Petralia Soprana Winner of 2018 "Borgo dei Borghi"

Saturday, December 1, 2018

 

 

Once again a town in Sicily is the winner.  It was selected out of many other towns and villages in the whole of the Italian peninsula, all taking part in the popular competition held annually on Italian television, last week.

 

Petralia Soprana, in the Madonie mountain range, is now the 4th Sicilian town to be chosen as the most beautiful in all Italy.  In past years Montalbano Elicona, Gangi and Sambuca di Sicilia were all voted the best by a group of tv personalities and the general public.

 

For those who have not yet visited, Petralia Soprana will not fail to disappoint.   It is one of the highest towns in the Madonie at just over 1000 mts above sea level.  Apart from its pretty stone houses, quaint narrow streets, aristocratic palazzi and interesting churches (there is an organ in each one), there are one or two interesting anecdotes attached to this town.

 

Historically speaking, the town was originally known by the name of Petra - not to be confused with that other ancient site in Jordan - and was founded by the Sicans.  Much later on the Arabs called it Batraliah and the Normans transformed it into Petra Heliae.  During Roman times it was part of the ‘bread basket’ of the Roman Empire, producing large quantities of grain in the area below the town.

 

In 1926 Petralia had an eminent visitor - Prince Umberto II di Savoia, who was actually the last king of Italy before an institutional referendum in 1946 voted in favour of a republic over the monarchy and the royal family were exiled.  On this occasion the Marquis Pottino di Eschifaldo held a ball in Palazzo Pottino (in the main square) in the prince’s honour.  Still today you can see some written slogans on the walls of the houses in the main square supporting the monarchy - Viva il Re (Long live the King) and Viva la Monarchia (Long live the Monarchy).

 

Petralia is also the birthplace of Antonio Albanese’s family.  Antonio is a popular comedian known through Italian television and films, and although he has never lived in Petralia he portrays the comical side to Sicilian life speaking petralese dialect in his sketches.

 

 

 

If you are visiting in winter you will need to wrap up well.  Cold winds gust over the town from the mountains and ski resort of Piano Battaglia and sometimes you can find it covered in snow, giving it a picture postcard aspect.  Summer, instead, is when the town comes to life and different festivals are held during this season.  To name but a few:  the patron saint festival of St. Peter and Paul is held on 29th June;In August Il Ballo della Cordella (a Sicilian version of the English maypole dance) is held in Petralia Sottana, just below Soprana, and on 15th August the Matrimonio Baronale is held.  This is the re-enactment of the marriage between two noble families of the town from the 1700s:  Donna Caterina Sgadari and Don Giuseppe di Maria.  The marriage procession is followed by flag throwers and international folk dancers.

 

Take a walk up to the Chiesa di Loreto and round to the belvedere look-out point where you will be able to see Mt. Etna on a clear day as well as the village of Gangi and as far as the town of Enna, which is in the centre of the island.  Stop to have lunch in one of the trattorias where you will be able to taste fresh local produce and many other typical dishes of this area.  Or you may be interested in visiting the salt mine below (bookings only) where the sculptor/miners have created some works of art out of the rock salt.

 

If you are visiting Sicily through us at Sicilian Experience, then we will take you to Petralia as part of our popular Self-Guided Madonie Mountains to Coast walking tour www.sicilianexperience.com/selfmadonie.html where you stay in the village.

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