From the ruins of the Nicosia Castle to the Sambughetti – Campanito nature reserve
It is late autumn and we are ready for a new adventure! Today we “Isolane” leave for Nicosia located in Enna province, a town in the Sicilian hinterland that remained in our hearts after the first visit in June. This time, our guide will be Francesco, better known as Franco, a professional driver who is a guide for passion.
Driving along the road towards Nicosia with our car, we realize how the landscape has completely changed: the golden yellow of the summer wheat has given way to the red of the leaves on the trees, a sign that autumn has arrived. After about an hour and a half by car from Catania, we arrive in Nicosia where Francesco is waiting for us, to make us live a weekend full of surprises and 5-senses experiences!!
Our tour begins with a visit to a dairy, known for its 0 km production of buffalo milk cheeses. To welcome us Ignazio, the owner, who explains the production processes, from the milking of the buffaloes – about 400 specimens – to the collection of milk, to its processing to arrive at a good and genuine finished product. His explanation is so interesting that time passes without us realizing it. And so, before continuing with the next appointment, we taste the freshly prepared dairy products: mozzarella, braid, warm ricotta, all accompanied by good home-made bread.
Our food and wine journey continue and we pay a visit to the brewery of two Nicosian brothers that we had already had the pleasure of meeting in June. But a stop is a must for a quick greeting and a glass of cold and artisanal beer, impossible to refuse!!
From here, an unexpected tour begins and, surprisingly, Franco takes us to see the ruins of Nicosia Castle. In fact, little is left of the latter and the path to get to the top is hardly beaten but once you get there you can admire a beautiful panorama that extends over the four surrounding hills: Colle Uliveto, Colle San Salvatore, Colle dei Cappuccini, and the Santa Maria Maggiore hill. It is autumn and, although this place is very windy, the temperature is pleasant, so much so that we abandon ourselves to the silence, made of peace and the sounds of nature. We sit on the grass and Francesco delights us by telling us the history of the castle and many interesting anecdotes. This place is truly magical to think of having to move on to the next appointment of the day, but we are expected for lunch and therefore we have to go back to the car and continue.
We arrive in the center of Nicosia, where the owners of the restaurant are waiting for us, jokingly called by Franco the “Micheli” having both the same name. Their warm welcome consists of a splendid centerpiece made with prickly pears, a typical fruit of the Enna region. Lunch begins with an excellent appetizer of local products, continues with homemade macaroni, followed by a pork knuckle that melts in the mouth, and then ends with a plate of prickly pears, pomegranate grains, pistachios, and honey. It is difficult to get up from the table after so much benevolence but even this moment has come to an end and we have to get back to work to respect our schedule.
The afternoon is dedicated to the cultural visit of Nicosia, to discover some gems that we had not had the opportunity to see on our first visit. So here we are at the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, with an extraordinary opening reserved for us, where Santino and Lella welcome us. The latter personally guides us in our visit to the museum, making us discover priceless masterpieces ranging from the 19th century to the present day: paintings, statues, liturgical chalices of various kinds, chalices rich in embroidery with gold threads and precious fabrics, nativity scenes and paintings that leave you speechless. At the end of the visit, we take a walk through the streets of Nicosia, a city of the 24 barons, rich in history, wonderful views, and baronial palaces that let us glimpse the splendor of the past. And given the time, a few shots at sunset are a must, where everything is tinged with pink and the atmosphere becomes even more magical. The day was really long but we have once again rediscovered a Nicosia full of things to do and see, so we are really satisfied. Let’s go to sleep to be fresh and rested for the walk in the woods that awaits us tomorrow.
Sunday morning. Meeting in the square with Francesco and Michele, technical director of the special Silvio Pastorale company, to reach the Sambughetti-Campanito nature reserve by car. Walking through the alleys we notice the classic Sunday of the Sicilian villages: silence in the streets, people preparing to go to mass, elderly people in the square chatting and reading the newspaper. Presentation video, some shots, and off to our destination. Along the way, we can admire the rich autumn vegetation and in the distance here is our smoking Etna! Once on the spot, we immerse ourselves in unspoiled nature, among beech trees, maple, pine, holly, cyclamen, saffron flowers, on the one hand, and aquatic vegetation that rises from two natural pools of water, creating the magic of an enchanted place, on the other! Relaxing walk, during which it is impossible not to take many photos, and then leave for a new adventure.
Waiting for us Enzo and Alessandra who have reserved for us a “tasty surprise”. We arrive at their Masseria, a 19th-century building, once owned by Baron Gioacchino Salamone, a doctor with a noble heart. Today it has become the home of Enzo and Alessandra who, with passion and love, renovated it to live a more genuine life and to welcome guests from all over the world to experience tradition and family warmth. What today they have also made us live, taking us back in time, to our childhood, making us watch the preparation of homemade bread: maidda, natural flours, water, yeast, and elbow grease, these are the ingredients. The fire in the wood-burning oven burns vigorously and everything is ready to bake. In the room, a very good perfume spreads and we can not help but honor the table, enjoying this delicious bread and focaccias dressed with oil and anchovies, accompanied by excellent cheese and local wine. After lunch, we visit the farm and every room, from the living room to the kitchen, to the bedrooms, makes us imagine what a stay in this paradise can be like! The feeling we have? That of being at home. But every place becomes home thanks to those who welcome us and on this occasion, our guests did it very naturally, as if we were old friends. After having chatted in the living room, we say goodbye, with the promise to meet again.
In autumn, you know, the days get shorter and the time has come to go home, even if our desire to meet new people and discover new realities never ends!
Our particular thanks for these two days “on the road” goes to Francesco who, with his professionalism, preparation, and friendliness, has introduced us to many beautiful people and territorial realities with whom we hope to collaborate soon
We are ready for a new experience …. and you?