For those staying in Sicily resorts on the western side of the island, the opportunity to explore the storied town of Castellammare del Golfo should not be missed. With a name that translates to the "sea fortress on the gulf" there's more than meets the eye to this delightful coastal town with a very chequered history. |
One of the most common requests I get from clients looking for Sicily resorts is to find them a destination where they can experience the 'real' and authentic face of this wonderful island. Castellammare fits the bill perfectly, with a very local ambience and lots to keep the independent traveller fulfilled. One fact everyone is intrigued by is that Castellammare was once renowned as the most notoriously violent Mafia town on the island – a far cry from the quaint, idyllic village it is today...
The centrepiece of this working fishing village is the fantastically preserved 17th century Arab-Norman castle, situated on a rocky promontory against the backdrop of surrounding hills. The castle was built by the Arabs in the 10th century (who have a history of occupation dating back to 827AD) and later extended by the Normans, with the addition of outer protective walls and towers. Partially destroyed in the 13th century, it was rebuilt by the Aragonese and the previous drawbridge that connected it to the mainland was replaced by a stone bridge that still stands today.
Inside are a number of museums: the Archaeological Museum; Museum of Maritime Activities; Museum of Water and Mills; and the Museum of Productive Activities (also known as the Foundation Annalisa Buccellato).
Museo Etno-Antropoligico Annalisa Buccellato
While it's just one of several interesting museums you can visit within the castle walls, I think the Foundation Annalisa Buccellato deserves a special mention for those looking for that aforementioned authenticity. The foundation was established by the parents of a young girl who died and focuses on exhibits from everyday traditional life in Sicily. Items on show include agricultural tools, household furnishings and utensils, kitchen items, typewriters, books, old newspapers and many other interesting things related to local life. For my money (actually entrance is free!), this place offers one of the most genuine insights into local life you can get.
The Mother and the Others…
Situated in the centre of the town, the yellow façade of the 18th century Mother Church gives it a striking classical appearance. Overlooking Matrice Square, the exterior of the church is defined by three Baroque portals, finished with stucco and marble. Inside, the central vault is adorned by a magnificent fresco by Giuseppe Fresca (one of Palermo's most revered painters from the 18th century) as well as a number of other important artworks dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Mother Church is certainly the most impressive religious building in the town, but there are also a few other small churches worth visiting, all of which house some pretty impressive artworks: the Church of the Purgatory, the Church of St Mary, Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and Church of the Madonna delle Grazie.
If you choose to stay in any of the Sicily resorts in this lovely region, I also recommend exploring a little further afield (with a car) to Palermo, Segesta, Lo Vito (one of my favourite beaches) and the history laden hilltop town of Erice. The beauty of Western Sicily is at your disposal…
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing holidays in luxury Sicily resorts, as well as holidays in Bermuda, Croatia and many other destinations around the globe. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and stay up-to-date about the latest local news and events. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts, history and culture.
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