One of the first things you notice when you approach Castelbuono is without a doubt the unusual (and frankly quite quirky) sign that says “denuclearized zone”. Now, on the effectiveness of this expression in welcoming visitors to our little town we could debate at length, but it can’t be denied that it attracts their attention. We like to think however that there are many reasons to visit our town other than just that particular one. We therefore want to list you our personal selection of the 10 reasons to visit Castelbuono, welcoming you – to use an expression by writer Roberto Alajmo – in “the navel of the world” (there, that’s what should be written on the sign).
1. “Mare e monti”. The perfect geolocalization
Not everybody knows that Castelbuono literally means “good castle”. Only, the good bit doesn’t refer to the castle itself (or to the excellent food), but instead to the climate found in the area, much warmer than the nearby towns on the surrounding mountains. Or at least, that’s what the noble Ventimiglia family thought. Castelbuono is surrounded by the Madonie’s rich vegetation, and yet it’s but a few miles away from the sea, making both settings (the sea and the mountains) within easy reach. A position which we might call practically perfect.
2. Fresh air and breathtaking views
The vegetation that surrounds Castelbuono is rich, luxurious and extremely varied. Those who love being in nature can’t miss the chance of losing themselves in our woods, clambering to the top of our mountains or simply exploring our hiking tracks. Truth be told, all tourists can appreciate Castelbuono’s “fresh air” by simply strolling on the town’s main street (there’s a true philosophy behind the typical Castelbuono’s stroll. If you wish to know more about it, you can check our article How to “stroll” in Castelbuono. An essential guide to the typical “passiata”).
You can also learn more details about Castelbuono’s naturalistic tracks by checking our article “Natura-lly Castelbuono. A tour to discover the nature of the Madonie”.
3. August and the music
For anybody who loves music, Castelbuono in August is a golden opportunity, definitely not to be missed. The events and concerts that follow one another during the whole month turn the whole town into a stage and offer such a varied musical selection that all kind of tastes are met and satisfied. The top event is of course the Ypsigrock Festival, together with other exceptional music festivals: the Jazz Festival, the more recent Castelbuono Classica and Musaic-on, all of which have gained an ever-growing fame thanks to the quality of the music they bring on stage. Many people, and not just from Sicily, know and appreciate Castelbuono because of the Ypsigrock, a true discovery, an accomplished utopia, a great opportunity for those who are truly passionate about music.
4. In Castelbuono you eat (and drink) well
It might sounds pretentious, but behind such boldness there’s an authentic conviction and a passion for the products of our territory. The cooking tradition in Castelbuono can boast a rich variety of dishes that combine ancient flavours with the innovative ideas of our chefs. First and second courses, meat, vegetables, cheese, locally made cold cuts, mushrooms and even truffles (yep, we’re also the town of truffles now). Plus, we cannot fail to mention our equally excellent wine production, the perfect partner for our delicious specialties. Try it to believe it!
5. When a “Fiasco” turns out to be a success
Our desserts tradition deserves its own category among the 10 reasons to visit Castelbuono. It’s almost obvious to us, but talking about sweet things without mentioning the Fiasconaro family is unthinkable. They have become ambassadors of the “made in Sicily” not just with their panettoni, but with their full selection of pastries, delicacies that come from Castelbuono’s tradition and more generally from all Sicily.
And yet the Fiasconaro are but the spearhead of a much more rooted tradition found in our community. If you are especially passionate about sweets (or if you’re simply curious), and if you wish to know more about what (and where) to eat, you can check our article “Sweetest Castelbuono. A tour among sweet temptations for the palate and beyond”.
6. Manna: a blessing that (doesn’t) fall from heaven
“The white gold of Sicily” – manna – is one of Castelbuono’s treasures, and its rarity and preciousness make it an extraordinary resource for our town. Discovering it means learn its history and its incredible properties, observing its extraction – made of ancient techniques passed on from one generation to the next – and of course it means tasting it (a follow-up article about manna is coming soon. If you wish to know more about it, stay tuned!).
7. Nature and science: Francesco Minà Palumbo
Among the 10 reasons to visit Castelbuono, Francesco Minà Palumbo deserves a special place and we cannot fail to mention him and his research. Illustrious and eclectic personality, he was a naturalist who devoted his own life to research, exploring and studying passionately the nature of the Madonie Park. He left us with an incredible heritage, made of all the species he studied, plus a considerable number of texts. This heritage is preserved in the Museum that bears his name, which is committed to give it its well-deserved value and fame.
8. The Castle and the Palatine Chapel
“If you go to Castelbuono you can’t miss the Castle”. Castelbuono has the castle in its name, as well as in its heart. Built by the Ventimiglia family in 1317, at first to boast their power over the territory, the Castle was auctioned in 1920 after the family went bankrupt. Luckily, it was purchased by the natives from Castelbuono during a fundraising (probably one of the first – and most successful – example of crowdfunding in Italy). The 2020 is the 100th anniversary of this very special event, and the whole community is going to take part in a number of events to celebrate the occasion.
We can’t describe the Castle in detail here (we hope this was enough to get you curious though), but we can certainly tell you that inside it (among other things) there’s the Civic Museum and the Palatine Chapel, fully covered in stuccos made by the Serpotta brothers, two renowned Sicilian artists. Inside the Chapel is kept the Skull of Saint Anne, protector of Castelbuono and very much beloved by the whole community.
9. Art everywhere. And not just for art’s sake
The presence of a family so powerful and influential such as the Ventimiglia, has fostered quite the artistic production over the centuries, mostly of a religious nature, but not only. Among the artists that left their artworks around town, we’ll just mention a few names: the Serpotta brothers you already know, Giuseppe Salerno (called lo Zoppo di Gangi – Gangi’s Cripple), Antonello Gagini, and many others.
The Civic Museum definitely makes our list of the 10 reasons to visit Castelbuono, being one of the most lively and appreciated museums in Sicily. And Castelbuono even has a small contemporary art gallery (Putia art gallery – if you wish to know more), that promotes the work of young talents from all over the island, to show us that it’s not just the artists from the past that have something to tell us, but also the creativity that belongs to a present made of creativity and vitality. Even in a small inland Sicilian town.
10. Not just Castelbuono but castelbuonesità
Castelbuonesità. A tricky concept, complex and multifaceted. And yet nothing is more perfect to wrap up our list of the 10 reasons to visit Castelbuono.
We might call it a philosophy, a way of thinking (a way of life even), some might even go as far as to call it a pathology… Be as it is, it’s an idea, well rooted in the community, and perfectly exemplified by the expression we chose at the beginning of this article, Castelbuono as the “navel of the world”.
The castelbuonesità finds its most authentic expression in an indestructible pride for everything – and everyone – town-related (a pride that results into passionate praise as well as sharp criticism). A strong ability to aggregate that we find in a countless number of associations active in the most disparate fields. A deep sense of devotion – which often results in a ferocious protective instinct – towards all the things that are considered part of the community’s identity, be it the cult of Saint Anne or the most typical dessert, the Testa di Turco (Turkish Head).
In other words, a CastelbuonoCentric vision of the world, that still doesn’t lack some degree of self-mockery and good-natured teasing. Which is what we confide in, apologising, if we forgot something unforgettable according to the high standards of the castelbuonesità…
And if 10 reasons are still not enough, we’d like to add a small treat. Have you ever heard of the very linguistic Sicilian fight between “arancina”/”arancino”? – if you don’t know what an arancina is, you might wanna check it out here. Anyway, in its linguistic wisdom Castelbuono’s dialectal inflexion finds the perfect solution to this long lasting conflict by simply cutting off the problem, quite literally in fact, and resulting in “arancin*”… Peace at last.