Terra Vecchia

La Matrice Vecchia

Piazza Margherita

La Matrice Nuova

Borgen i Castelbuono

The medieval town Castelbuono

It is a town and an area so very interesting as well as historical, gastronomical, the culture and the nature.

.This post at 423 meters o.s.l. has been populated for many many years. The first settlements here at the foot of the Milocca rock are dated back to the neolithic age and probably populated by "I Sicani", the dominating tribe in mid Sicily at that time. Later the Greeks arrived this place was named Ypsigro - the cool place. And it is also said that Daphne, the son of the god Hermes and a Sicilian nymph, lived here in sorrow of the loss of his beloved. In 711 the island was conquered by the Arabs and archaeological researches show the church "La Matrice Vecchia" (the old Mother church) most likely is build on remains of an old mosque. Around 1070 the Normans and among them the Vikings, people of Scandinavian origin, arrived and overruled the Arabs.

In 1242 the Norman princess Isabella was married to Enrico Ventimiglia. The Ventimiglia family came originally from the town Ventimiglia in Liguria in the North of Italy but the province had rised in rebellion. As a consequence the church had claimed the property of the family and Guglielmo Ventimiglia and his son Enrico were sentences to exile. Castelbuono was ruled under the county of Geraci (around 20 km (13 miles) south of Castelbuono) and in 1242 this county was handed over to the young couple. In 1269 Enrico II received from the bishop Giovanni II of Patti and Lipari the land of At that time Ypsigro. The myth says that Francesco 1 Ventimiglia was standing at the Geraci castle and spotted Ypsigro (renamed Castelbuono in around 1325) in a sunbeam and decided to build his home in this place on top of the hill San Pietro. The castle was built in the period 1316 to 1322 on top of a foundation already made in 1269.

In the beginning there was 4 districts in the town: Terra Vecchia (more or less the old Ypsigro) and Piazza Margherita where the tradesmen were to be found in shops, Fera, the place for stalls and later in the 16th century two new quarters along the street running from Piazza Margherita to the castle were built. At the time the castle was built there were no other buildings around it. There was a wall around the town and even wine and olives was inside the walls. The gates was facing Geraci to the south, Pollina to the north/northeast and Isnello to the northwest. The Ventimiglia family had a prosperous influence on the town and the development was dynamic in both architectural and artistic way and the trade was increasing as the result of the demand and therefore arrival of builders, artists and craftsmen from all over Italy and other parts of Europe and North Africa. Castelbuono took over the position as the main town in the county and in 1454 the scull and remains of Sant'Anna (the mother of Virgin Mary) was transfered from Geraci to Castelbuono. Sant'Anna became the protector of the town which is celebrated every July 26th with a lot of beauteful processions in the streets.

The Ventimiglia family has in the years also held a great political influence and they had a post at the royal court in Palermo. But the era ended in the beginning of the 17th century as the members of the family preferred the throbbing life in Napels and only rarely were to be spotted in Castelbuono.As a result of this neclect the town experienced a deroute in earning money for living and many citizins were forced to leave their hometown. In 1860 the last male descendant of the family Ventimiglia took his own life. In 1920 the castle was bought by the townspeople on an auction and togehter with castle the people took over the chapel of Sant'Anna where the remains of Sant'Anna are safely locked up. And with the remains follow the responsability for this priceless relic.

The town has many churches where the primary is La Matrice Vecchia. But following the increase in numbers of habitants the church became too small and a new church La Matrice Nuova was built in the late 16th century and opened in 1701. Later though the old mother church was extended and renovated and returned as the primary. The church San Francesco was the church of the Ventimiglia family and it is said there was a tunnel running from the castle to the church.

Castelbuono is located just 15 minutes by car from the north coast where the Thyrrenian Sea kisses the lovely beaches. Other areas as well in reach from Castelbuono are worth while visiting. Around 2 miles further up in the mountains we reach the settlement San Guglielmo. It is here the Ventimiglia family first arrived and where the whole story of this family took the beginning. San Guglielmo is located at the edge of Parco della Madonie and from the settlement there are a lot of paths into this special area.

Today Castelbuono is a little lively town. There are around 9300 inhabitants and a lot of merchants specialized in every their profession. The habitants are good and hardworking people and they are very proud of their hometown and being from Sicily. And they will higly appreciate visiters so others can experience this lovely place.