Mistretta: on the Nebrodi between art, nature and traditions

Mistretta: on the Nebrodi between art, nature and traditions

Mistretta: on the Nebrodi between art, nature and traditions

Week end to discover new glimpses of Sicily, destination Mistretta, the “Sella dei Nebrodi”.

We leave for a weekend to discover new territories and as always we get in the car early in the morning to reach Mistretta, in the province of Messina.
Mistretta is located between 850 and 1100 meters above sea level, immersed in the wonderful Nebrodi Park.

It is also known as “Sella dei Nebrodi” due to its particular position, halfway between Palermo and Messina, near the sea. Despite being a mountain town, the panorama that opens up to our eyes as we rise in altitude is spectacular! From the woods it extends to the sea offering a view of the Aeolian Islands which are particularly visible on clear days. When the landscape is covered in snow it becomes even more evocative.

After about 2 hours by car, passing through the hinterland and crossing the Enna province, we arrive in Mistretta where we find Riccardo, our guide for the entire weekend, waiting for us.

For the occasion we are guests at his holiday home, a delightful location with a stone patio framed by plants and flowers, a beautiful home atmosphere.

After leaving our luggage in the room, having had a good coffee, we walk towards the center passing in front of the Villa Comunale considered an important green area for its variety of plants, once the Capuchin vegetable garden and annexed to the church of San Francesco d’Assisi .

Thus we begin our tour through the streets of Mistretta with Riccardo who, as an excellent guide, tells us that the town dates back to the Greco-Roman period and that the numerous and sumptuous palaces, including Palazzo Russo, Palazzo Salomone and Palazzo Faillaci, belonged to rich families, not nobles but landowners. In fact, the economy of Mistretta has always been based mainly on sheep farming and agriculture: absolutely not to be missed is the tasting of the famous provola dei Nebrodi DOP, very good and particular because, during processing, a verdello is inserted inside it .

During our walk, attention is paid to the stone facades, the frames that embellish the buildings and the splendid wrought iron railings. Mistretta boasted, in fact, an excellent workforce, from blacksmiths to wood carvers and workers of a particular stone, Quarzarenite. Extracted from the quarry in the town, it is a natural stone capable of adapting to multiple uses and due to its color it is called “golden”. Stopping in front of a small shop, Riccardo suggests looking up towards the ledge: can you guess what activity there once was here? It was once a barber’s shop, as evidenced by the scissors, comb and razor carved on the stones below the balcony; this makes us understand how much the ancients were attentive to details, giving value and importance to their craftsmanship.

Continuing our walk we come across one of the oldest, most beautiful and scenic palaces in Mistretta, Palazzo Scaduto, built in Baroque style, with a portal enriched by two majestic lateral sculptures and inside which houses the highest staircase to the “ trapanese” of Sicily; it is a particular suspended staircase in exposed monobloc stone, typical of nineteenth-century civil architecture in Trapani.

But Mistretta is also rich in numerous churches, 22 to be exact and so we decide to visit some of them: among these the Church of San Sebastiano, with a simple style with wood and white stone, a combination of ancient and modern, rich in works and paintings by Noè Marullo, sculptor from Amastrato, with the beautiful and evocative statue of San Sebastiano in the center of the altar, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Mistretta. A curiosity? The launch of San Sebastiano, in January and in the summer, is carried in procession running through the streets of the town, thanks to its devotees. A very evocative party!

We get back on the road and from afar we see the ruins of the Mistretta Castle, reachable in just 15 minutes on foot, to enjoy a breathtaking view over the whole of Mistretta up to Etna and the Aeolian Islands.

Another stop when you reach the Central Square is the Mother Church, dedicated to Saint Lucia. A detail that catches our eye before entering is the main side portal of the church, on which the Eagle is depicted, the city’s coat of arms thanks to Frederick II who defined it as an “imperial city”. Inside you can admire the different and beautiful works of Antonio Gagini, the Chapel of the Madonna dei Miracoli and the Chapel of Santa Maria Odigitra.

We stop for a few minutes and resume our tour, continuing towards the Regional Museum of Silvio Pastoral Traditions.

The first regional demo-ethno-anthropological museum created in Sicily, this museum was named after Giuseppe Cocchiara, an illustrious anthropologist, demologist and scholar of popular traditions, an internationally renowned scientist.

Upon entering we are fascinated by the large collection of glass paintings, with sacred figures among the largest in Europe. Continuing the visit, we take a real dive into the past, admiring the tools, the clothing, the reproduction of some houses, once called “pagghiaru” (shepherds’ huts ) and various objects used in sheep farming, agriculture, the production of wheat, coal, hunting and wine production. Everything that created the economy and served for the survival of the Sicilian people… our wonderful traditions!

It all becomes a moment of play too and, so, between various questions and answers, Riccardo points out but, above all, explains to us what the “scapularo” was, a cloak used by shepherds, created with pressed wool to make it waterproof, “U fussuni”, a pile of lit wood that was entirely covered with earth for several days to produce charcoal . The beautiful collection of cowbells and water bottles created with pumpkin and glasses made with cow horns.

We leave the museum to head to the Arab quarter and visit another museum, this time we immerse ourselves in the Sicilian fauna, admiring the many stuffed terrestrial and aquatic animals.

We say goodbye to the three guys who guided us and we move to a welcoming small recently opened SPA. Stone arches, large spaces, music and candles, swimming pool with hydromassage, sauna, Turkish bath; the feeling upon entering is only one: leave us here!

Without realizing it, it was lunch time and we headed to the busiest bar in the town where, after a light lunch, we enjoyed an excellent homemade ice cream.

But our tour didn’t end here! We set off again towards the Fiumara D’Arte.

The Fiumara D’Arte is an open-air museum made up of 11 works, sculptures and installations created by international contemporary artists, located in various municipalities in the Messina area. It was born from the will of the entrepreneur Antonio Presti, who commissioned the first work “Matter could not be“, in memory of his deceased father.
From there Presti imagined adding others to create a sculpture park, he founded the Fiumara d’arte cultural association, today, the Antonio Presti – Fiumara d’arte Foundation.

The first work we visit is the “Labyrinth of Ariadne”, linked to the Greek legend of Ariadne’s thread, thanks to which his beloved, after killing the minotaur, rewinding it, he finds the exit and saves himself. The work presents itself as a large coral-colored snake that wraps around itself like an infinite spiral at the center of which stands, guarded, the precious tree of life.

We manage to reach its fulcrum, obviously with a few smiles and joking about the possible possibility of remaining inside the labyrinth. Here waiting for us is an olive tree that we embrace to recharge us with energy. After a few shots we go back to admire the wonderful panorama that extends over the surrounding headlands and listen to the silence broken by the tinkling of cow bells in the distance.

Small break at the nearby kiosk, a very welcoming refreshment point for the many visitors, where it is possible to consume meals with local products and we continue with our tour to visit the other works, “A curve thrown to the shoulders of time”, “Mediterranean Energy”, all full of charm and their own history and then arriving, after a journey with some curves, on a hill where the “38°Parallelo-Piramide” work stands imposingly in front of us: 30 meters high, it was built with hundreds of slabs of corten steel, a material that turns brown in contact with the air, so as to camouflage and integrate the work with the surrounding area.

Along the western edge there is a crack from which, at sunset, light filters into the work. For the artist, the triangle is the three-pointed image whose vertices are Art, Religion and Philosophy. That is, Sicily.

Its interior can only be visited on 21 and 22 June, on the occasion of the summer solstice, in which the annual event called “Rite of Light is organised. ” or on the occasion of particular events. Ritual photo, given the breathtaking view: hills, sea, dense vegetation, clear sky and a spectacular sunset where the sun kisses the hill which we admire in total silence…peace of mind!

Continuing our journey by car, we remain fascinated by the expanses of woods and greenery that surround this place, making it an enchanting corner where you can relax and experience direct contact with nature.

The last work we visit takes us directly to the sea, to the beach. The “Monument for a Dead Poet” known as “Window on the Sea”, an 18 meter high frame, dedicated by the artist to his poet brother, it is a hymn to childhood and colour.

The time has come to return for dinner and Riccardo accompanies us to one of the most famous restaurants in the town where we enjoy an appetizer with typical local products, a platter of cheeses and cured meats in his company. Followed by sliced meat, mixed roast and pork ribs, all accompanied by excellent local wine. Everything delicious. Between carefree chatter and new projects to develop, the day ends on a high note.

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