A clear spring day and the blue sky that matches wonderfully with the mountain's grey and the of green, Madonie mountains that dominate all it's surroundings. A place where the mediterranen climate of high mountain's, the green forests and the deep valleys they are mixing together.

I am at Petralia's Sottana. From where ever side you come from you can see the Chiesa Madre, the cathedral. It's very easy to understand why the inhabitants wanted to built their town on top of the mountain. The arrival of the normans and the construction of a castle permitted the birth of Petralia's town, the one in the bottom, which had it's maximum splendour under the barons Ventimiglia, Moncada and the Cardona (centuries XVI-XVIII). The narrow streets, the houses resting together, the up hill, the tunnels, the stairs, the splendid doors. All this is similar to the town of Gubbio. A little Gubbio in the heart of Madonie's mountains? Why not.

In the past this town has been called the little Paris because of it's reach cultural life. It's nice to take a walk in the narrow streets, paved with stones extactly like centuries ago. The stone is the element of roads, of walls, of balconies, of arcades. But no rough and dead stones, but alive, really alive. The time in some corners has stopped, the silence is almost the same like the past, if it wasn't for the permanent and the mini skirts, that pretty woman would have been like a virgin back then. The beauty of the churches, of the monastery and of the noble palace, built almost between XVIand the XVII century and their good conservation.

The churches and the monasteries determinated the urbanistic order of the town. Like today. Down the Agliata avenue I meet the Santa Maria's church fountains. (In the XVI and XVII century). The doors (gothic-catalan) and inside the sculptures of the Gagini' School. The church's name comes from the fountain with the stoned mask. The surprises are just starting. Almost hundred meters, on the left I'm admiring the barocco church of San Francesco. Inside is decorated with XVII century frescoes that represent the of the saint. Very nice for the games lights, the Giuseppe Salerno's paintings (1570-1632). A little bit ahead we can see another bell tower. It's the Misericordia's church (1597) with a nice sundial at it's center. In it's highest exposed part time left it's mark, for the rest is really nice.

It's hot. Walking under the sun brings thirst. I enter in a small bar. Few persons look at me with curious eyes, but not so much. Of course they are used to strangers. I'm following my way through the highest part of the town, and I reach the Duomo's square, where the Church Mother, dedicated to the Assunta (century XVII-XVIII), with it's twelve columns of brown limestones and it's door of XV century, which is a witness of an important architectural evolution. The art lovers can find in this town unexpected treasures. In the Duomo you can see a tritico of the end of XV century, made by an anonymus Master of Modonie, three marble sculpture, one pala of altar, some masterpieces of the sicilian goldsmith's. Nice to see many aristocratic buildings that are facing in the center with their elegant prospects of different ages.

The inhabitants are kind and very hospital. A small group of old men, sitting on the shadow they are suggesting to visit the Vecchiuzzo's cave, or Piano Battaglia, a real triumph of nature. The cave isn't so far from town and has been kept a lot of findings of Paleolitic and Neolitic age, which means that man has been there starting from the third millennium B.C. Piano Battaglia is a splendour of mountains and green, with one marvelous panorama, which extends up to the sea, with the shadows of the Eolie Islands at horizon. And many are the traditional feasts, like the Ballo della Cordella and the Corteo Nuziale. These, and many others, are the reasons why some days in Petralia Sottana could be a very markable experience and memory.

Marcello Scorciapino

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