Its three
naves are divided by stone columns which rise from bases bearing
carvings of monstruous figures to support the arcades of pointed
arches. To the left is a fine 1500’s baptismal font.
Norman tower of the 11th century standing beside the ruined Chiesa
di S. Pietro, is ornamented with a shallow relief in stone. From
a square, on the left, extends a beautiful view on Enna, to the
right (its castle and panoramic balcony being clearly visible) and
the Pergusa Lake below.
the village in the direction of Villapriolo you can see the rock-cut
tombs of the necropolis of Realmese dating from the 4th century
to the crossroad and take the left turning (SS 121) for Leonforte.
The road winds its way inland across the hills around Enna beyond
Regalbuto, offering wonderful views over the countryside, particularly
on the section between Nissoria and the turning for Centuripe, in
the valley of the Salso River and of the Pozzillo Lake.
– It is a tiny village perched on a hump at some 600m a.s.l.
enjoying a superb position. The monumental slhouette of Palazzo
Branciforte is discernible from a distance, a powerful reminder
of the fact that the town was founded in the 17th century by Nicola
Placido Branciforte. The building, dated 1611, runs the whole length
of one side of the enormous piazza of the same name. Of particular
interest is the lovely fountain of Granfonte built by the Branciforte
family in 1651; made of gold-colored stone it comprises 24 spouts,
a series of small pointed arches crowned with a pediment bearing
the family coat of arms.
back down the same road, and at the fork, turn left for Assoro.
– At a height of 850m, the town is grouped around the little
Piazza Umberto I, attractively paved, with a fountain in the centre
and a lovely belvedere-terrace. Beyond the elegant archway linking
Palazzo Valguarnera to the town’s main church, is another
little square with viewing terrace, which opens out before the Chiesa
Madre, or Basilica di San Leone (now closed for restoration). The
church, founded in 1186, has been subjected to major alterations:
first in the late 1300’s and again in the 1700’s. It
consists of a nave and aisles and has a doorway on the south side.
The north porch was adapted in 1693 so as to accomodate the Cappella
dell’Oratorio del Purgatorio and given an elegant Baroque
doorway. The interior enclosed by a fine ribbed-vault, is particularly
attractive on account of its compactness and profuse gilded Baroque
stucco decoration. The spiral columns were in fact embellished with
their climbing plant ornament in the 18th century, at the same time
as when the pelican (right) and the phoenix (left) were added above
the apses – these emblems allude to the sacrifice of the Crucifixion
and Resurrection of Christ; the first represents the bird which,
according to myth, plucked flesh from its own breast to feed its
young while the second fabulous creature having burnt itself to
ashes on altar fire, re-emerged rejuvenated.
main body of the church has a fine wooden tie beam ceiling, painted
and ornamented with arabesques (1490); the attractive wrought-iron
chapel gates (15th century) are also worthy of note.
the town, follow the road past San Giorgio which intersects the
SS 121 again at Nissoria. Turn right towards Agira.
– Spread over the slopes of Monte Teja, at a height of 650m,
the town is overshadowed by the silhouette of the castle, which
towers above it. Built under Swabian rule, this defensive outpost
appears to have played an active role in various struggles between
the Angevines and the Aragonese, and later between the Aragonese
and the Chiaramonte. From the ruins, there is a beautiful view over
the Pozzillo Lake.
and monastery – The story of Agira, home of the ancient historian
Diodorus Siculus (90-20 BC), echoes the pattern in fortune of the
Basilian monastery of San FIlippo. It came to particular prominence
when, during the Norman occupation, the resident community was joined
by a group of monks from Jerusalem who were forced into exile by
the wrath of Saladin. The monastery also prospered on account of
the enormous income generated by its immense holdings throughout
Europe. In 1537, Charles V conceded the title of “città
demaniale” upon Agira, providing it with a “royal”
status complete with privileges that included the right to administrate
its own civil and penal justice system. The town’s decline
began in 1625 when King Philip IV of Spain, in a desperate effort
to boost the dwindling finances of the monarchy, decided to sell
the town to Genoese merchants; faced with the threat of losing their
freedom, the citizens of Agira offered to raise the enormous sum
Madre – The former monastic Church of San Filippo is the town’s
most important religious bulding. It dates in its present form from
the late 1700’s and early 1800’s (the front was completely
rebuilt in 1928). Inside, it is decorated with gilded stuccowork;
among the works of art is a dramatic wooden Crucifix by Fra’
Umile da Petralia (over the high altar), wooden choirstalls depicting
scenes from the life of St. Philip by Nicola Bagnasco (1818-1822),
three 1400’s polyptych panels representing the Madonna in
Majesty with Saints, as well as paintings by Olivio Sozzi and Giuseppe
– Coming from Agira, the visitor is welcomed by the fine Baroque
pink-stone façade of Santa Maria La Croce (1744), that is
graced with columns crowned by an elegant pediment. Turning left
into Via Ingrassia, immediately on the left-hand side is the Jesuit
school and, just beyond it, the Liberty style Palazzo Compagnini.
A little further, the town’s main square provides a board
open space before the Chiesa Madre (1760), from which to survey
the monumental Baroque frontage of the church dedicated to St. Basil
assembled from a miscellany of features, articulated by pilasters.
the SS 121, a narrow road winds its twisted way to Centuripe.
- The little town which today seems rather off the beaten track,
was at one time in the dark and distant past a strategic outpost
on the main link-line between the plain of Catania and the mountains
inland. This explains why, particularly in the Roman age, Centuripe
enjoyed a great economic prosperity (in 70 BC Cicero described it
as one of the most prosperous town in Sicily). Many of the town’s
attractive monuments date back to that time. The Tempio degli Augustali,
dating from between the 1st – 2nd century AD is a rectangular
building raised above a colonnaded street onto which it faced (alongside
the new archaeological museum). The two monumental tombs with towers
are known as “la Dogana” (with only the upper floor
visible) and the “castle of Conradin”. Down a stone-cobbled
side street on the far north-western side of the town, in the contrada
of Bagni, sit the ruins of what must once have been a spectacular
nymphaeum hanging above the ravine of the river, with fountains
designed to delight visitors approaching the town. A brick wall
containing five niches, the remains of a cistern in which water
was collected and parts of the aqueduct are still visible.
the vast majority of artefacts recovered from the 8th century BC
to the Middle Ages and destined to be displayed in the modern building
that will accomodate the Museo Archeologico, are, for the time being,
“in storage” somewhere in the Town Hall, a limited selction
is however open to the public. Of particular interest are the statues
from the Tempio degli Augustali representing various emperors and
members of their families; a fine head of Emperor Hadrian which,
given its size, must have belonged to a statue of at least 4m; two
splendid funerary urns belonging to the Scriboni family (almost
certainly imported from Rome); locally produced pottery (3rd –1st
century BC) and an impressive collection of theatrical masks.
return to Enna from Centuripe, continue in the direction of Catenanuova
and take the motorway.
Villa Romana Del Casale
Scivoletto e Michelin Italia. Le foto sono di proprietà
dei rispettivi autori. Ogni riproduzione non autorizzata verrà
perseguita a norma di legge.
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Guide of Sicily
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