Castiglione di Sicilia

This little town rises at 621 metres above sea level, and it dominates a large part of the Alcantara valley.

History

It takes its name from "Castel Leone", an ancient fortress, and is now divided into 7 little villages: Rovittello, Solicchiata, Passopisciaro, Verzella, Gravà, Mitogio and Castrorao.

The origins of Castiglione are obscure, although its foundation dates traditionally back to the 403 a.C., when the "Nassi", an ancient Siculian tribe, defeated by the tyrant Dyonisius of Syracuse, went up the Akesine (now Alcantara) river, settling in this territory and increasing the population of already existent villages.

The place was strategically important, as it was the only access to the interior of Sicily, therefore a fortress was built there, which was later used by the Greeks.

Castel Leone - Castiglione di Sicilia

The modern Castiglione dates back to the Middle Age (XII century), when the Normans chased the Arabs away and started a huge demographic development, founding new urban areas, monasteries, and defensive buildings such as the Castle and the Cannizzo.

The medieval urban plan, which is still recognizable in modern times, shows the town quarters converging towards one centre, and groups of buildings placed around inner courts.

The economy of this little town has historically been based on the growing of flax and hazelnuts and their manufacturing.

In 1860 the inhabitants of Castiglione fought for the unification of Italy, and later a lot of them died during the two World Wars. That's why the town have been given a Bronze Medal for military valour on March 11th 2002.

Highlights in Castiglione

Not far from Castiglione, we advise you to visit the Byzantine Church of Santa Domenica,Byzantine Church of Santa Domenica - Castiglione di Sicilia also known as «a' cubola» among the locals. It is the most important Byzantine cubic church in Sicily, and it has been included in the list of national monuments since August 31st 1909.

Santa Domenica has a square Greek cross plan, with a dome and three apses. The church, made with lava blocks, was once decorated with rich byzantine frescoes, no longer visible nowadays.

After decades of neglect, it has been recently restored, and close to it a skeleton was found, probably of Byzantine age, suggesting the existence of a nearby basilian graveyard.

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