charming town developed in the 14th century around the castle built
by the Ventimiglia noble family. This consists of a massive square
building with square towers and has undergone many changes over
the heart of the town lies Piazza Margherita, overlooked by the
Chiesa della Madrice and the old Banca di Corte, now accommodating
the Museo Civico (that will move to the Castle as soon as restoration
work is completed).
Vecchia – Built in the 14th century on the ruins
of a pagan temple, the church has a Renaissance portico that was
added in the 1500s, and a splendid central portal in the Catalan
style. On the left side is a bell-tower with a fine Romanesque two-light
window culminating in an octagonal spire covered with majoilica
tiles. The interior of the church originally divided into three
naves, was enlarged to four at the end of the 15th century. It preserves
prized works, most remarkably, above the main altar, a splendid
polyptych depicting The Coronation of the Virgin attributed to Pietro
Ruzzolone or possibly Antonello de Saliba. Note, in the bottom right,
the unusual figure of a Saint wearing spectacles. On the right is
a statue of the Madonna delle Grazie by Antonello Gagini. Below
the north nave, there is a fresco depicting the Sposalizio delle
Vergini (Betrothal of the Virgins) showing a strong Sienese influence
in the elegant features and the symmetry of the composition. Some
of the columns separating the naves are painted with frescoes among
which is the figure of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
Santa Anna leads up to the castle. Through the Gothic arch, appears
the massive building marked by a square tower at each of its four
Palatina – The Palatine Chapel, on the second floor,
is decorated with enchanting stuccoworks picked out from a gold-leaf
beackground, attributed to Giuseppe Serpotta, brother of the most
Roma leads off from Piazza Margherita.
Francesco Minà-Palumbo – Currently housed
in the precincts of the former Benedictine convent, the museum stems
from the passion of Francesco Minà Palumbo, a doctor living
in the 19th century, with a fascination with botany. The result
is a lifetime’s assemblage of conscientious and systematic
collection, classification and representation on paper of the botanical
species, reptiles and insects of the nearby Madonie Mountains, some
of which are now extinct.
little further on is the Chiesa di San Francesco and, adjoined,
the Mausoleo dei Ventimiglia, an octagonal building dating from
the late-Middle Ages.
stands La Madrice Nuova, which contains a fine Deposition from the
Cross by Giuseppe Velasco and Baroque altars with spiral columns
by Vincenzo Messina.
Corso Umberto I, stands the Fontana di Venere Ciprea (rebuilt in
1614) with Andromeda at the top, Venus and Cupid in the central
niche and four bas-reliefs depicting the myth of Artemis (Diana)
sweet tooth? – The Pasticceria dei fratelIi Fiasconaro on
Piazza Margherita makes the most delicious panettone (traditional
Christmas cake), colomba (dove-shaped Easter cake) and, in the summer,
ciambelle (almond doughnuts). On the opposite side of the piazza,
excellent home-made ice cream is on sale from Extrabar (owned by
the same family).
to eat - Il Vecchio Palmento, at 2 via Failla, a family
concern, offers a selection of dishes prepared with local produce.
5km south of Castelbuono, the restaurant Romitaggio, housed in the
medieval Convent of S. Guglielmo specializes in traditional Madonie’s
outlook – From the Hotel Milocca, in the vicinity
of Piano Castagna, 7km south of the centre of town, extends a splendid
view over Castelbuono, the Madonie Mountains and the Thyrrenian
Sea with the Aeolian Islands. On particularly clear days, one can
even clearly make out the different houses.
delicacy: the manna. Small whitish, lightly sweet stalactites
hanging from ash trees; manna is the lymph of these trees which,
when dried, is collected and used as sweetener and a laxative. Although
once one of the town’s sources of income, it is now more of
a curiosity sought by tourists, who can find it at the tobacconist’s
at the end of Corso Umberto I (virtually in Piazza Margherita).
fine walk – For those seeking a ramble away from
it all, the Sentiero degli Agrifogli Giganti (the Giant Holly Trail)
leads from Piano Sempria along a beautiful path through woods of
holm and young oak to Piano Pomo, where a congregation of giant
holly trees are to be found; for these are not mere bushes but huge
trees 15m tall, some estimated to be more than 300 years old. To
find the start of the path, leave Castelbuono and follow signs for
San Guglielmo and Rifugio Sempria, where the car can be left. The
route is some 3.5km (allow about 2hr 30min).
alternative walk leads to the Pollina River and the evocative Gole
di Tiberio (Tiberius’ Gorge). From Castelbuono, take the road
down towards Cefalù, approximately 1km after the bridge over
the Fiumara, follow the asphalted road on the right. At Contrada
Marcatagliastro (where the asphalt peters out), leave your car and
proceed on foot to the river (about 4km). The gorge is on the right.