The surroundings of Palermo include the former Minorite house of Santa Maria di Gesù, on the lower slopes of Monte Grifone and the Spianata della Sacra Grotta, a cave converted into a church.
The little town of Borgetto lies 25km/15.5mi to the southwest of Palermo along the SS 186, 290m/950ft up the northwest slope of Monte Gradara, which is 1,194m/3,919ft high. To the southeast, at 718m/2,356ft, stands the pilgrimage church of the Madonna del Romitello.
CommunicationsSS 121 Palermo-Villafrati, turning-off at Villafrati in a northwesterly direction.LocationThis village with its medieval castle lies 32km/20mi southeast of Palermo.
To the north of Cefalà Diana, 4km/2mi from Villafrati and reached from there along a side road, are some Arabian baths (Bagni di Cefalà) situated by a bridge. Their date is uncertain (probably 11th century). This site, situated not far from the River Cefalà and a thermal spring, must be one of the most remarkable legacies of Arabian building to be found in Sicily. On the outer wall there are ornamental stripes with Kufic inscriptions. The interior is a room 14x6.50m/46x21ft in size with a barrel-vaulted roof and three deep basins. The rear section of the room is separated off by two pillars which support three stilted arches.The building was for a long time used as a drinking-place for cattle, but recently it has been restored and opened to the public.
CommunicationsSS 118 from Palermo to Corleone, SS 386 from Corleone to Bisacquino, from there a right-hand turning to Contessa Entellina (15km/9mi).LocationThis village in the interior of Western Sicily is one of those founded in the 15th century by refugees from Albania. These are Contessa Entellina itself (1450), Piana degli Albanesi (1488) and Biancavilla (1489). To this day the inhabitants of the village speak an Albanian dialect.
Castello di Calatamauro
Castello di Calatamauro (5km/3mi west) is a fortified castle of Arab origin situated at a height of 764m/2,507ft.
On this mountain 557m/1,827ft high (10km/6mi northwest) lie the ruins of the Elymian town of Entella, which in ancient times was mentioned on several occasions in the wars between Syracuse and Carthage. It continued to exist until its destruction at the hands of Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century.
Useful tips: A visit to it is only of interest to specialists.
CommunicationsSS 118 Palermo-Agrigento.LocationThis town has a beautiful situation in the interior of the island to the south of Palermo in a hollow between peaks of the Monti Sicani. The name is derived from the Arabic Kürlion; in Arab times, with its two fortresses on hills in the south and east, it had a strategic importance. In 1237 Frederick II founded a colony of Lombards here. In 1536 a fall of rock destroyed part of the town, which was subsequently rebuilt.
The Chiesa Madre in Corleone dates from the 15th century and contains statues by G. B. Li Volsi. In addition the remains of ancient fortifications can be seen.
Forest of Ficuzza
The "Forest of Ficuzza" is reached from Corleone by traveling on the SS 118 northwards as far as Mass. Castellaccio (18.5km/11mi), then turning right through Ficuzza to the Bosco di Ficuzza (4.5km/3mi). This forest on the northern slope of the Rocca Busambra is one of the most beautiful in Sicily. In Ficuzza (683m/2,241ft) stands a hunting lodge, built in 1803 by Giovanni Venanzio Marvuglia for King Ferdinand IV, who had been forced to flee from Naples to Sicily by the French. Today it houses the forestry administration. From here it is possible - we recommend taking a guide - to climb the 1,613m/5,292ft high Rocca Busambra (panorama).
CommunicationsSS 120 Termini Imerese-Nicosía.LocationThis remote town, situated in mountains deep in the interior of the island, between Petralia Sottana and Nicosía, was in ancient times a Sikel settlement and outside the Greek sphere of influence.The Gothic campanile of the Chiesa di San Nicola (14th century) dominates the town, in which there are large numbers of Sikel rock caves. These are still partially inhabited, as are similar ones at Sperlinga, but have normal house fronts, so that at first sight they are not recognizable as cave dwellings.
LocationMondello is situated in a bay between Monte Gallo (581m/1,906ft) and Monte Pellegrino (606m/1,988ft), only 12km/7mi from the center of Palermo. It has developed from a small fishing village into a seaside resort with gardens, villas and many hotels. It boasts a boatingmarina and a sandy beach 2km/1mi long.ExcursionsThese include an ascent of Monte Gallo and boat and bus trips to Capo Gallo, to the fishing village of Sferracavallo further west, and to the seaside resort of Isola delle Femmine (opposite the island of the same name).
On the Punta di Priola to the southeast, there are several caves, including the Addaura Grotto, in which drawings scratched on the rocks and other prehistoric finds have been discovered. These pictures of animals and humans are similar to other examples at Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain.
Montelepre lies 25km/15.5mi to the southwest, at a height of 343m/1,126ft, between Monte Saraceno (949m/3,115ft) and Monte Gibilmesi (1,152m/3,781ft). It has a population of 5,000 and a medieval castle. Many years ago Montelepre (Mountain of Hares) lay within the hunting grounds of the Archbishop of Monreale, but the forests have long since disappeared and the countryside is barren.Montelepre is famous as the birthplace of the mafioso and folk hero Salvatore Giuliano (1922-50), who is buried here.
Partinico (29km/18mi southwest on the SS 113, A 29, Zucco exit) lies in an agricultural region and has a population of 28,000. To the south lies the Lago Poma reservoir.Partinico is a Mafia center and was where Salvatore Giuliano obtained most of his support. For quite a time it was also home to Danilo Dolci (born 1924) from Trieste, a social reformer campaigning against poverty and illiteracy. He wrote "Banditi a Partinico" (Bandits in Partinico) in 1955 and "A Survey of Palermo" in 1959.
Communications24km/15mi south of Palermo, departing from the Piazza Indipendenza, via Corso P. Pisani and Via Altofonte.Location and topographyFrom Palermo a road with panoramic views leads south to this picturesque town. It was founded in 1488 by Greek Orthodox Christians from Albania who were fleeing from the Turks. Other Albanian villages are Contessa Entelina, established in 1450, and Biancavilla in 1489.The town is the see of the Greco-Catholic bishop of Albanians living in Italy. Until well into the 19th century all public offices were held by Albanians.Their native dialect is still heard today, and their customs and national costume live on too, the latter being worn at church festivals such as Easter, the Feast of the Magi and on St George's Day, 23rd April.
The church of St Giorgio is also dedicated to St George; in accordance with orthodox custom the chancel is separated from the body of the church by a screen with icons.
In the 16th century church of San Demetrio in Piana degli Albanesi can be seen some Late Byzantine icons and an apse decorated by Pietro Novelli.
On the southeastern edge of Piana degli Albanesi stands an obelisk carrying the date 24th May 1860, the day when Garibaldi and his troops marched through here.
Lago Piana degli Albanesi
In 1923 a reservoir, the Lago Piana degli Albanesi, was built south of Piana degli Albanesi to generate electrical power.
LocationOn a hilltop in the Madonie, about 30km/19mi south of Cefalù as the crow flies, lies Polizzi, a holiday resort which is also a setting-out point for excursions into the Madonie. The epithet "Generosa" was granted to the town by Frederick II in 1234.
In the Chiesa Madre in Polizzi can be seen reliefs by Domenico Gagini (1482) and an old Dutch triptych; the middle panel measures 158 by 123cm/64 by 50in and shows the Madonna on a throne between four angels playing harps, while the side panels portray Catharine of Alexandria and Barbara. The triptych is the masterpiece of the late 15th century "master with the embroidered leaves" from Brussels. The tablet carried by one of the singing angels shows the musical score and words of "Ave Regina" by Walter Frye, who was employed at the Burgundian court c. 1450.There is evidence that the picture has been in Polizzi since 1523.
Via Pietro Bonanno is a winding road with a fine view leading up to the hill dotted with houses near the Santuario di Santa Rosalia, at a height of 429m/1,408ft and 14km/8.5mi from Palermo. The road continues up to a viewing terrace with a statue of Rosalia (458m/1,400ft).A flight of steps leads up to the Baroque front, built in 1625, which covers the entrance to the Rosalia Cave, 25m/80ft below ground. In the cave an 18th century sculpture of the saint can be seen in a glazed shrine. Goethe's description in Italian and German is to be seen on a tablet. Numerous gifts show the depth of popular belief in the legend.From the sanctuary it is a half hour's climb to the top of the mountain (609m/2,000ft), from which there is a superb view.
There is a rewarding trip to the Spianata della Sacra Grotta, a cave converted into a church in 1625. According to the legend St Rosalia, daughter of Duke Sinibaldo and niece of King William II, withdrew to this remote hermitage, at the age of only fourteen.
The Monte Pellegrino, described by Goethe as "the most beautiful foothills in the world", rises to a height of 609m/2,000ft from the plain lying close to the sea north of Palermo.HistoryFinds made by archaeologists in the Addaura Cave show that man has lived here for thousands of years. In ancient times the mountain was known as Heirkte; in 278-277 B.C. Pyrrhos captured it from the Carthaginians, in 248 Hamilcar took possession of it and resisted Roman attacks on it for three years. In the 17th century it was linked with the name of St Rosalia and became one of the main places of pilgrimage in Sicily, and so became known as Monte Pellegrion (Pilgrims' Mountain). Legend links it with the uprising of the barons, led by Matteo Bonello, against King William I and his Grand Admiral Maio of Bari, when the king was taken prisoner and Maio murdered. Matteo Bonello then set up residence in the castle at Cáccamo.Legend has it that after this uprising, in which her father Count Sinibaldo della Quisquina also took part, the young noblewoman Rosalia left the royal court and became a recluse in a cave on the mountainside, where she died on fourth September 1166 after leading a saintly existence. On 15th July 1625 she appeared before two hermits and directed them to the cave where she had lived. There they found her body and a stone with her name on it. When her mortal remains were taken to Palermo an epidemic which had been raging there suddenly ceased; since then she has been the city's patron saint. She is remembered particularly on 13th-15th July, when the people celebrate the finding of her bones, and on fourth September, the anniversary of her death.