An Ionian seaside town, Avola is a mix of old and new. The town focuses heavily on the sea, with its history as a tuna fishing port. Today, the remains of the Vecchia Tonnara at the wharf are a stone backdrop to the sandy beaches. Avola dates back to a pre-Greek people called the Sicani.…
Enna or as the Sicilians would say Castrugiuvanni; is a city located roughly at the center of Sicily, towering above the surrounding countryside. It has earned the nicknames belvedere (panoramic viewpoint) and ombelico (“navel”) of Sicily.
At 931m above sea level, Enna is the highest Italian provincial capital. To arrive there is not a piece of cake. Passing the two viaducts Morello and Enna from 1975 that are just about to crash on a height that you better not look down. I will forever remember these moments.
However, my brother and I passed nearby lake Perusa – we couldn’t enjoy the view from the viaduct that much as it is better to focus on the road that looks like it will crash. 😛 In antiquity, the lake was said to be the site where the Persephone was abducted by Pluto.
So why Enna? The city was defined Urbs Inexpugnabilis by the Romans for its impregnability. In the previous three millennia it was an almost impregnable stronghold of Sicans, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians and Aragonese.
Soehow from all that shock, we arrived. Parked in front of the church of Santa Chiara. I have to say, I didn’t much expect from this city but I was quickly convinced to re-think. The church was built in 17th century. It was the seat of Jesuit College and for many years, after the expulsion of the Ignazians, it was used only as a guesthouse. The inside has a floor from 1850 with the mosaic representation of the view of the city of Santa Sofia with the triumph over Islam and the invention of the steamboat. After the Second World War the church was transformed into a Memorial for the Fallen and its chapels were modified to accommodate the niches of soldiers who died in the war.
The church is placed on the square of Napoleone Colajanni – an Italian writer, journalist, criminologist, socialist and politician. In the 1880s he abandoned republicanism for socialism, and became Italy’s leading theoretical writer on the issue for a time. He has been called the father of Sicilian socialism.
Fortified palace in Gothic-Catalan style Palazzo Pollicarini, whose construction dates back to the early sixteenth century, overlooks Piazza Napoleone Colajanni. It has been the home, over the centuries, of numerous notable families such as the Falanga, the Petroso and the Notarbartolo.
The cathedral of Enna, dedicated to Maria Santissima della Visitazione is located in the historic center of the city, climbing the historic Via Roma. It is thrown, with its majestic bell facade on a small square, called Piazza Duomo, surrounded by the rectory and other eighteenth-century architecture and overlooks Piazza Mazzini, of which it occupies the entire north side. Finally, the cathedral is the culmination of the celebrations of the evocative Holy Week of Enna and of the patronal celebrations of the Madonna della Visitazione.
Enna is situated near the center of the island; whence the Roman writer Cicero called it Mediterranea maxime, reporting that it was within a day’s journey of the nearest point on all the three coasts. The peculiar situation of Enna is described by several ancient authors, and is one of the most remarkable in Sicily.
The ancient city was placed on the level summit of a gigantic hill, surrounded on all sides with precipitous cliffs almost wholly inaccessible. The few paths were easily defended, and the city was abundantly supplied with water which gushes from the face of the rocks on all sides. With a plain or tableland of about 5 km in circumference on the summit, it formed one of the strongest natural fortresses in the world.
Archaeological excavations have revealed artifacts dating from the 14th century BC, proving human presence in the area since Neolithic times. A settlement from before the 11th century BC, assigned by some to the Sicanians, has been identified at the top of the hill; later it was a center of the Sicels. We had a quick look into the Archeological Museum of Enna.
In historical times, Enna became renowned in Sicily and Italy for the cult of the goddess Demeter (the Roman Ceres). Her grove was known as the umbilicus Siciliae (“The navel of Sicily”). Ceres’ temple in Henna was a famed site of worship.
The city is surrounded by the mountains of Nebrodi. Enna alta remains the heart of city life, despite the recent birth of Enna Bassa, for various reasons: it includes the historic center and the beautiful view. Nourishment here is a special thing. We had the pasta with the wild boar from the Nebrodi mountains and the special black truffle that grows attached to the white champignon, also local Nebrodi and as well the house wine.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Enna flourished throughout the Middle Ages as an important Byzantine stronghold. In 859, in the course of the Islamic conquest of Sicily, after several attempts and a long siege, the town was taken by Muslim troops, who entered one by one through a sewer to breach the town’s defenses. Afterwards, 8,000 residents of the city were massacred by Muslim forces. The Castello di Lombardia was the major point of the battles. The castle’s origins are related to a fortress erected in the 1st millennium BC by the Sicani. Under the castle was the ancient Sican temple of Ceres, site of the widespread cult of that goddess in the whole of Italy, which was described by Cicero.
On our way there was a Church of Saint Joseph. So why not. 🙂 By now we caught the good spirit of this lace – fresh air especially, so we explored.
The Normans captured Enna in 1087. Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, established a summer residence here, which is now called the Torre di Federico (“Frederick Tower”). Troops of North Italian soldiers, from regions such as Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, came to settle in the city and neighbouring towns such as Nicosia and Piazza Armerina. Gallo-Italic dialects are still spoken in these areas, dating from this early occupation.
Enna had a prominent role in the Sicilian Vespers that led to the Aragonese conquest of Sicily, and thenceforth enjoyed a short communal autonomy. King Frederick III of Sicily favored it and embellished the city; it suffered a period of decay under the Spanish domination.
Not far away is the epicentre of Sicily marked with an obelisk. Indeed, when you line up all three angles of Sicily, the lines cross exactly here.
In Enna happened to me one of the epic scenes in my life that I will be remembering, yet so typical for Sicily. In the hip of the day which was ending, my brother and I were driving down to Enna Bassa (lower). The streets are not easy to orient even more when we realised that some of them are closed and we are circling around. Somehow we caught ourselves next to some church which was having the stairs behind that were leading down. I stopped the car immediately and started to turn. I didn’t had much space to turn around, moving my manual back and forward. But local kids seems not be bothered by my trouble at all. Instead, they took two branches of the tree and put it together as the cross, parading around my car in a holy ceremony as I was turning back and forward. Epic Sicily, just EPIC!