Walking through the alleys of Geraci Siculo, immersed in an atmosphere of yesteryear, it’s easy to return the welcoming smiles of the locals. This medieval village in the province of Palermo, in the heart of the Madonie mountains, offers silence and a breathtaking view.
The shape of the summit on which this fortified town is set is like that of the back of a horse. The name Geraci Siculo comes from Jerax, from the Greek vulture, chosen by the Greek colonisers in the 8th century BC because the fortress was inhabited by these predatory birds.
In medieval times it was a very important county and one of the preferred residences of the Ventimiglia family, famous for having left so much in terms of historical and artistic heritage.
The first, visible from outside the urban centre, is the Bevaio della Santissima Trinità: a drinking trough with two stone fountains and four mouths which poured water into sandstone cups. Further on, there’s the castle, which is on top of a hill and is not easy to get to. It’s a Byzantine ruin, devoid of decorations, which was previously a military fortress. Near the castle, there’s the small church devoted to Sant’Anna, the palatine chapel of the Ventimiglia family. Legend says that the skull of the saint was preserved within it. This was later transferred to the nearby Castelbuono.
In the alleys of the centre there’s the Chiesa Madre, devoted to the worship of Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s a realm of contrasting styles: he Romanesque exterior, with its simple, linear forms, contrasts with the interior, with its many marble features, such as the baptismal font by Gagini, and the monumental wooden choir of 1650. The church’s crypt contains the Tesoro di Geraci, a collection of gold and silver liturgical objects and instruments, plus embroidered sacred vestments. The majority of the artistic heritage preserved in the numerous churches in Gerarci is by the artist Antonello Gagini: examples include the marble polyptych on the altar of the Chiesa di San Bartolomeo and the triptych in polychrome marble in the Chiesa di Santa Maria La Porta.
One last stop lies outside the village in a wood in Contrada Vicaretto. This is the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Cava, a small chapel annexed to a Basilian monastery in Norman times. It has interior decorations reminiscent of the Byzantine style and a Romanesque exterior embellished with a rose window in relief and a Gothic doorway.
If you want to experience the feeling of being suspended in the void, then the Salto dei Ventimiglia is for you. This is a glass and steel balcony at the point where Francesco I Ventimiglia threw himself and his horse into the deep precipice below in 1337 while being pursued by the royal troops of Peter II of Aragon.
The culinary specialties of this village include i maccarruna di casa, fresh homemade pasta, similar to bucatini, seasoned with a lamb sauce, ragù di castrato, and you might also try tagghiarini cu sucu di crastagneddu, fresh homemade tagliatelle in a lamb sauce. Last, but not least, there’s pasta ca fasola, pasta with fresh local beans. The typical main courses are cuosti di crastagneddi (lamb ribs), sasizzunedda ca addauro (mincemeat sausages wrapped in bay leaves) cooked on the grill, and a pittrina ca fasola, lamb in sauce with the local green beans. Dairy products include a tuma frisca cu zuccaru (fresh tuma cheese with sugar) or a tuma con le acciughe (tuma cheese with anchovies) and, to finish with something sweet, there are the little vuccunetta and serafineddi biscuits, made from honey and almonds.