SANTO STEFANO DI CAMASTRA
Santo Stefano di Camastra is well-known for its hand-painted ceramics as shows the myriad of small shops lined along its streets, offering pots, vases, plates and ceramic trinkets to suit every requirement. Among its major buildings, a special mention goes to Palazzo Sergio, once the Duke’s Palace, now accomodating the Museo della Ceramica. Pride of place in the museum, is given to Lorenzini’s Andare (departing) on the right of the entrance, depicting a group of fince warriors gradually sinking into the ground. Several rooms in the building have conserved their original tiled floors, frescoed ceilings and 1700’s furnishings. Out of town (beyond the Istituto per la Ceramica), is the Cimitero Vecchio, a cemetery that was used for two years only, between 1878 and 1880, containing a number of graves ornamented with maiolica.
A DAY IN THE NEBRODI MOUNTAINS Approx. 182km – allow 1 day
The recommended itinerary follows a fairly long and wonderfully panoramic route stretching inland forming a roughly square circuit at the heart of the Nebrodi mountains, which, along with Madonie, form part of the Sicilian Appennines. In order to ensure that the natural scenery and the indigenous species it harbours are effectively preserved intact, a large area of this territory has been designated a National Park.
The circuit may also be undertaken from Sant’Agata Militello, although it is worth doing it in an anti-clockwise direction so as to enjoy the best view of Mount Etna, notably those from Lago Ancipa. The road from Santo Stefano to Mistretta provides beautiful views over the valley.
Mistretta – Located at 950m a.s.l., Mistretta is a small town comprised of a collection of stone houses grouped around the ruins of a feudal castle, from where you can enjoy a dramatic landscape. The Chiesa di San Giovanni is one of its most interesting buildings. Built around 1530, it is graced with an elegant double stairway and a bell-tower with a pair of openings at the top. The 1500’s Chiesa Madre, dedicated to St. Lucy, lacks its second bell-tower (the left side being incomplete). The one on the right has two fine two-light windows. Partly remodelled in the 1600’s, the church retains a fine marble doorway on its right side. Inside, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin shelters a Madonna of the Miracles attributed to Giorgio da Milano; a larger side chpel honouring St. Lucy contains a fine altarpiece by Antonello Gagini with statues of St. Lucy, St. Peter and St. Paul (dated 1552). Behind the altar, are 1700’s choirstalls and a fine 1700’s organ. At the top of the town stands the Renaissance Church of St. Catherine.
Annually, on 7 and 8 September, the town celebrates its festival for the Madonna della Luce, she being borne aloft in solemn procession, escorted by two giants representing Mythia and Kronos (the legendary founders of Mistretta). At one time, an ugly, deformed dwarf – ‘u figghiu fi gesanti – also took part in the procession, but this was discontinued because, it is said, he frightened the young women in early stages of pregnancy.
Some of the most interesting excursions on foot into the Nebrodi mountains set out from Mistretta. From the S 117 to the fork signposted right for Nicosia and left for the S 120 to Cerami. Turn left and continue on to Cerami; the road goes straight on for Troina, or forks left for Lago Ancipa.
Troina – Troina’s medieval citadel perched high above the city’s rooftops shelters the town’s main church; unfortunately, only the bell-tower survives from the original Norman building (11th century), built in blocks of sandstone spanning the road. From Troina, return towards Cerami and turn right for Lago Ancipa.
Lago Ancipa – This man-made lake, formed when the great San Teodoro dam (120m) was built nestles amidst a glorious landscape. The road that skirts the lake leads on to Cesarò. Although narrow and badly rutted in places, it winds its way through a beautiful scenery of woods and open valleys with breath-taking view of Etna volcano.
Cesarò – The town is overshadowed by the volcano. Just off town, follow the signs for Cristo sul Monte from where a beautiful but haunting view extends across to Etna. The road twists and turns up to the narrow pass Portella Femmina Morta e della Miraglia, amidst a landscape marked by extensive beach woods. From the Portella pass, an unmetalled road leads up to the summit of Monte Soro, the tallest peak in the Nebrodi Mountains rising up to 1847m. Continue along the scenic road to San Fratello.
San Fratello – This town, founded by Lombard settlers and partly destroyed by a landslide in the 18th century, is linked by name to the Sanfratellani, a fine horse breed, that may be easily spotted on the edge of town. The Convento di San Francesco preserves a 1500’s cloister with fragments of frescoes. North of town, by the cemetery, a track leads to a Norman Church dedicated to Saints Alfio, Filadelfio and Cirino, dating from the 11th-12th century. A wonderful view extends from the area behind the church. From San Fratello, go back towards the coast; turn right for Sant’Agata di Militello.
Sant’Agata di Militello – It is a town of relative recent origin, grown along the seafront with access to a long stretch of beach. Its main buildings, the Castello dei Principi Gallego and the adjacent Chiesa dell’Addolorata (18th century), are both located on Piazza Crispi. The town has a small natural history museum dedicated to the inland mountain region, the Museo Etnoantropologico dei Nebrodi (soon to open in via Cosenza).
From Sant’Agata, it is possible to make fine excursions inland throughout the Nebrodi or along the coast. Follow the coastal road towards Santo Stefano di Camastra. After 16.5km a road is signposted left for Caronia (4km inland), a little town where is one of the tourist information centres for the Nebrodi National Park.