Going to Sicily? Forget about the usual tourist traps and clichés. There is a place in Sicily that is off the radar but still full of surprises. That place is Calascibetta, a charming town in the province of Enna, in the centre of Sicily.
Calascibetta is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and it offers a unique experience to visitors who want to discover the authentic Sicilian spirit. It was founded in the 9th century by the Arabs, who built a fortress on a hill overlooking the valley of Dittaino. Calascibetta comes from Arabic and means "the castle of Saturday". The Arabs chose this name because they believed that Saturday was a lucky day for them.
Later, Calascibetta became a strategic outpost for the Normans, who built the impressive cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore and San Pietro, which is still the town's main church. The cathedral has a Romanesque-Gothic style and contains precious artworks and royal tombs. One belongs to Peter II, the king of Sicily, who died here in 1342.
Calascibetta was home to different communities over the centuries, such as Jews, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Lombards. You can see traces of their presence in the architecture, the art, and the traditions of the town.
You can visit the Jewish quarter, where you can admire the synagogue and the ritual bath, or explore the ancient necropolis of Realmese, where you can see tombs dating back to the 9th century BC.
Calascibetta is famous for its delicious cuisine, which reflects its multicultural influences. You can taste dishes such as pasta alla norma, pasta with tomato sauce, eggplant, and ricotta cheese; couscous alla trapanese, couscous with fish broth and vegetables; sfincione, a thick pizza with onion, cheese, anchovies, and bread crumbs; or cassata siciliana, a cake with ricotta cheese, candied fruits, and marzipan.
You can also try some local specialities, such as pani cunzatu, bread seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper, cheese, and oregano; Scaccia, a thin pastry filled with cheese, tomato sauce, or other ingredients; or cannoli, crispy tubes filled with sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips.
Calascibetta is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, such as the Canalotto Valley, where you can find the ruins of a Byzantine village carved into the rock, or the Malpasso area, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Erei mountains and the Dittaino River.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can also hike to the top of Monte San Giuseppe, where you can see a cross made of lava stones from Mount Etna.
Calascibetta is a perfect destination for those who love to explore off-the-beaten-path places and immerse themselves in the local life.
How to get there:
You can fly to Catania or Palermo airports, which are about 100 km away from the town. From there, you can take a bus or a train to Enna. Once in Enna, you can take another bus or taxi to Calascibetta, which is only 10 km away.
Renting a car and drive yourself is the best way to explore Sicily, giving you more freedom and flexibility to visit different places. However, be prepared for some challenging roads and traffic rules.
Alternatively, you can take a ferry from mainland Italy or other islands to one of Sicily's ports, such as Messina or Trapani.
Before you go
Before you pack your bags and head to Sicily, here are some general travel tips that can help you make your trip more enjoyable and hassle-free:
Learn some Italian
Although English is widely spoken in Sicily, especially in tourist areas, learning some basic Italian phrases and words is always helpful and polite.
Buongiorno - Good morning
Buonasera - Good evening
Buonanotte - Good night
Ciao - Hello/Bye
Grazie - Thank you
Prego - You’re welcome
Mi scusi - Excuse me
Parla inglese? - Do you speak English?
Non capisco - I don’t understand
Quanto costa? - How much does it cost?
Dov’è il bagno? - Where is the bathroom?
Un caffè per favore - A coffee please
Un bicchiere d’acqua per favore - A glass of water please
Un tavolo per due per favore - A table for two please
Il conto per favore - The bill please
When you are there
When you visit Sicily, you should be aware of some cultural norms and etiquette rules that can help you avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. For example:
Dress modestly when visiting churches or other religious sites.
Tip around 10% in restaurants and bars
Don’t touch or point at things with your index finger.
Don’t make the “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger.
Don’t order a cappuccino after 11 AM.