Troina, an ancient city at the heart of the island, is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy… you reach it via an amazing countryside, made up of valleys, hills and peaks, sometimes unknown to the islanders themselves.
The city’s origins date back to prehistoric times, but it is with the Byzantines, the Arabs and later the Normans, that the most glorious period of its history begins. The Gran Conte, Ruggero d’Altavilla, chose it as an outpost for the conquest of the entire island and, with the help of some Basilian monks, took the Castle from the Saracens, founded new churches and convents, making it Sicily’s first capital and bishopric, as well as an important transit route along the Taormina-Termini roadway.
The first Norman cathedral founded in Sicily was erected in Troina, dedicated to Maria Santissima Assunta, the town’s main place of worship and a place full of treasures, including a fine Norman tower. The Oratorio dei Bianchi below still retains the altar dais where Pope Urban II celebrated Mass in 1088, as a seal of the agreement with Ruggero. Another historic building is the Torre Capitania, the central tower of the ancient Castello and seat of the Capitano di Giustizia of the time. Today it is a cultural centre that hosts various exhibitions, including a permanent archaeological exhibition and other exhibitions by contemporary artists.
Troina offers us an interesting archaeological tour, consisting of the remains of the Graeco-Roman city and the ruins of the wall fortification dating back to the fourth century BCE, while at the same time preserving a rich architectural heritage, consisting mainly of sacred buildings. The Chiesa di San Biagio church is of mediaeval origin, the Chiesa di San Nicolò church has a characteristic arch under the bell tower, perhaps one of the city gates, and the Chiesa di Santa Lucia are all located in the ancient Scarfolio district. The Chiesa del Carmine church, which has a majolica-tiled spire bell tower from the sixteenth century, houses a Madonna attributed to Domenico Gagini. You move onto the Church dedicated to the patron saint of the city, San Silvestro, the Basilian monk who rests here and whose funeral monument seems to be the work of Gagini himself. The artistic baroque bier, the work of the famous Sicilian silversmith, Juvarra of Messina, is exhibited in the Convento di Sant’Agostino (sixteenth century) with its impressive portico with forty arches.
Troina is a town with an ancient charm, capable of enchanting and captivating people with the many stories it can tell through its traditional ceremonies, such as the “Festa dei Rami“, which takes place on the second-to-last Sunday in May, the Ddarata, on the following Sunday, and the famous Intrallazzate, the old Sicilian folk songs in verse.
The “Festa dei Rami”, an ancient rite whose roots go back to the pre-Christian period, is the pilgrimage of hundreds of devotees dedicated to the patron saint of the town, San Silvestro. The Ramara, who are all men, set out on the road in the evening after Mass along the ancient mountain paths, until they reach the small sacred wood in the heart of the Nebrodi in the early hours of the morning. The next day, the pilgrims are called together by the sound of the drum and set off to the natural sanctuary of the burrone dell’Anghira di Faccilonga ravine, where the bravest are harnessed and lowered 300 metres so they can “touch the laurel”. The ramara will return to the village with splendid laurel branch decorations, where they will be welcomed by the villagers and refresh themselves with the foods typically associated with the festival.
The local culinary tradition is special, with vastedda cu sammucu, focaccia made with durum wheat flour and eggs, stuffed with tuma (fresh cheese) and salami, sprinkled with elderflower and cooked in a wood oven. The ‘nfasciatieddi are the local sweet biscuits made with cooked prickly pear wine. You can also taste the cudduri, local Christmas sweets, and the piciocia, an ancient peasant dish, made with Cicerchia flour, chickpeas and peas
Recent history tells us of a historic battle that took place in Troina, between German soldiers, entrenched in the village, and Americans, which culminated in a heavy bombardment with several casualties, including many civilians. The event is amply documented by the historical photographs taken by Robert Capa, which are collected and exhibited in the building of the Torre Capitania.
Finally, it’s impossible not to mention the territory’s rich natural heritage, as Troina is located in Nebrodi Park. A few kilometres from the town is the lake, Lago Sartori (or Lago di Ancipa), the highest artificial basin in Sicily, surrounded by 4,200 hectares of wooded areas that are suitable for long walks or horseback rides.