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Central Sicily

Villas in inland Sicily

Central SicilySicily is so packed up with so many unforgettable destinations that most holiday makers are tempted to overlook the interior of our island. Visitors immediately understand the nature of this dry, “sea-less” Sicily when driving along Palermo-Catania highway. The desolate mountains on this territory still bear the scars of abandoned sulphur mines dug deep in the rock and partly covered by thick woods. The usually harsh and lively colours of coastal landscape fade into ages-old silence and ancient immobility. This is the reign of latifundium, dominating the view for kilometres. Here and there, you may see remote farmhouses and infinite mountain trails (the so called trazzere), sometimes winding, sometimes straight as rural highways. This arid territory was to be the ideal background for that “revolutionary” movement claiming the seizure of abandoned farmlands in post-war time known as Fasci Siciliani. It was a glimmer of social awareness against the landed nobility, still maintaining their privileged position despite a number of political upheavals.

The metaphor describing Sicily as a huge granary for Roman Empire is closely related to this area. Even the myth of Demeter and Persephone is rooted in this territory and its abundance of harvests. Persephone–Kore was abducted by Hades on the shores of Pergusa lake, and in the same place her mother Demeter celebrated the rite of death and revival of nature making the earth bringing forth spring flowers and harvests. This area is particularly rich in traces and ruins of ancient temples dedicated to Demeter, goddess of wheat, and Persephone, personification of Spring.

Enna is also called umbilicus Siciliae (Sicilian navel) and is the keystone of three different landscapes. The territory south-west of the town along the valley of Salso river, crossing Caltanissetta and Mazzarino down to the interiors of Agrigento province and the southernmost coast, is marked by bare and yellowish hills, tinged with green in spring when wheat begins to grow.

Going southeast, beyond Pergusa Lake, extensive grain fields have ceded to forestation areas. In Piazza Armerina surroundings, the landscape is very similar to that of Apennine Mountains. Piazza Armerina boast ruins of ancient Greek and Roman ages as the ruins of ancient Morgantina and the extraordinary Villa del Casale, which historians attribute to Roman Emperor Massenzio - a still unique example throughout Europe of the holiday residences rich Roman governors built for their pleasure. The northern area beyond Dittaino river valley - in the province of Enna - is dotted by several towns and villages, a few of them founded in Greek or Roman ages and still keeping a medieval layout, others founded in the XVI and XVII centuries and known as “hanging towns”, for their privileged position on high peak-tops, such as Enna, Leonforte, Agira, Nìcosia, Aidone and Sperlinga. They cling to the flanks of Nebrodi mountains, and overlook the fertile Catania plain. Mount Etna dominates everything with its imposing view. In his novel Conversations in Sicily, Sicilian writer Elio Vittorini refers to these towns as “Lombard places”, because their populations speak a Gallo-Italic idiom, heritage of ancient settlements in the Norman period.

Villas in inland Sicily

Central Sicily landscape

View of Enna 'Umbilicus siciliane'

Enna by night

Nice encounter in Central Sicily

The celluloid town of Corleone

Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina

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