Secret Sicily: Sambuca di Sicilia

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 03:00
sicily off the beaten track

For our Borgo of the Month series, we head to the Saracen village of Sambuca in Sicily.

Near major Sicilian attractions like the Valley of the Temples and the seaside towns of Sciacca and Menfi, Sambuca di Sicilia is a village of Saracen origins that has mostly remained unchanged over time; in fact, its old time charm has earned it inclusion into the list of Italy’s most beautiful borghi.

In the heart of the Belize Valley, surrounded by woods and hills, Sambuca di Sicilia should be lazily explored on foot to take in all its Arabesque atmospheres.  

Originally called Zabuth, from the name of the emir who built a fortress around which the settlement developed, Sambuca was founded around 830 and is crossed by seven Saracen alleys; not to miss is a walk through the ancient Saracen district with its maze of narrow, winding streets and the typical purrere, unique underground caves only recently brought to light.

The central Piazza della Vittoria is lively and picturesque; it’s the starting point for an itinerary that should include the Archaeological Museum, rich in artifacts from distant eras, remains of the Roman aqueduct, the Church of St. Michael Archangel with its wooden equestrian statue of St. George, patron Saint of Sambuca, slaying the dragon, and the elegant 19th-century theater. 

Another must is the visit to the hill where the ancient fortress built by Zabut once stood; nothing remains of the fortress, but the panoramic terrace offers a great view; the majestic Mother Church (Matrice), damaged by the Belice earthquake, now under refurbishment, stands here.

The area around Sambuca features many sites of interest, among them the Natural Reserve of Monte Genuardo, the archaeological area of ​​Monte Adranone and the Lago Arancio (Orange Lake); on its banks stand the ruins of the Fortino di Mazzallakkar, which emerge only in the summer months when the lake level is lowered; it is otherwise submerged by waters.