Calatabiano Castle lies atop a hill and dominates the eastern access of the Alcantara valley.
In ancient times a long winding track lead from the village up to the castle gate. Today you can take a glass elevator, located just outside the ticket shop. On your way up you can enjoy beautiful views of the landscape.
You arrive at the foot of the castle where archeological research has determined the location of a greek temple and a cistern.
Next stop is the castle gate which is exemplary for the architectural evolution of the complex, boasting byzantine, norman and seventeenth century defense techniques.
The courtyard has a seventeenth century appearance. You can see the Cruyllas Hall, the chapel and the Hall of Arms. The latter used to have an upper storey and was originally accessible only from within the core castle.
What struck us most in the Hall of Arms where two skeletons found on site. One belongs to a Byzantine soldier who got mortally wounded in battle just outside the castle around 840 AD. The second one is attributed to Giovanello, fifteenth century heir of the Cruyllas family.
The tour continues within the core castle. Here you see a cave with early Christian fish symbol, scarce remains of a smithy and a Byzantine keep with flanking semi-cylindrical towers and traitor’s gate.
Calatabiano castle last saw action in 1677, when 150 Spaniards held out against a larger French force. In 1693 it was heavily damaged by earthquake and subsequently abandoned. Now it has been respectfully restored.
Although only part of the medieval enclosure remains and most buildings in the courtyard date from later on you can still appreciate the strategic value of the castle and the power of its defenses.
An information booklet is on sale at the ticket office, alas only in Italian.
Beware of Sicily ! It is an ideal location to practice water sports during high season, enjoy excellent food in a charming atmosphere and enroll for a few organized excursions with a local guide. It is however no country for individual cultural visit ! There are not that many highlights, opening times are liable to sudden changes and usually information is available only in Italian.
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