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Caltanissetta and the ancient traditions of Sicily’s countryside

Three hills surround the ancient city of Caltanissetta, towering over the Salso Valley, whose uneven and clay-ish soil extends until reaching Enna: the view over the countryside is really lovely – a stretch of gentle low hills whose colors go from the brightest green to the dark yellow and brown. To visit the center of Sicily try and check out our luxury villas in Sicily, our family villas in Sicily or plan a round trip of the island starting from one of our Marsala holiday rentals.

The city is really ancient (first evidence of human presence in the area dates back to the Bronze Age), and its people carefully preserve the centuries-old religious and cultural traditions of the community: the “Real Maestranza”, a local militia composed of artisans and created in 1554 to defend the city from the Saracens’ attacks, still exists nowadays and one of the protagonists of the sumptuous and lavish celebrations of the Holy Week.

As it happens for most of the towns and cities of central Sicily, the main landmarks of Caltanissetta include plenty of churches that have been built and re-built several times upon ancient sanctuaries, and most of the monuments can be admired by walking through the main axes of the historical centre. The Cathedral of Santa Maria La Nova, built during the early 17th Century: its interiors are staggering, finely decorated and rich in prestigious works of art, such as the extraordinary series of frescoes decorating the main aisle by the Flemish painter Guglielmo Borremans. Piazza Garibaldi is the main square of the city, crossroads of the two main axes of the historical centre: Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Corso Umberto I, elegant streets studded with refined elegant palaces. The square is surrounded by elegant buildings such as Palazzo del Carmine and the wonderful church of San Sebastiano with its refined façade, and embellished by the Tritone fountain. Plenty of remarkable palaces can be found in the city centre, all named after the families who once ihabited them: Palazzo Moncada, with its prestigious baroque decorations and Palazzo Benintende, where the great Giuseppe Garibaldi stayed in 1862.

The best time to visit Caltanissetta is Easter indeed – the Holy Week celebrations are some of the most staggering and sumptuous of Sicily, and twined with those of Siviglia (Spain): from Palm Sunday to Easter, moving and heartfelt parades and processions are organised, involving the whole community and a large number of visitors from all over Europe, all fascinated especially by the touching “ladate”, prayers sung by the men who carry the Black Christ statue during Good Friday. And on Easter day, you can’t miss a taste of “Rollò”, chocolate sponge-cake stuffed with marzipan and ricotta.

 

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