Piazza Armerina Tourist Attractions
CommunicationsSS 117b Enna-Gela.EventsThe "Palio dei Normanni" is held every year on 13th-14th August; this is a popular festival to commemorate liberation from Arab rule by the Normans under Roger I.LocationPiazza Armerina is pleasantly situated on three hills in the middle of the Monti Erei.
Most people merely pass through it on their way to see the mosaics in the nearby Villa Casale, but the town itself is most attractive, with a wealth of churches, and well worth a more detailed visit.HistoryPiazza Armerina is a comparatively young town, having been founded in 1080 by the Norman Count Roger. He settled Lombards here to keep a watch on surrounding towns occupied by Saracens. In 1161, following a rebellion by Lombard barons, it was destroyed by order of the Norman King William I, but rebuilt in 1163. By 1296 it had become sufficiently attractive for Frederick III of Aragon to summon the Sicilian parliament here. It enjoyed its halcyon days during the 14th and 15th centuries, and again in the 17th century. It has been an episcopal see since 1817.The square-built Castello Spinelli, with its towers and bastions, was constructed in the 14th century. Built in the Norman style are the church of San San Giovanni.
The ruins of Villa Romana del Casale, discovered by archeologists in the 1930s, are from a huge manor house. It was inhabited until the 12th C and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Piazza Armerina is dominated by the cathedral of Santissima Assunta built on a hill in 1627 to plans by Orazio Torriani in place of an earlier 15th century building. The Late Gothic bell-tower from this older building was preserved and incorporated in the right-hand end of the front. The front displays Renaissance forms, contrasting beautifully with the 1719 Baroque portal with pairs of spiral columns on each side.The interior of the triple-aisled cruciform columned basilica is fitted out in Classical style, dominated by the crossing cupola. A wooden crucifix from the older church is painted on both sides; on one side can be seen the Crucifixion, on the other the Resurrection, painted in 1485 by the otherwise unknown Maestro della Croce di Piazza Armerina. The 1594 baptistry by Gagini also formed part of the original building. The church's treasures include the silver altar and the bejewelled Byzantine picture of the "Madonna delle Vittorie", which Roger I took with him into battle against the Saracens.
The Palazzo Trigona in the cathedral square is a good example of the secular architecture of Piazza Armerina; it houses an art gallery with paintings by such artists as Canaletto, Caravaggio, Carlo Dolci and A. Faggini. The 1603 church of Sant'Ignazio is Baroque, with a library and municipal museum in its former convent building.
Gran Priorato di Santo Stéfano
Giovanni, with its Gothic portal and frescoes by Borreman, and in particular the 12th century church of Gran Priorato di Santo Stéfano; a few years ago some Norman frescoes were discovered hidden under later plaster.
The single-aisled church of Sant'Andrea outside Piazza Armerina dates back to 1096. Among its frescoes will be found a portrayal of "St Gregory's Mass". Below the Suffering Christ the Pope is shown celebrating mass in the presence of twelve cardinals. The inscription shows it to be Pope Pius II (1458-64), thus definitely dating the painting.
Morgantina is an archeological site dating from the 6th C B.C. Today many of the features of this old Sikel town have been unearthed and restored.
The little medieval town of Aidone, situated about 800m/2,625ft up in the Monti Erei, was originally founded by the Arabs. Among its churches mention should be made of Sant'Anna (a wooden crucifix of Fra Umile da Petralia) and Santa Maria La Cava (apse from the 14th century, Renaissance campanile). There is also a small museum here with finds from Morgantina.CommunicationsAidone is situated to the northwest of Piazza Armerina. From there, take the SS 117b northwards as far as the junction at Madonna della Noce (3.5km/2mi) and then turn right along the SS 288 for 6.5km/4mi to Aidone. Continuing on the SS 288 for another 5km/3mi, and then finally along a track, the excavations of Morgantina are reached.
To the north of Aidone, on the other side of the Fiume Gornalunga, which flows into the Lago di Ogliastro, stands the Norman fortress of Cresti. The tower which contains the living quarters is well preserved.
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