Centuripe, a small town tucked in the hills of Sicily, is known as “the balcony of Sicily” for the stunning views it offers across to Mount Etna.
In Italy there are some really unique villages in the world. Some are famous for their history and others thanks to their “shape”. And Centuripe has both of these characteristics.
It is a small Sicilian hamlet of 5000 inhabitants, in the province of Enna, east-central Sicily, with an elevation of 732 m on a ridge between the Simeto and Dittaino rivers, northwest of Catania.
Observing any image taken from above, it is impossible not to notice a similarity with the shape of a person, even though perceptions are always very subjective. In fact, there are those who associate the image to the shape of a starfish but, either way, in technical jargon this kind of urban plan is said “polylobate”, meaning that from the center of the town various branches extend in several directions, 5 in this case.
In reality, the reason for this conformation is linked to the orography of the territory, as the development of the constructions follows, almost obligatorily, the natural morphology of the reliefs.
Historically, humans frequents this area since Prehistory, but the foundation of the settlement, with the name of Kentoripa, is due to the ancient Greeks.
The ancient Centuripae, which the Greek historian Thucydides called a city of the Siculi (an ancient Sicilian tribe), allied itself with Athens against Syracuse. Centuripae remained independent of Syracuse, except for a period of domination under the Syracusan tyrant Agathocles, until it was taken by Rome in the First Punic War.
The city apparently suffered in the Roman war against Sextus Pompeius, son of Pompey the Great, and did not regain its prosperity. Partly destroyed by Frederick II in 1233, after which most of the inhabitants moved to Augusta, the city’s ruin was completed by Charles of Anjou.
It was later rebuilt by Francesco Moncada, count of Adernò (now Adrano), and was ruled by his descendants as a county until 1813.
In any case the city, like the most of Sicily, underwent many dominations: Romans, Arabs, Normans and finally Angevins, who destroyed it completely.
It was refounded in the 16th century with the name of Centorbi, maintaining roughly the same urban plan of medieval times. It passed to the Kingdom of Italy in 1860 and was the scene of heavy fighting in World War II.
It was 1863 when the City Council issued a decree to adopt the current name of Centuripe.
Thanks to its long and troubled history, this village is a real archaeological gem, and even the surroundings are hidden treasures to discover, including two ancient bridges, the Roman one and the Saracen one, closest to the town. And then again the Roman Baths, in Contrada Bagni while, a few kilometers further on, there is the Castle of Corradino which, despite its name, is actually a funeral monument dating back to Imperial Roman period.
Remains of the classical city include Hellenistic houses with wall paintings, baths, cisterns, and several substruction walls, mostly of the Roman period, on the steep slopes.
Moreover, Centuripe’s civic museum and the Palazzo Comunale exhibit Hellenistic terra-cottas, finely painted vases of local manufacture, and relics from a large number of excavated tombs in the area.
In the ’60s, in a site in Contrada Crocefisso, an epigraph was found, a stone slab, with an inscription in Doric (a Greek dialect).
The content tells about the renewal of a relationship of “kinship” occurred in the 2nd century B.C. between the city of Centuripe and the one of Lanuvio, in Latium. According to a legend, in fact, Siculi and Latins, ancient pre-Roman peoples from Sicily and Latium, boasted the same mythical origin.
They were descended directly from Aeneas, the legendary hero who fled from Troy and started Roman history. This kind of document reaffirmed a sort of “brotherhood” between the two peoples, called in latin cognatio. And, to date, this is the oldest testimony of what we could call a “twinning”.
Images from web – Google Research