we packed up and headed west into the heart of Sicily, towards the Madonie Mountains. A mountain range in northwest-central Sicily, it extends for 48 km between the Torto River and the Nebrodi Mountains. Of limestone formation, its highest peaks are Antenna Peak, (1,975 m), and Carbonara Peak, (1,979 m). The Madonie is the source of several rivers and is known for its underground drainage system, which provides drinking water for the city of Palermo.
We turned off the Autostrada about half way through our journey and ventured to one of the many hill top towns, Enna. Enna is home to a relatively large university, is the administrative capital of its province, the seat of a bishop and has since olden days been called the “heart” or “navel” of Sicily.
In antiquity there was a central shrine here for the goddesses Demeter (the Greek goddess of corn) and Persephone. According to legend, in the nearby lake of Pergusa Hades is supposed to have abducted Persephone and taken her into the underworld. Today the town is very popular with visitors because of its mild climate though we found the chill from altitude quite unpleasant – little did we know our destination would be MUCH colder!
Continuing on our way through fields of wheat and wild flowers (there are over 2,600 different species of plants in the Madonie Park, many of which are endemic to the area) the scenery grew ever more picturesque
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil, pleasant climate, and natural beauty. It has a long, hot growing season, but summer droughts are frequent. Agriculture is the chief economic activity but has long been hampered by absentee ownership, primitive methods of cultivation, and inadequate irrigation. The Mafia, which is still influential, has hindered governmental efforts to institute reforms in the region, and Sicily continues to have an extremely low per capita income and high unemployment, although many workers have “black,” or unreported, jobs.
In the afternoon we arrived at our destination of Petralia Soprana, the highest commune in the Madonie Mountains.
We hauled our luggage up the stairs to the 5th level and basked in the views – on one side down to the towns central piazza
Just putting it out there – the old buliding that our apartments in is REALLY creepy – i got distinctively eery vibes upon entry, not helped by the towns general atmosphere of isolation and the lack of any other travelers.
We were such a rarity it seems that we couldn’t leave the apartment without being subject to long, hard stares from all who saw us. On our first explorative outing in the town, we found that the original medieval town-planning has barely been altered
and we stumbled across picturesque courtyards, characteristic small streets,
We also observed a disproportionate number of old men standing/sitting about – generally in the sun. In fact of all the people we saw about 80% would have been over 60 (the lady who showed us the apartment commented that “In Petralia Soprana there are many funerals. Sometimes a wedding…. but MANY funerals“) and 90% of those out and about were men.
We came upon one of the Towns Churches and were very lucky that it was open – the whole town is more or less shut down until Summer officially begins.
and unvieled some of the Churches funny little secrets – like the drawing on the altar piece thats over 1000 years old which is the self portrait of the creator!
If you look closely you can see the portrait in the top central white part of the photo below. If your struggling you can double click the photo to see a larger version
Before we set out to the only restaurant we had come across in the town. We layered on all the clothes we had as it was soo chilly and didn’t even take off our coats in the Pizzeria as we wanted to stay as warm as possible! Who would have thought that the previous morning i was sunbathing in just a bikini!!!