Our island hides immense treasures often little known and undervalued. Do you know Castiglione di Sicilia?
It is one of the most beautiful Sicilian villages in Italy, located on a hill on the slopes of the north side of Etna, made unique in its kind by the position, the houses all stacked next to each other and its narrow streets which make it look like a living nativity scene to the traveler.
In Sicilian dialect, it is pronounced “Castigghiuni” and it is said that in this village great treasures are hidden in the many underground passages. Undoubtedly a legend, but it is sure that the network of galleries was essential to the town’s protection since the Middle Ages. The village falls within the territory of the Etna Park and the Alcantara River Park, it was inhabited by the Greeks as early as 403 BC, who immediately understood the strategic potential of the location. Over the centuries, various dominations followed, such as that of the Romans, of the Arabs, who revolutionized irrigation systems, and even came to breed crocodiles in the Alcantara river, the Normans and the Swabians. Castiglione developed and prospered under all dominations; the castle continued to fortify itself, churches, and palaces were built, thanks to the wealth coming from the cultivation and processing of flax and hazelnuts.
Hence a Sicilian saying “A Castigghiuni ranni and picciriddi notti e ghiornu scacciunu nuciddi” (In Castiglione young and old, shell hazelnuts night and day)
Castiglione is known for its castle which was once divided into various neighborhoods, each of which had different functions. And speaking of the Castle of Castiglione di Sicilia it is said that the Lord of the castle was the admiral Ruggero di Lauria, who had a beautiful daughter. Having hosted important French folk in the castle, these, struck by the enchanting beauty of their daughter, on their return home, told the wonders of Angelina to the French Dauphin. And the legend says that the Dauphin fell in love without ever having seen her.
One day, he decided to go and see the beautiful Angelina for himself and realized with his own eyes that the girl was in fact as angelic as they had described. The two met and fell in love. But, in the meantime, the outbreak of Sicilian Vespers came and suddenly the two became “enemies”. The French Dauphin had to return to his country but promised that he would be back within six months. He told the beautiful Angelina and her trusty handmaid Franca, that when they saw the light of three fires on Monte Rotondo, that would be the signal of his return. And he left. Time passed. St. Lawrence’s day came, August 10th. That evening while looking at the night sky, hoping for a shooting star to entrust their wishes too, there was a dinner in the castle. Guests laughed and spoke of a stranger they had never seen before. Angelina also laughed, but with happiness, as she understood that her lover had returned to take her away. From that night she went out to look for the three fires, without caring about sleep. When she could no longer keep her eyes open, she left her trusted maid Franca in her place saying: “Franca, vigghia si s’addumunu li tri fochi supra la turri di munti Rutunnu! Franca, vigghia! ” (Franca, look out for the three torches above the Monte Rotondo tower light up! Franca, keep a lookout!). After midnight, she saw the three pre-set fires light up and with a lamp signaled that she had seen them. She then went down to alert the girl. The French Dauphin took his beautiful Angelina with him while everyone slept leaving a note to her father saying: “Si voi truvari a to ‘figghia Angilina,vattinni in Francia, e la trovi riggina.” (If you want to find your daughter Angelina / go to France, and find her queen).
Legend has it that the name Francavilla, Franca-vigghia, the town located right in front of Castiglione di Sicilia was dedicated to Franca. Of course, the name of Francavilla does not depend on the legend, but on the deductibles and privileges granted to the nascent village around 1090 by the Norman count Roger.
Even today the Castle can be visited and Castiglione is a starting point for other places of interest including Byzantine Cuba and the famous Alcantara Gorges where, during the summer, you can practice body rafting or climbing and in the evening you can attend spectacular theatrical performances
Would you like to discover it with us? We will make you experience a wonderful day among nature, history, art, and culture https://www.isolanipercaso.com/trekking-to-castiglione-di-sicilia-catania/
Photos: edited by Rosario Vecchio – Tour Guide