What: the charming village in Sicily where you can get away from the crowds and see the sights. A short drive to Gangi where the dollar or one Euro homes were very popular
Where: about a 45 minute drive from Cefalu on the seacoast. A scenic drive.
When: best in spring and fall to avoid the heat.
Why: lots of sights and places to dine. Small enough to park your car and walk everywhere.
A small medieval village in the Park of Madonie with a delightful, still well preserved old town that captivates you from the very first moment, the town develops around the castle of Ventimiglia, near a Byzantine hamlet called Ypsigro. Walking through its narrow streets, is like entering another dimension, it’s like seeing a parade of knights and beautiful ladies wearing rustling brocade clothes and complicated hairstyles. Not by chance, at the beginning of summertime, during the ”Infiorata of Castelbuono”, the historical parades really take place through wonderful tapestries of fresh flowers.
We start our journey from the beautiful Old Madrice. Built in the fourteenth century on the ruins of a pagan temple, the church is preceded by a Renaissance portico added in the 16th century and enriched by a portal in Catalan style. The interior, originally with three naves, has been expanded to four at the end of the fifteenth century. A magnificent polyptych dominates the main altar, a true masterpiece depicting Christ enthroned in majesty with saints, attributed by some scholars to Antonello de Saliba, by others to Peter Ruzzolone.
The lovely marble statue of Our Lady of the Angels by Antonello Gagini and the fresco depicting the Marriage of the Virgin dating back to 15th century, are other wonders not to be missed. Some of the columns separating the aisles, are decorated with frescoes of saints among which stands out for its elegance and delicacy the one portraying St. Catherine of Alexandria. The crypt is entirely frescoed (XVI sec.) with episodes of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.
Castelbuono is, therefore, a little enchanted jewel and, as in any respectable fairy tale, there must be a castle and here’s an impressive one!
It was built by the powerful Count Francesco I Ventimiglia in 1317, upon an existing watchtower of the 12th century. It hosted the court of one of the most influential families of Sicilian history, even more powerful than the Vicerè!
These potent counts, who rebelled against the Sicilian rulers, had their Palatine Chapel which is still a precious casket, with wonderful stucco on the bottom of pure gold leaves decorated by the brothers Giuseppe and Giacomo Serpotta (1684-87); behind the altar, kept in a fine, silver reliquary bust of 1521, is the skull of St. Anne, the patron saint of the village.
Today the Castle of Ventimiglia is the seat of the Civic Museum of Castelbuono with its several sections: Archeology, Urbanism, Sacred, Modern and Contemporary Art. Its rich program of exhibitions and cultural activities makes it a dynamic landmark for research, meetings and experimentations .
Castelbuono is in the Parco Delle Madonie or Madonie Natural Park. It is not too far from Cefalu and worthy of a two to three day visit.
We enjoyed our three day stay in an Airbnb a short walk from the center of town. The ride from Cefalu was scenic and added to our enjoyment.
Piazza Margherita, Castlebuno
View from our AIRbnb
Lunch downtown ( in Centro)
Flascorano bakery ships all over the world.
A link to their website. English version
A performance at the museum in the castle.
Dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in town.