11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Enna
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Sicily's highest city at almost 1,000 meters, Enna is also one of the few that is not on the coast, lying inland in almost the exact center of the island. The hilltop setting not only makes it more pleasant in Sicily's often scorching summer heat, but also means that it has views from nearly every terrace, giving it the nickname of Sicily's Belvedere.
The town is split in two, with a historic hilltop center known as Enna Alta and the modern town, Enna Bassa, below. Several of the major tourist attractions are in the old town of Enna Alta, although the outstanding Roman Villa of Casale and several other exceptional sites lie in the countryside around Enna.
Enna is known throughout Sicily for its elaborate processions during Holy Week, when the various robed brotherhoods carry statues through the streets. For ideas on the best places to visit, see our list of the top attractions in Enna.
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1. Villa Romana del Casale
Buried in a landslide in the 12th century, the Roman villa was forgotten until the discovery of a few mosaic fragments in 1929 led to its excavation. The villa that was discovered, with most of its original decoration intact, is one of the best-preserved villas anywhere in the Roman Empire and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
About 50 rooms have been uncovered, with more than 3,500 square meters of mosaic floors. These picture daily life, mythology, and hunting wild animals, forming one of the largest and most beautiful complexes in Roman antiquity. There is a well-preserved thermal bath complex; a peristyle surrounded by Corinthian columns with a colonnaded elliptical courtyard and a fountain in the center; and a number of small surrounding rooms, most with mosaics.
In a long rectangular peristyle with apses at each end, you can see animals being caught, taken on board ship, and transported to Italy, where they are used in animal-baiting games in the arena. The Great Basilica is also flanked by rooms with impressive mosaics. Floor mosaics in the triclinium, believed to be a dining-room, show the Twelve Labors of Hercules and other scenes from mythology.
A good base for exploring this and other sights south of Enna is the beautiful 19th-century Villa Grimaldi, now a charming bed-and-breakfast called La Casa del Poeta. Close to pretty Lake Pergusa, the B&B serves a bountiful breakfast and is only an eight-minute drive from a choice of restaurants and things to do in Enna.
Address: Contrada Casale 1, Piazza Armerina, Enna
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Enna
2. Castello di Lombardia
The Castello di Lombardia is one of the great Sicilian fortresses, named either for the Lombard queen of the Norman king, Roger I, or for the garrison of Lombard soldiers who guarded it. The fortress shows Byzantine, Norman, and Hohenstaufen elements, reflecting various owners. Frederick III of Aragon added living quarters around one of the three courtyards.
Six of the original 20 towers remain, the most complete of which is called La Pisana, topped by square crenellations. The views from the top of the tower encompass the Sicilian mountain ranges and Mount Etna.
On the southern side of the fortress are tombs carved into the rock, and to the north rises the Rocca di Cerere, on which there was a famous shrine of Demeter that dated back to pre-Greek times.
Address: Via Lombardia, Enna
3. Torre di Federico
In a public garden in the southwest of Enna, the Torre di Federico stands alone on a hill. The octagonal tower, surrounded by a partly preserved octagonal perimeter wall, dates from the time of the Emperor Frederick II.
The tower is 26 meters high and 17 meters in diameter, with stone walls three-and-a-half meters thick. In the wall is a gap where there was a spiral staircase leading up to the two upper stories. Both main floors have magnificent rooms with ribbed vaulting in eight sections.
Address: Giardini Pubblici, Enna
4. Chiesa Madre: Enna's Cathedral
At the top of a staircase, the façade of Enna's cathedral rises in three courses to a single central tower. Three portals are separated by massive pilasters. The cathedral was built in 1307, and after a fire, the rebuilding lasted into the 17th century.
The transept of the original building was preserved, and the exterior of the apses date from the end of the 15th century. Inside are fine wooden ceilings over the nave and transepts, and artist Pietro Rosso from Bologna added an opulent stucco Crowning of the Virgin Mary to the main apse in about 1595.
The capitals and bases of the columns in the three aisles of the interior have richly sculpted decorations, some showing by their inscriptions that they are the work of Gian Domenico Gagini, one of the prominent family of Renaissance artists and sculptors, and done in 1560. The paintings in the presbytery by F. Paladino are also from the 16th century. Over the third altar on the left is a 15th-century crucifix.
Address: Piazza Mazzini, Enna
5. Piazza Vittorio Emanuele
The main square and focal point of Enna is the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, where you'll see the Church of San Francesco with its 15th-century bell-tower. Inside is a painted wooden cross from the same period and wall-paintings in the presbytery from the 17th century.
To the north is the adjoining Piazza F. Crispi with a belvedere that has a splendid view of neighboring Calascibetta, the mountains of Madonie, and Mount Etna. In the square stands a fountain with a reproduction of Bernini's 17th-century sculpture Abduction of Proserpina (the Latin name for Persephone), which, according to tradition, occurred in the nearby Lago di Pergusa.
From Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the Via Roma leads uphill, opening out into small squares and passing the Baroque church of San Benedetto in Piazza VI Dicembre, the nearby Gothic-Catalan campanile of San Giovanni in Piazza Pietro Coppola, and the Palazzo Pollicarini, also in Gothic-Catalan style.
Just off Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and an easy walk to the cathedral and castle the highly rated P&G Design by Lago Welcome Enna has well-designed rooms with views of the Sicilian countryside. Restaurants are plentiful in the streets around this central piazza.
6. The Archeological Park of Morgantina
Morgantina is thought to have been settled by colonists from central Italy around 1300 BC, but it is certain that the Greeks took over the city six centuries later. After sacking it during the Punic Wars in 213 BC, the Romans rebuilt it, and Morgantina became a prosperous city. Around 30 BC, it was again destroyed and this time abandoned.
Today, it is an extensive archeological park, where you can still see the mint for which it was famed in the ancient world, along with a Greek amphitheater dating from the third century BC and ruins of a temple dedicated to Demeter and Kore.
Finds from the site are displayed in the museum at Aidone near the archeological site. The most outstanding of these are the astonishing silver dishes and other pieces crafted here about 300 BC and decorated with figures from mythology.
Address: SS 288, Aidone, Enna
7. Archaeological Museum
Housed in the Palazzo Varisano, the museum shows prehistoric, classical, and medieval finds from archaeological sites in the province of Enna, with interpretive background on the locations and research processes.
Its 10 rooms display its collections of more than 1,500 pieces from the prehistoric necropoli of Calascibetta, the Greek settlements of Capodarso and Cozzo Matrice, and various other archaeological sites. Varisano Palace itself has connections to Italy's Risorgimento, when its leader, Giuseppe Garibaldi uttered his famous battle cry: "Either Rome or Death!"
Address: Piazza Mazzini 8, Enna
8. Castello di Sperlinga
The medieval village of Sperlinga takes its name from the Greek word for cavern, because local settlers carved their homes into the rock. The castle, too, is almost entirely excavated from the sandstone spur around which the town sits. In prehistoric times, the rock was excavated for tombs, and when the Normans arrived, they continued the practice on a grander scale to create their almost impregnable castle.
It is a complex defensive system, with classic medieval towers and crenellations, cisterns for rainwater, passageways, and hidden storehouses for food, all incorporated into the rock or built upon it, so that it's hard to know where the castle ends and bedrock begins.
The entrance is across a drawbridge, and there are secret tunnels to allow escape during a siege. A flight of stairs carved into the rock connects the living quarters with the defensive positions.
The shape of Palazzo Branciforte is visible some distance away from the tiny village of Leonforte, just below it on the 600-meter-high hilltop. The palace that fills one entire side of a vast piazza is that of the village's founding family, and was built in 1611, about the time the town was founded.
In 1651, the Branciforte family added the grand Baroque fountain of golden limestone, with two dozen spouts and a row of arches crowned by the family's crest.
10. Museo Alessi
Behind the cathedral in the Palazzo della Canonica, the Museo Alessi houses the cathedral's extensive treasury, with several fine examples of Renaissance jewelry and medieval works of art.
The highlight of these is the splendid Crown of the Virgin in gold and enamels. Coin collectors will want to see the more than two thousand Siculo-Punic and Siculo-Greek coins. The museum's collections include several thousand more coins from the Roman and Byzantine eras.
Address: Piazza Duomo 1, Enna
11. Villaggio Bizantino di Vallone Canalotto (Byzantine Village)
One of the least-known places to visit, this entire village of cave homes is a few kilometers north of Enna. The village was active when Sicily was part of the Byzantine Empire, from AD 535 to 827, and the homes and other troglodyte spaces were located to form a fortress in the rock outcrop.
On a tour, you'll see places of worship, burial rooms, places where crops were processed and channels for a water supply. The caves are at different levels, and the paths are stony and rough, so wear sturdy walking shoes.
Admission is free, but it's a good idea to book ahead to be sure of a volunteer guide (your hotel or B&B can do this if you have trouble with the Italian-only website). They give an excellent picture (in English) of this village and the people who lived and worked in these caves 1,500 years ago.
Address: Contrada Buonriposo, Calascibetta, Sicily
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Where to Go from Enna: Located in the island's center, Enna is a good base for seeing many of the top attractions in Sicily. The Valley of the Temples is in nearby Agrigento, and the beautiful Baroque monuments of Catania are not far to the east.
What Else to See in Sicily: Farther away, in the western part of Sicily, are the sites of Palermo and the beautiful UNESCO-acclaimed Monreale Cathedral. Palermo is also a good base for visiting the historic port of Trapani and the charming beach-side town of Cefalu.