Sicily’sunexplored hidden interior

In a lesser-regardedregion of Sicily, neighborhood artisans, shepherds, cheesemakers and farmers are establishingtheir doorways to create a brand new manner for visitors to revel in their island.


Rolling hills blanketed with wheat fields and dotted with windmills stretched into the space as a ways as the attention may want to see. Occasionally,a stone village seemed amongst them, terraced alongside the hillside or sittingatop a ridge overlooking the ochre-and-gold landscape.

The surroundings might have been out of Val d’Orcia – the Tuscanvicinity of The Gladiator and The English Patient fame. Except it wasn’t. I becomein Sicily, withinside the a ways-much less explored region of the Madonie, a mountain variety onthe northern aspect of the Italian island.

This inland vicinity is, undeniably, now no longer what you’ll consider whilstyou suspect of Sicily. The biggest island withinside the Mediterranean generally conjuresphotos of turquoise waters and indulgent Baroque cities, sandy seashores andpostcard-best coastal towns. With its rural, agrarian topography, theMadonie could not appearance extra extraordinary from all that. But it really is precisely why aorganization of humans lately released a brand new journey revel in completely targeted on it– named, aptly, The Heart of Sicily (THOS).

The assignment, born for the duration of the pandemic, targets to show off thislittle-regarded a part of the island thru a chain of immersive itineraries andsports that join visitors each with the territory and the neighborhoodpopulation.

It additionally desires to helprevive the fortunes and network ties of the Madonie’s villages, which, likemany borghi (smalltowns)throughout Italy and withinside the traditionally impoverished south, have lengthy beenbothered via way of means of continual depopulation.

Atthe assignment’s head is Fabrizia Lanza, director of the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking faculty, aMadonie-primarily based totally culinary hub it really is been coaching global college students aboutSicilian meals and farming practices when you consider that 1989 (it become installed via way of means of Lanza’smother, Anna).

“Whenwe went into lockdown and I needed to droop my classes, I started out questioning aboutthe way to deliver lower back to this land that has given me so much,” she stated, whilst Ivisited her on the faculty on Regaleali, a 200-year-antique running farm and u . s . a .estate.

“Forthe beyond 20 years, I were running with without a doubt great small producers,artisans and farmers – folks who recognize and fiercely love the Madonie, yethardly ever have the possibility to percentage their talents and stories,” she stated.Together with some of them, she floated the concept of growing a chain ofjourney reviews to shed mild on their home.

“Thisis an area of treasures – cultural, historical, natural, agricultural,”Lanza stated. “By amassing them beneathneath one platform, the wish is that thisentire region can emerge as a vacation spot in its personal proper. It has all of the attributesto do so.”

To date, THOScounts six hosts – along with Lanza – every of whom has created extraordinary itineraries concentrated roundtheir expertise, from meals manufacturing and agriculture to craftsmanship,environmental walks and archaeological excursions. For a few of the reviews,THOS companions with farmers, shepherds and artisans to provide whatever from staysto food and to focus on the region’s groups.

Youwould possibly discover ways to make ricotta with shepherd FilippoPrivitera, who milks his three hundred sheep via way of means of hand each morning;gather wild herbs with Porto di Terra,an eco-pushed affiliation that organises treks round this highland region; orgo to the studio and furnace of ceramist GiovanniD’Angelo, who has been crafting tiles for extra than threedecades. There also are possibilities to partake in seasonalolive oil manufacturing at an natural farm, study wheatseries and feature a cross at composting.

Thegive up intention is for visitors to without a doubt get beneathneath the pores and skin of this remarkablevicinity. 

“All thesports we’ve got prepare are designed to sell the local people andits proper to be the protagonist of THOS,” defined Roberta Billitteri, ahost who took me on one her itineraries. “Anyone who is a part of thisassignment already has a process or their personal venture – myself included. What we aredoing is establishing our doorways and making this land extra handy via way of means of linking upwith each other and, in turn, traffic.”

Billitteri’sjourneys for THOS begin withinside the fairy-story village of Polizzi Generosa, in which shelives. Perched on a cliff (the appellative “Generosa”, meaninggenerous, become given to it in 1234 via way of means of King of Sicily Frederick II, wholiked the richness of its territory), the hamlet functions an meeting offashionable stone homes and meandering cobbled lanes, ornate church buildings andquaint piazzette (smallsquares). It is ridiculously pretty. 

Billitterimoved right here in 2009 together along with her husband to take in farming and sell sustainableagriculture. She grows the Badda bean andthe pipiddu pepper, flowers indigenous to the Madonie which might be acknowledged as a part of a Slow Food Presidia (amarker implemented to small groups committed to keeping agriculturalmerchandise vulnerable to extinction, safeguarding local breeds and following thestandards of agroecology).

She additionally runsa meals workshop in which she makes preserves with regionally sourced substances andintroduces THOS members to the Madonie’s flavours and agricultural legacythru tastings and demonstrations.

“Ourpurpose is to guard and, hopefully, unfold focus on the goods local tothe Madonie,” she stated as she confirmed me across the workshop. “They’rean apparent evidence of ways unique our territory is.”


Allthe sports she’s advanced for her programmes spotlight this rural andgastronomic aspect of the region. Travellers are taken on walks to discover the manyflowers, timber and culmination of the Madonie, consume at family-run eating places thatshow off Slow Food substances and live at u . s . a . houses like Agriturismo Cuca, a hillside cottage andnatural farm.

There,traffic get to fulfill owner, farmer and arborist Pietro Genduso, who grows extrathan forty sorts of indigenous Sicilian culmination vulnerable to extinction. 

“Theneighborhood biodiversity is not anything brief of great,” he informed me, as we satbeneathneath a shady mulberry tree for the duration of my live. “I assume many population ofthe region – specially the ones whose livelihoods are so intently tied with thecountryside – attempt to be custodians of this ecosystem,” he continued.”There’s an appreciation for the land it really is being misplaced in different parts [ofSicily].”

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