The historic site of Castelbuono has been inhabited by people since the earliest times, and there is reason to believe that Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans all settled here. However it was not until the Ventimiglia family built a castle here in the 14th
century that this charming town grew and adopted its current name – derived from Castello delle Buone Aire
– the Castel of Good Air. The Ventimiglia were the noble Sicilian family who ruled over much of this area in the Middle Ages and who left a scattering of castles through the Madonie Mountains, but Castelbuono became their ‘capital’. That Castelbuono had a particular place in their affection is marked by their choice of the town as the site for their mausoleum, which is housed in an interesting octagonal building.
The imposing castle with its square towers provides the natural focus for the town, and has undergone many changes over the centuries. The Castle
building is currently an exhibition centre and the Cappella Palatina
– the Palatine Chapel, on the second floor, has intricate stucco decorations picked out against a background of gold leaf, and attributed to Giuseppe Serpotta, brother of the more famous Giacomo. Open summer 9.00 to 1.00pm / 4.00pm to 7.00pm, closed Monday. Entrance Euro 1.50.
At the heart of the town lies Piazza Margherita, overlooked by the Madrice Church and the old Banca di Corte, which currently houses the Civic Museum (Museo Civico).
Like many churches in Sicily the Madrice Vecchia
carries echoes of many eras. Built in the 14th century on the ruins of a pagan temple, it has a Renaissance portico, a splendid Baroque portal, and an octagonal spire covered with majoilica tiles. The interior of the church was enlarged at the end of the 15th century and contains some interesting works, most notably a polyptych above the main altar depicting the Coronation of the Virgin (attributed to Pietro Ruzzolone, or possibly Antonello de Saliba) - in which a saint is depicted wearing spectacles- some fine statues, frescoes and painted columns.
Those with an interest in natural history and things botanical will enjoy an hour or two spent in the Museo Francesco Minŕ-Palumbo
, in Via Roma, which is housed in the precincts of the former Benedictine convent. The museum’s collection stems from the passion of Francesco Minŕ Palumbo, a 19th Century doctor, and for the botanical species, reptiles, insects and fossils of the nearby Madonie Mountains – and represents his life-time’s work. The museum is a great way to experience traditional Sicilian culture. Open summer 9.00 am to 1.00pm / 4.00pm to 7.30pm, closed Monday. Entrance Euro 1.50 Tel: 0921 671895 http://www.museominapalumbo.it/
Nearby stands La Madrice Nuova
, which contains a fine Deposition from the Cross by Giuseppe Velasco and Baroque altars with spiral columns by Vincenzo Messina.
Along Corso Umberto I, stands the Fontana di Venere Ciprea
(rebuilt in 1614) with Andromeda at the top, Venus and Cupid in the central niche and four bas-reliefs depicting the myth of Artemis (Diana) and Actaeon.
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