The Geopark is a universe apart, one of the uncountable faces of Sicily and its petrified heart at the same time.
Geoparco Rocca di Cerere extends to over 1,200 square kilometers, covering the territories of the centre-southern area of Enna province and, partially, some of the protected natural areas of the same region.
The expression Geopark makes us think of a place dedicated to the earth. In fact, behind this word is the connection between geology and cultural heritage of its cities, it tells about millennial stories, populations and unexpected richness, such as the deep and ancient union between geology and the myth of the gods connected to the Earth, Demetra -Cheres and Kore-Persephone.
It has been called Rocca di Cerere in memory of the area where once the Gods’ holy precint stood: the top of the mountain where the city of Enna lays, from where the priests officiated the sacred ceremonies. It overlooks a landscape whose colours, from time to time, turns to the yellow of wheat, the green of the oak forests, the silver of the olive trees and the golden ocher of medieval towns, perched on the tops.
But what is the geopark? Let’s start from his geology, a testimony of a geoclimatic catastrophe occurring in the Mediterranean Sea, 5 million and six hundred thousand years ago. At that time the sea, devoid of any connections, both from East, with the Indian Ocean, and West, with the Atlantic Ocean, came into a crisis that quickly led to its evaporation. In its place a huge sinkhole remained, in the bottom of which a huge amount of the salts – previously dissolved in the sea waters – deposited. Those gigantic salt caves, the Messiniane evaporites, in Sicily there are wonderfully represented. White limestone mountains with different shapes, huge gypsum stratifications, sometimes crystalline, and saline deposits.
This geology is not only a uniqueness in the world, but it has also been the narrative thread of human history along these territories.
Evaporites are the mineral sediment from which man extracted salt, the first bargaining chip, used to preserve cheese and many fruits of the earth. And then sulfur, the light of underworld personified by his queen and goddess Persephone, already extracted in the age of bronze, a commodity in the trade with the Egyptians and the eastern populations of the Greek islands and an important element of Sicilian hinterland economy up to the twentieth century. Sulfur motivated the founding of new countries, the opening of new roads and railways, also linked to the long and hard epic of the carusi di pirrera (mines boys), like Rosso Malpelo and Ciaula, the protagonists the novels of Giovanni Verga and Luigi Pirandello, two illustrious representative of modern Sicilian literature.
So a geology that becomes one with people’s lives, but also a geology that becomes a Goddess, the Rocca di Cerere is the same immense rock that looks at its fields from above, the earthly goddess who becomes agriculture.
To those who would like to visit the most interesting places of this great Geopark, one of the largest in Europe, we recommend the great Floristella Mining Park, the nearby Lake Pergusa, a nature reserve and the place of the mythical Rape of young Kore, the same Rocca di Cerere with the remains of the ancient Acropolis and the huge Medieval Castle of Lombardia, the Nature Reserves of Valley of the Imera at Capodarso, the Rossomanno’s Woods with the archaeological area and the fascinating dancing puppets, some natural sculptures made of sandstone rock and furthermore the Mount Altesina Reserve, the point of connection from which the Arabs started the division into the three Valleys: Val di Noto, Val di Mazara and Val Dèmone.
In the area many cities arose for the will of tyrants and princes who needed work force for their lands. So, around a cliff, we find Calascibetta, inhabited since the age of copper, almost a symbol of Sicilian prehistory, later rebuilt by the Arabs, as it is evident from its name. And finally, the historic centers, some of them pritty unknown but rich in testimonies: from the ancient Enna and Assoro, to the medieval Aidone, and Piazza Armerina, to the founding towns of Valguarnera, Villarosa, Nissoria and Leonforte.
For the extraordinary nature of its geological heritage, the entire protected area of the Geopark Rocca di Cerere in 2015 has been added among the ten UNESCO World Geoparks founded in Italy.