Destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, the city of Gibellina, in the province of Trapani, is today one of the world’s most popular cultural destinations. Sculptures, mosaics and installation artworks have turned the city into a stunning open-air museum.
The history of Gibellina
January 1968: a violent earthquake struck the Valle del Belice, a large area between Palermo, Trapani and Agrigento. On the night of 14 January, many cities were flattened by a strong tremor. Among them was Gibellina, a small mountain town with 6000 inhabitants.
For those people, after the earthquake, life had to restart in a new city: the city of Gibellina Nuova, built from scratch, 10 kilometres from its ruins. Under the guidance of the former mayor of the town, Ludovico Corrao, a complex and peculiar process of urban planning began. For this purpose, a team of artists, architects and artisans from all over Italy was assembled, with the support of great personalities such as Sciascia, Guttuso, Zavoli and Dolci. Their work gave birth to churches, monuments, piazzas and buildings designed by world-famous artists, including Schifano, Cascella, Consagra, Pomodoro, Purini, Quaroni, Uncini, Mendini, Venezia, Paladino e Simeti. As a result, Gibellina Nuova became a one-of-a-kind outdoor exhibition space, a must-see destination for contemporary art enthusiasts.
The Cretto di Burri in the old town of Gibellina
Between 1984 and 1989, in the place where the old town of Gibellina once stood, Italian artist Alberto Burri gave life to one of the biggest and most significant pieces of Land Art: the Grande Cretto (“great crack”).
During an interview, Burri explained why this artwork was created: “When I went to Sicily and visited Gibellina, the new city had already been built and was full of artworks. […] I thought that there was little I could do in that place, so I suggested we visited the ruins of the old town. A curvy road, burning under the hot sun, winding its way inland, led us, after many miles of human absence, to a pile of ruins […] It really struck me, I was almost moved to tears. And I immediately came up with this idea”.
Burri decided to compress the old city’s ruins and coat them with concrete, like a white shroud covering a lifeless body. The result was a monumental, 80.000-square-metre piece of art that mirrors the structure of the original town: old streets were turned into one-metre deep cracks that can be walked through by visitors.
Burri’s work is a successful attempt at freezing the memory of Gibellina Vecchia in time and preserving it in an eternal, concrete photograph, allowing it to survive its own death. As the Italian psychoanalyst Massimo Recalcati underlines, the Cretto embodies “the profound value that characterises Art as such: death does not have the last word on life. It is the shape of the artwork that saves the world from pure horror”.
Best attractions in Gibellina Nuova
When visiting inland Sicily, it is common to find oneself in old towns full of history and small, winding streets embellished with beautiful baroque decorations. However, this is not the case in Gibellina, a city that has been recently reconstructed after the earthquake of the Valle del Belice. For this reason, visitors who arrive in the city for the first time almost feel at a loss, they look around and cannot help but wonder about the history of this place.
Pietro Consagra’s Stella di Acciaio, a star-shaped gate made of steel, greets the tourist(s) upon entering the city, introducing them to the unique experience they are about to live and welcoming them into what could be called a “garden-city”, with beautiful artworks and an elliptic, spiralling city plan resembling the shape of a butterfly.
At the Piazza del Municipio, visitors can admire Carla Accardi’s ceramic panels, the Torre Civica (Civic Tower) by Alessandro Mendini, sculptures by Arnaldo Pomodoro and Pietro Consagra, the Chiesa Madre church designed by Ludovico Quaroni and the Giardini Segreti (Secret Gardens) by Francesco Venezia.
After walking through the five Piazzas of the Sistema delle Piazze by architects Laura Thermes and Franco Purini, visitors can also admire the Palazzo di Lorenzo museum by Francesco Venezia, the Labirinto (‘maze’) by Nino Franchina and the Sacrario ai Caduti by Giuseppe Uncini, a monument commemorating those who have died in Gibellina. Other must-see sites are the Museum of Contemporary Art and the botanical garden.
Just outside the city centre, you will also find the fascinating Museo delle Trame Mediterranee and its garden, hosting Mimmo Paladino’s sculpture Montagna di Sale. Worth visiting are also the Monte Finestrelle mount, on top of which lie the ruins of a prehistoric village, and the Ethno-Anthropological Museum, set in a lush green forest.
Stunning holiday villas near Gibellina
With its variety of artworks and spectacular buildings, the city of Gibellina is a one-of-a-kind open air museum and a must-see destination for art lovers and architecture enthusiasts. To help you make the most of your stay, we have handpicked a selection of charming holiday villas in Gibellina area.
Tangi in Buseto Palizzolo, Trapani
In the countryside near Trapani stands Tangi, a luxury holiday villa with private swimming pool, surrounded by soft hills and lush green valleys. Tangi is a true oasis of calm, the perfect place to enjoy a moment of absolute relaxation on sunny panoramic terraces or by the stunning infinity pool.
San Ciro in Salemi, Trapani
San Ciro is a splendid dwelling located in Salemi. The villa is surrounded by a beautiful, lush Mediterranean garden and features a large terrace with swimming pool. Its quiet, green setting makes San Ciro an ideal place for enjoying a relaxing vacation and spending time in the fresh air, eating delicious dishes on the stunning terraces of the villa or reading a good book in the shade of secular olive trees.
Villa Bellini in Cornino, Trapani
Contemporary design style (qui puoi decidere tra design, style o entrambi) and clean lines are the main features of Villa Bellini, a stunning villa with private swimming pool. This property is situated a few hundred metres from Cornino’s beach, one of Sicily’s most picturesque seaside resorts.
Evanthe Garden – Diantha in Marsala, Trapani
Evanthe Garden – Diantha is a modern, luxury villa with swimming pool. Situated in Marsala, just a stone’s throw away from the stunning beach of Lido Signorino, this holiday villa is perfect for large families and groups of friends and, thanks to its location, is the ideal place for discovering the beauty of western Sicily.