Are you ready to explore the treasures in the mysterious Gratteri? It’s one of the oldest and most picturesque villages of the Madonie, in the province of Palermo, about 16 km from the famous Cefalù.
You can photograph Gratteri from the Belvedere Ganci Battaglia, the panorama on the Tyrrhenian coast, where you can also glimpse the Aeolian Islands during the clearest days, will leave you speechless. It’s not by chance that Gratteri has been nicknamed the “balcony on the Tyrrhenian Sea”. You walk
along the ponte dell’Ecce Homo bridge to Portella Carruba, so called because of the carob tree there.
From there, you can admire natural landscapes reminiscent of a nativity scene, with lush pastures in front of the picturesque, twelfth century Convent chapel.
Your gaze wanders across the entire valley, which runs to Mount San Calogero overlooking the Gulf of Termini Imerese.
Carry on and visit the municipality’s Historical Environmental Museum, located on a hill where you can see what remains of the oldest district, originally called Terra Vecchia and today Conigliera, with its cliff walls above the “Bocca dell’Inferno“.
Walking through the village streets, you’ll cross the entire main street until you’ll reach the Fontana della Ninfa, situated in a small cottage in front of the Cathedral, where you’ll discover the history of the stone shell, like the history of the nearby Grotta Grattàra, which could be considered the Genius Loci (protective spirit) of the “craterous” ancient village.
The first church on the visit is the parish church of San Michele Arcangelo, which houses the miraculous relics from Jerusalem and valuable works of art from different periods.
After a short stop to sample the shop’s local products, you’ll head towards the chapel of San Giacomo, Protector of Gratteri, which houses a beautiful image of the Apostle, venerated with such devotion by the Gratteresi.
Near the neighbourhood, which has the same name, you’ll also find La Casa del Poeta and a local stone architecture for collecting rainwater, “u cabbubbu“. You continue your tour visiting the district of Via Fiume, where you can see the three mediaeval bridges and an underground cistern, the pozzo di Fantina well, covered over in the second post-war period to make the route driveable.
Under the Via Fiume, an underground stream, the Crati, still flows which, descending from Pizzo di Pilo, crosses the town dividing it in two, the oldest part from the new.
From Piazzetta Ponte Silvio, you’ll take Salita Orologio which was called Via dei Saraceni until 1900. Here, in this district, it’s possible to see a round house that still has a doorway with a round arch, typical of the early Arab dwellings. This is the last dwelling with the original architecture, today called the “The Thousand Year-Old House“.
From the Saracen district, you’ll reach the districts of old Bucciria, Petra and Santa, and then you’ll arrive at the Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower), which, with its 100 bells, is one of the most important symbols for the locals.
Just ahead, look over the rocky bank of the stream to discover the legendary history of Macigna. At this point, passing through the ancient districts of Porta Grande, Terra Vecchia and Nostra Donna, you’ll find yourself in front of Vecchia Matrice, built around the first half of the fourteenth century next to the ancient castello dei principi Ventimiglia. On the main altar, the Madonna and Child stands today, a work from the Gagian school coming from the Norman chapel, chiesetta normanna del Rosario.
Behind here, in the ancient apse, there are two interesting funerary monuments made from mixed marble, inside which rest the remains of Maria Filangeri, wife of Lorenzo Ventimiglia, and his nephew Gaetano, prince of Belmonte.
In the right wall you can still see what was an opening, which communicated directly with the Barons’ chambers, on the outskirts of their castle.
You’ll then walk along Via Arcarìa, a hidden alley behind a stone trough, where there were prisons at the foot of the ancient fortress, known for the murky business involving Don Antonio Ventimiglia who locked up the bishop of Cefalù, Niccolò De Burellis, who was found dead on his knees with his eyes gazing upwards to heaven.
Your journey continues towards the “Passo della Scala” where Via dei Promestratensi begins (the order founded in the twelfth century and whose only house was in Sicily in Gratteri) that reaches the Norman abbey, abbazia di San Giorgio. This is really a wondrous place. Just think: the elderly here hand down stories of a legendary hidden treasure was discovered right near the abbey.
From that lookout, the landscape is like a postcard. Looking over the dirupo del Carapé cliff, you’ll learn about the history of the charms worn by the women of La Scala and the history of the Souls of Purgatory, as well as the votive shrines today located inside the chapel, chiesetta del Crocifisso. From there, you’ll take the strada Parisèa, dug entirely into the rock at the end of the twentieth century.
After visiting the San Sebastiano and Sant’Andrea churches, you’ll end your intense tour outside the municipality’s convent, which once belonged to the Convento di Santa Maria di Gesù convent, one of the oldest churches in the country.
Find out more about Gratteri.