Places of interest

Beautiful, but little known: the secret charm of Sicilian villages

There is another side of Sicily, less known, characterized by a slower pace of life and hidden treasures. This is the Sicily of villages, described by I Borghi più belli d’Italia, an association that has been selecting and certifying small towns for over 20 years, based on their expression of the beauty and charm of our country. Each of these places has a unique history that lives on among the narrow streets, churches, and squares where time seems to stand still.

Sicily has 24 villages that are part of the I Borghi più belli d’Italia circuit. To avoid overwhelming the reader, we will focus on five lesser-known villages.

Enjoy your trip!

Petralia Soprana (Palermo)

Petralia Soprana, a medieval village nestled in the Madonie Mountains, boasts narrow cobbled streets, belvederes, noble palaces, and churches that evoke a peaceful and solemn atmosphere, transporting visitors back in time.

The village has a rich history dating back to Roman times, but it experienced its most significant development during the medieval period. Petralia Soprana has been ruled by the Normans, Swabians, Angevins, and Aragonese over the centuries. These periods of domination have left their mark on the town’s monuments and traditions.

A must-try dish is ‘U sfogghiu’ a typical dessert made of pastry, chocolate, and tuma, a Sicilian cheese.

Petralia Soprana

Sambuca di Sicilia (Agrigento)

Sambuca di Sicilia is a village in the province of Agrigento, nestled on a hill and surrounded by the vineyards of the Belice Valley. The village embodies the essence of Sicily and is known for the welcoming spirit of its small community. The village has a rich history, with many different styles coexisting. Visitors can witness the 4th-century B.C. archaeological complex, ancient Arab farmhouse, Baroque facades, 17th-century palaces, Saracen alleys, churches, and the remains of the ancient Emir’s castle

Make sure to visit the Belvedere Terrace, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.  
You should definitely try ‘I minni di virgini‘ a pastry cake filled with milk cream, chocolate, and chunks of zuccata.

Monterosso Almo (Ragusa)

Monterosso Almo is the initial village in the Monti Iblei chain. It is situated atop a mountain, approximately 700 meters above sea level. In winter, snowfall is not uncommon. The town has ancient origins, as evidenced by the Calaforno necropolis (7th century B.C.). Its history has been marked by the succession of noble families that dominated the town between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

The town’s main square is mostly flat, unlike the rest of its up-and-down streets. It is dominated by the church of St. John the Baptist, which stands on a natural terrace.

A must-try dish is ‘I cavatieddi,’ a traditional homemade fresh pasta.

Monterosso Almo

Ferla (Siracusa)

Ferla, a medieval village built upon the ruins of a Hellenistic necropolis, showcases splendid Baroque architecture, a testament to its reconstruction following the devastating earthquake of 1693.

However, it was reconstructed in a classical style, and now boasts splendid architecture and Baroque scenes that are typical of this side of Sicily. Make sure not to miss a walk along the Via Sacra, which is lined with palaces and churches. Also, explore the streets and alleys of the Carceri Vecchie district, which dates back to the medieval period.

While you’re there, be sure to try the pork sausage from Ferla, which is highly regarded throughout Sicily.

Novara di Sicilia (Messina)

Nestled between the Nebrodi and Peloritani Mountains, Novara di Sicilia’s history is steeped in legend, once believed to be inhabited by Cyclopes and later settled by the Saracens. The ancient Saracen fortress, now in ruins, was situated on an overhanging cliff. The town’s current appearance is due to the use of sandstone and cipolin marble between the 16th and 17th centuries.

Novara di Sicilia is renowned for its historic Torneo del Maiorchino, a game of skill that involves throwing and rolling a wheel of cheese weighing between 10 and 12 kilos down the descent of the Matrice. 

The local dish to try is ‘pasta ‘ncasciata‘, which consists of macaroni served with meat sauce, crumbled meatballs, eggplant, eggs, breadcrumbs, tuma, and maiorchino.

Novara di Sicilia

Exploring the lesser-known villages of Sicily offers a journey through a mosaic of traditions, stories, and sights. These hidden gems provide an authentic experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in Sicily’s rich culture, food, wine, and centuries-old traditions. By venturing off the beaten tourist track, you can discover the true essence of Sicily.

Photo credits: Alfio Garozzo; Davide Mauro

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