Our last few days in Cefalù were spent doing day trips to medieval mountain villages in the region. It is clear to us that these places are not tourist destinations, and it gives us a chance to see Old Sicily, off the beaten path. That’s the reason for being here. Big buses could not negotiate the narrow switchback roads that lead you up the mountains.
Walking tours, a winery visit, a stop at a sweet shop, a slow food farm tour where cheese and ham are produced and a legendary church were all on our agenda. It was a real treat to get this glimpse into rural Sicilian culture that is missed by cruise ships and big tour companies. Our group of 11 plus a local guide fit just right.
CASTELBUONO The name means good castle, and the town is built around a medieval castle dating to the 14th century. As we made our way up the mountain to a winery, we passed ash trees that are tapped for the biblical manna. This region is the only place in the world that produces manna, and we even went to a manna museum to learn how it is produced from tree sap to the final product, that apparently is good for most anything that ails you.
The Relais Santa Anastasia vineyard
Our group enters the winery
Our group enjoying the wine tasting
The gate to Castelbuono’s medieval Old Town
Our group gathered for a manna tasting in the Old Town
They look as if they are praying for manna for heaven, but in fact they are just waiting patiently to taste it
This is Waste Management, Castelbuono-style. The residents of the Old Town live above the streets and lower their refuse by rope in baskets. The donkey’s helper places the trash in their wooden boxes borne by the sweet animal as he walks through the narrow cobbled streets.
How to ruin a Margarita pizza: Smother it with French fries. As seen at a Castelbuono pizzeria
SINAGRA Just outside Sinagra we visited the famous and rate Sicilian black pigs, prized for the salami and prosciutto that is produced from them. The slow-food farm we visited also makes cheese. The pigs are raised organically, and move about the hillsides. in generous pens
Mamma and her piglets
Mamma mia! That’s a lot of spigots! While it seems these are a lot of udders, when piglets are born, they each choose a teat and suckle only from that teat. So, let’s say five piglets are born and there are eight teats. Three teats go unused.
Tom in the hanging ham house at the slow-food farm
Chef Gaetano in the cheese house where cheese is aged at the slow-food farm. The sheep are raised at the farm to make the cheese. Goats, too.
The group outside the houses where the ham and cheese are aged
Tom and John down on the farm
TINDARI The Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Tindari captivates pilgrims who come to the church based on the local legend that the lagoon below the church was created after a pilgrim who came to see the Black Madonna refused to pray to the Madonna because she was black. The woman accidentally dropped her baby into the ocean and the Madonna made the land rise to save the baby. The sands of Marinello have taken shape of the profile of the Madonna.
The Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Tindari sits on prime real estate on the sea
The lagoon where legend has it the ground rose up to save the baby and took the shape of the Madonna
The Black Madonna
Another version of the Black Madonna
Tom thinks he found his angel outside he Sanctuary of the Black Madonna. Liz isn’t so sure.