A festive land
To get to know the world of Sicilian tradition is a highly valuable experience. Celebrations here have ancient roots, which guide us in an emotional journey which starts from Greek culture towards Christianity, through sylvan and countryside rites, processions of barefoot worshippers, hooded confraternities, old games with dames and cavaliers. Traditional festivities are concentrated, apart few exceptions, in two periods: Eastern and Summer, but whatever the period you choose for travelling, check the calendar as you could always find a feast, a fair or a procession which could turn your holiday into something unique and unforgettable.
The Rites of the Holy Week
Many are the celebrations that happen in Sicily during the Holy Week; we will indicate only some of the most renowned, suggesting a 3 to 4 days stay in Enna, Piazza Armerina or Pergusa, with itineraries that you can enrich according to your tastes.
Arrival in Enna in time to participate in the Good Friday Celebrations. Starting at 4.30 pm, the city confraternities, according to a given order, walk the city roads carrying the “vara”, the traditional coffin with the statue of the body of Christ, and the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. Funeral music played by the marching bands accompanies the Procession until the Cemetery where the atmosphere reaches its climax with the “Holy Thorn Benediction”. Equally touching is the Good Friday celebration in the nearby town of Pietraperzia with “Lu Signuri di li Fasci”, the Lord of Bands, a huge Crucifix, on the base of which rests a globe (symbol of rebirth) and to which hundreds of white bands are tied. These trail down and form a sort of skirt for the crucifix. During the procession the bands that pass through a ring just below the globe are held at both ends by followers to balance the unstable structure. Each band corresponds to a family, and the bands often represent vows. The procession moves all over Pietraperzia, with the constant risk of the Crucifix losing its balance, accompanied by songs and laments.
Overnight stay at the hotel.
The Holy Saturday is, in Christian tradition, a day devoted to silence and to reflection. It can therefore be the good occasion to visit the famous “Villa del Casale”: one of the most outstanding archaeological finds of the recent years was the discovery of one of the best preserved Roman villas. Dating back to 4th century A.C., the villa was built on top of a previous farm (first half of 3rd century A.C.), where crops were grown. This links the villa to Ceres’ cult, the goddess of wheat and of agriculture. The Villa is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and is a unique document of the history of art, for its over 40 mosaic floors which allow visitors to gain a rich and surprising knowledge of the life in Ancient Romans’ life. At the end of the visit we propose lunch in a local restaurant engaged in the promotion of typical local products such as wheat, olive oil, wild vegetables such as wild fennel, purple artichokes, Enna’s cheeses (especially the renowned saffron perfumed Piacentino). Free afternoon for a tour in Enna’s historical centre or to visit the Archaeological Museum of Aidone where the celebrated Goddess of Morgantina is kept, after having been brought back from the US. The statue had been stolen in the second half of 1900 and later bought by Paul Getty Museum which finally gave it back in 2011.
Overnight stay at the hotel.
Many are the celebrations worth seeing in this day, but we propose to participate in Aidone’s Easter, together with the local population and the confraternity. Its main key characters are the “Santuna”, empty tall statues which reproduce the 12 Apostles worn by the “Santari”. During Easter Sunday they run in the city center looking for Christ who has come back to life. Finally they find Him and lead Him towards the Virgin for the “Easter Reunion”. Equally moving is the Procession of the Peace in Enna where confreres carry the Virgin Mary and the Revived Christ in a Procession which end in front of the Cathedral.
Overnight stay at the hotel.
Easter Monday is devoted to outdoor activities, to trips in the countryside. Choose among parks, natural reserves, museums and archaeological sites to discover: Enna and its surroundings can satisfy all tastes. For a day in nature you can choose the Nebrodi Reesrve, the largest protected area in Sicily, the Ronza Park, the reserves of Monte Altesina and Rossomanno-Grottascura-Bellia, Pergusa Lake, the only natural lake existing in Sicily, or the Floristella Grottacalda Mine Park which is very interesting not only on naturalist grounds but as an open air museum of the mining civilisation of sulphur. For those who prefer archaeology we suggest to visit the archaeological site of Morgantina, a city which reached the climax of its development in 3rd century B.C. to be abandoned 4 centuries later. Visitors can discover the agora, a theatre, and some mosaic while findings are generally kept in the Museum of Aidone.
But if you wish to mix nature and culture go for a unique and wonderful experience: a hiking expedition in company of donkeys among the green hills of Calascibetta and its archaeological jewels.
August is the month of feasts and festivals, events and historical parades. We recommend some of the occasions not to be missed in the 2 central August weeks, those ancient rituals which are perpetuated in time and which stand for the immaterial heritage which is the true spirit of these villages and towns. We advise you to choose a single locality for accommodation and then move from there.
8/9 August – Regalbuto: feast of Saint Vitus and The procession of the laurel
On the 8 of August worshippers, holding laurel braches, go to the Capuchin Fathers Church, where, according to tradition, Saint Vitus lived and worked his miracles.
In the afternoon there is the procession where first come those covered in branches of laurel, then those asking for a grace and barefoot and last men on horses. The following day in the evening the main procession, where priests carry the relics of the Saint in its silver shrine and the silver images of the saints Modest and Crescenzia.
8/9 August – Aidone “U battimento” and feast of St. Lawrence
Every ten years, on 8 and 9 August, u battimentu is celebrated, a historical re-enactment of a joust in which the horsemen face one another as the Langobards and the Saracens. The 10 August every year there is the celebration of St Lawrence with the procession of the saint’s relics.
And if you are in Aidone you should not miss the visit to the Archaeological Museum.
12/14 August – Piazza Armerina and The Palio of the Normans
A celebration that lasts for three days and which has a strong charm for the sound of the drums and the trumpets, the colours of the cloths and the ceremonies which bring back visitors to the atmosphere of a distant past. The festival officially begins on 12 August with the delivery of the weapons to the cavaliers and their benediction. The following day, the arrival of Roger the Norman in the old town of Plutia is staged as its submission and the gift of the keys; the “Quintana del Saracino” happens on the 14 and it is the joust that will elect the winner of the Palio in St. Hippolyta’s arena. In one of the three days we strongly advise you to visit the Unesco archaeological site of the “Villa del Casale” one of the best preserved Roman mansions.
14/15 Augost – Pietraperzia The Madonna of the Cave
The patron saint of Pietraperzia is our Lady of the Cave: according to the tradition her portrait painted on a sandstone was found in a cave. The person who found it, who used to be dumb, gained back the faculty to speak. After this miracle, pilgrimages – often barefoot - started towards the countryside sanctuary, 4 km away from the village. The Holy Mass is very evocative and it is celebrated in the night between the 14 and the 15 of August, day of the Assumption.