From the top of a protruding V-shaped ridge at 911 m above sea level, ( the highest provincial capital in Italy ), Enna, " The belvedere of Sicily ", one of the oldest cities on the island, dominates the surrounding hills of central Sicily. Built as a Sicilian village and colonized by the Greeks, as early as the seventh century BC the city has always had only one function: Livy defined it as " impregnable " and, for obvious strategic reasons, Enna constituted a magnet for a series of enemy armies, which in turn they besieged and fortified it. It took the Arabs, for example, twenty years to conquer it, and in the end, in 859, they succeeded only by penetrating it through the sewers. The access road to this mountain stronghold is still formidable, with the road that climbs slowly, exiting the valley and winding sinuously to the rock up to the summit and to the inhabited center. Enna has remained a medieval city , even the modern urban development echoes its defensive past with the tall apartment and office buildings that look like lookout towers from afar.
The city of Enna is divided into two main parts: the historic center on the top of the hill, Enna Alta , and the modern city at its foot ( Enna Bassa ). Coming from the south you enter the lower part via the SS561, which then becomes the main city artery, Via Pergusa. The same road climbs up to the historic center. Coming from the north via the Palermo-Catania motorway you arrive in the old city.
What to see in Enna
The streets of Enna would seem to dissolve into thin air if it weren't for the surrounding walls and ramparts of the Castello di Lombardia. The original castle was built by the Saracens and then reinforced by the Normans. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen ordered the construction of massive walls with towers on each side. The walls are still intact, but of the twenty original towers only six remain standing. The wall encloses a complex system of courtyards closest to the entrance, the courtyard of San Martino, in summer it is used as an open-air theater. From here you can go up to the Pisan tower, from which you can admire an extraordinary panorama. On the other side of the valley is Casalcibetta and in the distance the Etna valley. The secret passages that once led to the octagonal Tower of Frederick II now pass under the public gardens.
Rock of ash
To the north of the castle a small road descends to the evocative remains of the Temple of Demeter, goddess of fertility and agriculture, venerated since ancient times. In 480 BC the tyrant Gelone, fearing that a bad harvest would sabotage his plans for the conquest of Syracuse, built a temple here to earn the favor of the goddess. It is assumed that the temple housed a statue of King Triptolemus, a mortal witness to the abduction of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, by the hand of Hades, god of the underworld. In exchange for the information received, Demeter taught Triptolemus the secrets of agriculture, which, in fact, has flourished in Enna since ancient times.
Via Roma starts from the castle and continues towards the south-western part of Enna hosting the main tourist attractions of the city along the way. One of the most significant is the cathedral, a composite style structure, in which the influence of the many invaders who tried to take possession of it can be seen.
The curious façade, with a 17th century bell tower, is what remains of the church from the Gothic period, while the sumptuous interior is totally baroque. Also interesting are the Greco-Roman ruins of the Temple of Demeter, the walls adorn the presbytery.
The museum houses the precious treasure of the cathedral. The collection was originally the property of canon Giuseppe Alessi who left it to his brother so that he could donate it to the Church. The latter, aware of the profit he could have made, preferred instead to sell it in 1860 to the religious authorities. Some are extraordinary pieces, such as the gilded crown of the Madonna encrusted with jewels and enamelled.
All the streets of Enna converge towards Piazza Francesco Crispi with its splendid viewpoint from where the gaze goes as far as Calascibetta, located on the opposite hill. In the evening, the square is invaded by local youth, but as you slice through the crowd you can watch the sunset over the rust-colored buildings. In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Rape of Proserpina, in memory of the local legend. It is actually a copy of Bernini's original which is located in the Borghese Gallery in Rome.
Parties and events
Holy Week : About three thousand people wearing the mantles and hoods of the 15 religious brotherhoods of the city participate in a solemn procession that takes place inside the cathedral.
Autodromo di Pergusa : It is located 9 km from Enna and in the past it hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix and important car races.
Feast of the Most Holy Mary of the Visitation : On 2 July an effigy of the patron saint of Enna travels through the streets of the city on a chariot called La Nave d'Oro pulled by peasants who, according to tradition, should only wear a band around the hips. Today the sash has been replaced by a long robe. The party is accompanied by fireworks.
Castello di Lombardia : in the summer, shows and events of medieval inspiration and setting are set up.
Eating in Enna
Unlike the places along the coast, here the cuisine is based on meat , especially mutton or beef, accompanied by mushrooms and grilled vegetables.
In the southern part of the province of Enna the landscape alternates rugged mountain ridges with gentle cultivated fields among which there are lively towns. One of the main tourist attractions in these areas is the lively town of Piazza Armerina . Close to it is the most sensational attraction of the area, the sumptuous Roman mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale , among the first places to visit in Sicily.
Located in the heart of one of the most fertile areas of the island, this city takes its name from one of the three hills on which it is built, Colle Armerino. It is actually made up of two cities: Piazza, founded by the Saracens in the 10th century on the slopes of the Armerino hill, and its expansion towards the south-east dates back to the 15th century.
Although its fame is linked to the Roman villa which stands 5 km further south, Piazza Armerina is a beautiful and elegant city that is worth a visit for a day or two.
The cathedral is located on the top of the hill; the imposing silhouette of the dome is visible from miles away, while the base of the building is surrounded by the terraced houses built into the hillside. From here you can enjoy a sensational panorama, the facade dates back to 1719 and the dome was added in 1768. The interior, all decorated in white and blue, has a majestic altar behind which you can admire the copy of a Byzantine painting the Madonna. of Victories.
In front of the cathedral stands Palazzo Trigona , the statue in the center of the square represents the baron Marco Trigona who financed the construction of the cathedral. From Piazza Duomo starts Via Monte which in the thirteenth century was the main city street and from which a maze of narrow alleys branches off like a herringbone, the most picturesque district of the city. Next to Palazzo Trigona you can reach the ruins of the fourteenth-century Aragonese Castle which, through Via Vittorio Emanuele, leads to the nerve center of the city, Piazza Garibaldi, overlooked by the elegant Palazzo di Città and the Church of San Rocco .
Roman villa of the farmhouse
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is the most important Roman monument in all of Sicily. It is assumed that the villa belonged to Maximilian who was emperor together with Diocletian (286-305 AD) hence the name of Villa Imperiale.
Although there are other residences that testify to the splendor with which the Roman imperial aristocracy loved to surround themselves, the residence of the Casale stands out for its size and the incredible extension (3535 square meters) of the polychrome mosaics that cover the floors. Considering the antiquity of the mosaics, scholars are struck by the realism, the fluidity of the execution and the variety of the subjects depicted that deal with every aspect of daily life in a Roman province. The scenes are full of humanity, panache and even eroticism, far removed from the cold symbolism of Byzantine mosaics. A lot of attention to detail, such as the blood that gushes from the wound of a deer bitten by a leopard, the winking cherubs watching the children play or the matrons in lascivious poses. There are so many and varied scenes that you could spend hours observing them.
It is one of the most interesting villages, the name derives from the Latin sperlunca, cave , which refers to the numerous cave dwellings, hundreds of years old, which pierce the sandstone slopes on which the village is built. At the top the formidable crenellated castle appears unexpectedly, a medieval fortress and baronial residence with warehouses, prisons, cellars and stables entirely carved into the rock, even the steps of the long steep and suggestive access stairway are carved into the rock. The panorama from this height embraces a brown territory typical of this part of Sicily.
On the arch of the second entrance door of the castle, past the vestibule, there is an ancient Latin inscription: " Quod Siculis placuit sola Sperlinga negavit ", What pleased the Sicilians only Sperlinga refused , an inscription that refers to the period where Sperlinga was the only town in Sicily to open its doors to the Angevins , bloody expelled from other Sicilian cities during the war of the Vespers in the thirteenth century; Barricaded inside the castle, the French resisted a year before surrendering. Immediately below the manor, a small archaeological and ethnographic museum exhibits a heterogeneous collection of historical objects recovered in the area, alongside agricultural tools and household utensils.