The City
by Giuseppe Francesco Fricano
The territory of Bagheria has an ancient history. The first vestiges take us back to prehistoric times on the Monte Porcara and at Pizzo Cannita, as well as Phoenician and, later, Hellenistic-Roman Solunto, and on over the aqueduct bridge over the Eleuterio River in late Gothic style to the Solanto barony.
From the latter there was born the town of “baroque villas”, the crowning glory of the Palermo aristocracy. The history of the cultural heritage goes hand in hand with that of the agrarian landscape: the forest, sugar cane, vineyards, tomatoes and lemons.
The recent history, in the century we have just left behind us, is the vine and wine history of the Alliata family, that of the big families linked to tomato processing (Dragotta, Verdone…) and lastly the history of the citrus fruit industry.
Bagheria is also a story of intellectuals and artists: F. Scaduto, G. Cirrincione, I. Buttitta, R. Guttuso, F. Scianna, G. Tornatore, and D. Maraini.
Today, Bagheria is a town of service industries, with a population of just over 50,000. It is witnessing the decline its lemon-growing, food end agriculture tradition, and is trying to find its way into a future that cannot be reached solely through building. People in the town are beginning to realize that the time has come to appreciate what exists naturally:
• They are gathering up the relics of their history, reopening the villas and constructing a museum circuit;
• They are valorizing the coast and aiming at making big environmental context available to the public;
• They are organizing events and proposing Bagheria as a place of renewed artistic commitment.
These efforts comprise the Bagheria of the future, which is already on the way, a way that is being pursued with determination, and valor. Bagheria is already a cultural gem on the eastern outskirts of the metropolis, and is destined to be even more.
This town is rediscovering that artistic and cultural identity that sees its imprint in the building of villas, and the work of the priest Castronovo, and aims at rediscovering a space in the higher educational system in the metropolitan region of Palermo.
Bagheria is reviving the traditional welcome at the trattorias where “caravans” sought refreshment after loading wagons with lemons, and is broadening its accommodations to meet modern needs.
It is preparing to receive all those who choose to spend a holiday rich in stimuli there: these pages are addressed to those people.

Historical Itineraries
Passage to Picturesque Villas and Enchanting Landscape
You can reach Bagheria along the coastal state road that connects Palermo to Messina by way of a seemingly interminable succession of bends. The outskirts of the capital appear never-ending, infinitely extending into the outer villages of the “metropolitan belt” which, by now, have reached into every corner of the plains, sliding off the blue-crested mountains, and sloping down toward the bright emerald sea. Traveling through the territories of Bagheria, you can sense that here the imagination of many architects was allowed to run free: buildings with strange shapes and unusual colors stand side by side with more traditional ones of limestone, giving rise to a very picturesque whole.
One perceives that there is something special in the air; perhaps it was this same perception that inspired Ferdinando Gravina, the Prince of Palagonia, and one of the most celebrated personalities of Bagheria to date. The Prince, who was certainly an exceptional character among the eighteenth-century elite, designed the gloriously baroque Villa Palagonia, also known as the “Villa of Monsters,” which today remains the main attraction of the town. Upon meeting with the prince, Goethe, the German poet and philosopher, described Gravina as a “scrawny gentleman …a solemn and grave old man, all spruced and powdered…,” an old-fashioned nobleman, at least by appearance. However, the prince, was quite different from his peers, so much so that some have called him an ingenious precursor of surrealistic art. His contemporaries, on the other hand, did not hesitate to declare him insane: how else could they have defined a man who filled his park with statues absolutely devoid of grace-- deformed, monstrous figures-- in a word, ugly? As if this were not enough, prince Ferdinando was notorious for playing jokes on anyone who had the misfortune, or misjudgment, to visit him: chair legs were often sawed off, making it impossible to sit upright; in the case of those chairs left whole, guests would occasionally find that the seat padding hid a handful of terrible nails…
Upon arriving at Villa Palagonia, one notices the work of the friar architect, Tommaso Maria Napoli, in front of the main entrance. While the original design was still intact, guests were received by statues depicting two somber characters perched on thrones of stone, scrutinizing them with imperturbable stone eyes: sixteen eyes to be precise, as one of the statues had six eyes in its head, while the other made use of the watch of two goats plus three heads of his own—two of which also served as his hair! Inside the villa one can still visit the original vestibule, frescoed with images from Greek mythology’s The Toils of Hercules, as well as the so-called “Mirror room,” where the walls and ceiling are embellished with fancy patterns in masonry and lined with over twenty busts by various authors and in varying styles—all this framed by countless fragments of mirror placed at myriad angles, so as to multiply the images infinitely.
However, it was Prince Giuseppe Branciforti, a member of one of the oldest, most decorated, and much-heralded families in Sicily, who had the honor of erecting the first mansion in the area known today as Bagheria, giving rise to the urban center of the town. The prince, embittered by the failure of a conspiracy to take over Sicily’s then-vacant throne (which concluded, instead, with the death of many of his co-conspirators), as well as several deaths in his family, decided to move his residence out of the city. In 1658, he built a small towered refuge, complete with merlons, in the heart of the fertile valley east of Palermo, then known as “Bagaria.” He called the mansion “Villa Butera,” and, on the main door, facing Palermo, he inscribed the words:“O Corte Addio,” or, “Farewell, Oh Court.” From that point on, Branciforti refused to take any further part in politics, preferring to live more solitarily, and looking after his estate, instead. However, his entourage included a large number of people who eventually settled all around the princely mansion, which, in turn, became the birthplace of yet another society, this time a small agricultural village.
The prince’s new mansion consisted of a long central hall, arrived at by means of two flights of steps, one at either end of the rectangular structure. At the foot of each grand stairway was a large courtyard, around which were the servants’ quarters and the church. Over the rear entrance loomed an extravagantly-framed bust of the founder. At one time, the prince’s mansion was surrounded by a large park.
Not far from Giuseppe Branciforti’s new settlement lies the “Certosa,” or “Charter House,” a small neoclassical building constructed in 1797, where a relative, Ercole Michele Branciforti, founded one of the first wax museums in Europe. Here, well-known personalities of the era were constructed entirely of wax, and portrayed as Carthusian monks within their natural environment, often accompanied by their servants.. For some time, the quaint monastery was a destination for many visitors, who were also attracted by the opportunity to admire part of the Branciforti estate, as the prince had placed artwork and furnishings of great value here, and had even commissioned the Spanish baroque painter, Diego Velasquez, to fresco the walls. There is currently an effort underway to reconstruct the wax statues, sponsored by the Bagheria Council in cooperation with Pietro Piraino, a researcher and expert on antique toys and dolls, including wax figures.
At the steps of the Branciforti Villa begins a long avenue drawn up in 1769 by another member of the family, Don Salvatore. The avenue, known today as Corso Butera, intersects a second street, Corso Umberto, thereby forming the center of today’s urban development that is the Commune of Bagheria. Other foundational aspects of the Commune were to follow: the prince also commissioned the architects P. Vivaldi and S. Attinelli to build the “Chiesa Madre,” (cathedral church), a towering structure of yellow stone that was completed in 1708, as well as a new wing on his family’s ancestral mansion.
In the meantime, various aristocratic families had followed the example of the Brancifortis and had summer residences built in the desirable Bagheria area referred to as villas of the “Piano Nobile,” or “Bagheria plain.” Indeed, the position of the plain was decidedly a favorable one: here you could get away from the oppressive heat of the crowded roads and buildings in the city and find a cooler temperature and fresher air among the olive tree plantations, thanks to the pleasant breeze of the sea.
One shining example of these famous Bagheria residences is Villa Valguarnera, designed by the architect Napoli. The villa was built over a period about seventy years starting at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and was one of the biggest and most sumptuous homes of all, with a grand circular courtyard, a monumental flight of steps, fine statues, and frescoes. Even today, Villa Valguarnera serves as a private residence, and so, unfortunately, is not open to visits by the public.


Returning to the City of Villas
Following the avenue of “historical villas” in the town center, the visitor will discover many lesser-known architectural jewels. Villa Trabia is private property, and though you can only see two of the mansion’s facades, people nevertheless go out of their way to catch a glimpse of its unique, two-color scheme. Also worth noting is park that surrounds the villa, in the neoclassical style. Villa Villarosa, completed at the end of the eighteenth century and attributed to the architect, Venanzio Marvuglia, can be visited by contacting the local entertainment committee (Pro Loco). The elevated villa is worth seeing for its grand staircase alone, leading to a portico famous for its series of eight Corinthian-style columns. Villa Ramacca, known for its adornment in maiolica ceramics, is situated in a splendid panoramic position within a lush garden of exotic plants. At Villa San Cataldo, built by the royal Galletti family of San Cataldo at the beginning of the seventeenth century, one can visit the incredible extensive gardens typical to that period of Sicily - this villa’s layout can be traced back to the foundation of the villa, along with a small family church and several inner courtyards. The villa was restructured in the nineteenth century in a neo-Gothic style, complete with corner towers, and today belongs to the Province of Palermo.
You can access the Villa Larderia, which currently houses a religious institute, by contacting the sisters who run the villa beforehand. There one can admire not only the villa itself, but also one other unique attraction—the rare and radiant stellar plant, not to be found in any other villas in the Palermo area. Unfortunately, the building is incomplete: it is missing an access step, a characteristic element of most Bagheria buildings.
Much like one of the wings of Palazzo Butera, the cathedral church of Bagheria was built through the initiative of one of the Princes of Butera, Salvatore Branciforti. The church had been open to the public since 1708, however, due to increased population, the cathedral proved inadequate after just a few decades. The new church was completed in 1777. The great square in front of it is now Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, which also marks the beginning of Corso Umberto I, the second most important street in the town The rebuilt church has a simple façade, adorned with pillars and columns. It was built using tufaceous stone from the nearby quarries, or pirrieri, at Aspra.
Curiously, there are no side aisles in the cathedral church at the palazzo. There are, however, various intriguing works of art, such as a wooden crucifix by Bagnasco and an eighteenth-century statue of the Madonna. There is also an impressive early twentieth-century fresco by the painter, De Simone, depicting Moses and the Consignment of the Table of Law, touching all four walls.
Follow the lively Corso Umberto and turn left to reach the Piazzetta San Sepolcro, home of a church of the same name, built in the first half of the eighteenth century, with renovations in 1866 and 1984. The present- day façade, made of Billiemi marble in neo-Gothic style, was finished in the early twentieth century. The interior of the church is decorated with eighteenth-century works of art, including the Grieving Virgin by Quattrocchi, and a depiction of the Passion of Jesus on the ceiling. The high, baroque-style marble altar serves as its centerpiece.
The building of Anime Sante church also dates from the eighteenth century. It was built on the spot where the Purgatorio church stood previously, in the square of the same name. The façade of Anime Sante, completed at the start of the twentieth-century, is in the neo-Norman style with three arched doorways. There is a large nave, with a ceiling frescoed by Bagheria painter, Onofrio Tomaselli, and two small side aisles. On the high altar there is a beautiful wooden statue of the Immaculate Virgin, much-revered by the citizens of Bagheria.
Among eighteenth-century buildings one should also take note of the Arch of the Most Holy Trinity (also known as the Arch of the Eternal Father), as well as the original entrance to Villa Palagonia. Often overlooked, these structures are actually urban models of major historical interest. Note the defense towers from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as the farms in the surrounding area, some of which are still operational.

Museums: pathways of memory
By contrast, one can explore Villa Aragona Cuto’, designed by the friar architect Giuseppe Mariani. Villa Cuto’ is now council property that houses, among other offices, the central library of Bagheria. Aragona Cuto’ is a massive structure that also serves as a base for a large outdoor gallery, complete with inlaid marble designs along a wide promenade, and providing incredible views of a vast panorama that reaches as far as Palermo. In fact, from here the Prince of Cuto’ was known to play host to guests as they took in the fireworks that were lit in the gulf of Palermo for the “Festino of Santa Rosalia.” Villa Aragona Cuto’ is special among the many elegant holiday homes that the Palermo aristocracy built in the eighteenth century in the Bagheria area. The structure is different from that of other country villas, more closely resembling that of city mansions. One example of this is the fact that the villa is actually u-shaped, with a large courtyard, or “cortile,” that is accessed through an archway. The access staircase to the house, itself, is inside the courtyard. Other important details are the rich frescoes of the salon walls, which were a strong trend in the eighteenth century aristocratic homes. Today, the stately salon of the Villa Cuto’ is also the home of a collection of antique toys belonging to Pietro Piraino, the Palermo restorative artist and wax modeler.

The Toy and Waxworks Museum
The Toy and Waxworks Museum, housed within the Villa Cuto’, boasts a collection of hundreds of pieces from many different eras and on many different themes: tools, small trains and automata, bells, dolls and tiny sets of saucepans, to name a few. In the first room we find delightful nativity scenes and models of the Baby Jesus in wax; some of these even go back to the eighteenth century, modeled according to the ceroplastic tradition, now a nearly lost art. There is also a space adjoining the museum where Pietro Piraino, himself, set up a small workshop for restoring toys, wax objects, cribs and other related paraphernalia.

Villa Cattolica Renato Guttuso Museum
Thanks to a generous donation of works by the artist, Renato Guttuso, the rooms at the eighteenth century Villa Cattolica are now home to a Municipal Gallery. Villa Cattolica, a curved, three-story structure surrounded by palm trees, does not only display work by Guttuso (including outdoor sculptures), but it also serves as a gallery and exhibition space for other important contemporary artists. One should further note that Guttuso’s remains rest in a monumental sarcophagus created by the sculptor, Giacomo Manzu’, in the main garden of the villa.


Museum of Cinematographic Art
from the Marx Brothers to Federico Fellini
Recently, a significant portion of the gallery at Villa Cattolica has been dedicated to the development of an exhibit on cinematographic art. Posters associated with early modern films are featured prominently, with a large selection of movie-posters that range from 1927 through 1984. The exhibit was developed in large part due to the generosity of the Lo Medico brothers, descendants of a Bagheria family of cinema managers. The Lo Medicos donated an extensive collection of film posters to the town, including ones for well-known titles such as “Federico Fellini’s “Roma,” and “A night in Casablanca ” by the Marx brothers. A poster for ‘Manon Lescaut,” a film that dates from 1928, when the cinema was still silent, is also included, as well as a poster for the film, “La Wally”, which happened to be the first movie with sound ever to be projected in Bagheria. It is difficult to overstate the importance of these posters, or the impact they had on the cinematographic community, since, at one time, they were the only methods of advertisement for films. Moreover, one learns that the drawings and photographs used to depict the movies were often entrusted to major artists, which not only adds to their great monetary value, but explains their particular beauty, as well.

The Sicilian Wagon Museum
Pictoral Art in Movement
Finally, in the outbuildings of the villa Cattolica, in a section that, until a few decades ago, was used as a post office, curators are currently setting up a Wagon Museum. Here one will explore the history, construction, and decoration of this very traditional Sicilian means of transportation. The wagon-- a large, decorative, animal-drawn cart of solid wood, has been the subject of many studies and tributes by various illustrious Bagheria citizens, and was even the subject of director Giuseppe Tornatore’s first short film, Il Carretto.
Despite the commune’s prominence in historical and cultural affairs, there were no asphalted roads in Bagheria until 1939. As a result, the wagon was the only means of transport. In fact, in 1934, the town had no fewer then twenty-five fully active carriage-makers’ workshops. Carpenters used walnut, beech or seasoned ash to build the wagons, which were later expertly carved and painted with resistant colors and linseed oil. On the sides, or masciddara, the painters depicted historical, spiritual, and fantastical images, including parables from the Old testament, the life of Jesus Christ, the Paladins of France, Orlando Furioso (an Italian medieval epic poem consisting of 46 cantos), Christopher Columbus, the Three Musketeers, events from Roman history, themes of famous operas, and hunting scenes. The greater or lesser degree of decoration of the wagon was an indication of prestige that reflected upon the owner. Some wagons were so grandly decorative, using techniques so laborious and precise that the artist, Renato Guttuso, once remarked that “The art of painting the wagon revealed a natural artistic sense that went beyond the sphere of craft and belonged to the reasons of painting”.

Feasts and Traditions
St. Joseph, Patron Saint of Bagheria
Not only can you see and taste them, but you can dip into the colors and flavors of the town’s past during the feast of the patron saint, St. Joseph. The festival of St. Joseph is currently held during the first week of August, a date that was chosen in order to allow Sicilian emigrants in other parts of the world to return and take part in the historical and folk memories of the town. Amid the sounds of the “tammurinara”(drummers), and the colors of nougat and nut stands (turrunara and caliara), the folklore of Sicilian carts and the carters’ songs fill the streets of the town. The joy and excitement of the experience is like breathing magic air, as layers of history and past cultures arouse intense emotions in the visitor. The event culminates in a sensational fireworks display.
The actual feast of St. Joseph falls on the 19th of March. On that day, the town inevitably comes to a standstill as residents assist in the procession of the simulacrum. There is also large wood bonfire on the eve of the procession. The celebration of St. Joseph is a manifestation of the anthropological phenomenon of the contradictions of man, perpetually poised between the sacred and the esoteric, befitting an ancestral culture. Not to mention the prominence of gastronomy in these celebratory events, where the traditional Sicilian sweets known as sfince, soft pockets of fried pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate bits and topped with candied fruit, are a main attraction.

Bagheria in America
You are welcome to enjoy a spectacle of arts coming from a city of ancient history...
Beautiful Villas immersed in a lush territory of citrus gardens facing the generous blue sea of Sicily. Experience the fruits of our land with all of your senses...





St. Peter, San Antonio
Celebrations in June

Summer in Bagheria/Estate Bagherese
15 June/30 September
Culture, folklore, sport and music

Various events

Various events

Sicilian Gastronomy
Bagheria is to be enjoyed not only through seeing, but with all of the senses, particularly smell and taste, as the town has a vast array of gastronomic delights to offer its visitors.Walking along the town’s side streets, you come across many old taverns, or trattorie, their framework infused with the scent of meat and old barrels; fried food stands coffee bars; and gelato shops
Nature’s flavors combine in harmony with Sicilian traditions of blending cultures and crafts, the end result being a cuisine all their own, influenced by Arab, Norman and Spanish techniques and ingredients.
Bread rolls with “panelle” (chickpea fritters); focaccia stuffed with ricotta cheese; eggplant parmigiana (a dish that many are surprised to learn is Sicilian by origin) “arancine” (crispy fried rice balls); pasta with sardines; roasted cauliflower with pasta; roast lamb and pork sausage; “braciole,” (meat stuffed with nuts and raisins); salted anchovies and other fresh fish from the Aspran waters... Desserts are equally as tempting, with the “cassata,” a traditional Sicilian cake layered with sweetened, chocolate-studded ricotta, marzipan, and candied fruit taking central importance within a large collection of sweets. Crispy cannoli filled with ricotta-based cream and topped with pistachio, sfinge and other fried pastries, pistachio and lemon gelato churned in the rustic artisan manner, and various fruit and almond-based confections round out a list of sweet delicacies typical to the region. And these are just a few examples of the diverse and exciting Sicilian culinary tradition. Sicilian cuisine, like so many aspects of our culture, represents the historical, cultural, artistic and architectural evolution that the various explorers, conquerors, and developers gave our people.

Alla corte di Don Giuseppe di Chiarello
via Farina, 8 tel. 091 96 91 76

Aries Ristorante
via Dante, 69
tel. 091 96 56 88

Il Barone di Munchausen
di Pintacuda Sergio & c.
via Pintacuda, 47
tel. 091 90 04 30

Il Melograno
via. B. Mattarella, 142
tel. 091 90 24 31

I Malavoglia
Corso Butera, 9
tel. 091 90 91 72

Antica Trattoria Al Carretto di Martorana F.sco
via Papa Giovanni XXIII, 170 tel. 091 90 28 85

Al Baglio
via del Cavaliere
tel. 091 90 13 91

Da Giovanni il Conte
via Filippo Buttitta, 40
tel. 091 96 27 29

Don Ciccio del figlio Santo
Via del Cavaliere, 87
tel. 091 93 24 42

Trattoria del Conte
via Federico II, 48
tel. 091 93 17 12

Trattoria da Melchiorre
figlio di Don Ciccio
Contrada Consona
tel. 091 93 40 93

Trattoria Zzà Maria
via Paternò, 11
tel. 091 93 13 88

Trattoria Don Ciccio
di Buttitta Giuseppe
via Stazione, 8
tel. 091 93 43 66

Focacceria di Buttitta Mimmo
via De Spuches, 34
tel. 091 90 31 24

Antica Focacceria Chiello
fondata nel 1856
Piazza Sepolcro, 18

Litomil Pivo srl
di Lo Galbo Donatella
via B. Mattarella, 62
tel. 091 90 24 41

Matahari Bistrot srl
via Dante, 56
tel. 091 96 15 19

Mineo's Pizza House
via G.F. Malipiero, 6
tel. 091 96 43 69

Villa Cavaretta
Ss. 113 Km 249
tel. 091 96 20 02

Theatres / Cinemas
Via C. Scianna, 34
tel. 091 90 29 45

via Roma, 8
tel. 091 93 19 35

Supercinema Multisala
via Carà, 186
tel. 091 96 95 78

Museums, Villas and Art Galleries
Villa Cattolica. Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea "Renato Guttuso"
SS 113 Km 248
tel. 091 90 54 38 - 94 33 52

Museum di Ezio Pagano
via Città di Palermo, 158
tel. 091 90 39 71

Bottega delle Arti
via Consolare, 177
tel. 091 90 45 55

Nature's Riches and Antique Custom
ASPRA “a window on the sea”
The wealth of Bagheria is not limited to history and monuments, but lives on in the landscape. Natural treasures include the picturesque valley of the river Eleuterio; the park of Monte Catalano with its caverns, tunnels, and 26 wild varieties of orchid; and the lively seaside village of Aspra, known for its breathtaking beaches and cliffs which serve as an enchanting backdrop for locals and tourist alike. To the residents of Bagheria, Aspra is known as their “window on the sea,” and is the location of the annual sea feast, also known as the feast of the “Grieving Virgin,” held there in September of each year, a perfect example of the unmistakable bond between island natives and the water that surrounds them.
The story of Aspra is inextricably linked to that of Bagheria. Today, the economic development of our territory relies on the support of numerous fish and conserve industries active in the seaside area, which, beginning at the start of the twentieth century, have both provided employment, and contributed to the positive and hardworking image of our people. While exploring Aspra, one should visit the church in Piazza Maggiore Cipolla, which enjoys the distinction of frescoes painted by internationally-renowned local artist, Renato Guttuso when he was a young man. The beauty of the ragged coastline is not to be missed-- along it you will find “The blue Arch”, a natural wonder of the world, and the caves rising over the ocean at “Capo Zafferano".

Useful Information
Area code

Town Hall
Corso Umberto I° 165
tel. 091 94 31 11

Municipal Police
Via Consolare n. 251
tel. 091 94 35 07

Tourist information office
Villetta Ugdulena
tel. 091 94 32 98
fax 091 94 32 97

First Aid
Via Franz Listz 32/34
tel. 091 99 13 16

City Police Forces
Emergency Number: tel. 112
Via E.Basile 79
tel. 091 81 69 930

Emergency Number: tel. 113
Via G.La Masa, 60
tel. 091 92 10 11

Revenue Guard Corp
Via Roccaforte, 99
tel. 091 93 10 66

Transport and Communications
Railway Station
Piazza Stazione, 7
tel. 091/ 931997

Post Office and Phone Connections
Direzione Provinciale PT
Via Carà tel. 091 96 78 70

english translation by VALERIA R. CASALE
Region of Sicily

City of Bagheria

Bagheria Urban Project


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