Gangi, a gem of ancient secrets and traditions

Gangi in the winterIf you think of visiting the town of Gangi, in Sicily, you should absolutely read my travel post. I know that much information has been published about this village, recently. Some sources also say that Gangi is the most beautiful village of Italy. Is this true or not? As a good and careful Sicilian, I noticed that information on Gangi is fairly poor and partially incomplete. For this reason, I strongly invite you to read this post about Gangi, because you’ll discover many further things about this town. If  you are ready to know more about Gangi, follow the paragraphs below.

Where is Gangi

GangiGangi is an ancient village in the province of Palermo, which overlooks the stunning landscape of the Madonie mounts. Just in these mountains, it is a beautiful natural Park. For this reason, the landscape of Gangi is really breathtaking and always for this reason, the town has been rewarded as the most beautiful village of Italy. The village is nestled on Marone Mount, surrounded by green hills and with the stunning view of Etna in front of it ( see the image).  Just think that Gangi is one of the few points of the West of Sicily where you can see Etna volcano. The town is located on the ruins of a Hellenic settlement. Walking a small road, you arrive in a true medieval village surrounded by medieval and ancient walls. The downtown was fully rebuilt in 1300, after the destruction occurred in the war of the Sicilian Vespers. Nowadays, Gangi is regarded as the most beautiful historical town of Italy, a magical and silent place among culture, tradition and stunning views. There, you’ll also have the opportunity to listen to your soul and contemplate the beauty of nature.

History

valguarnera palaceThe history of Gangi is intertwined with reality and legend.

According to a  legend, after losing their ships and  their warlord, the Cretans came to Sicily by following Minosse in the search for Dedalo.

Afterwards,  they decided to settle in Gangi  and founded  the settlement of Minoa. Some of them arrived up to the more internal town, where they  founded the city of Engyon and built a temple devoted to the mother goddesses.  Over the years,  the village became  strong and powerful and the temple filled with many treasures. For this reason, it was taken over by the Romans.  But maybe this is only a legend. The true story of Gangi, instead, dates back to the Middle Age. At that time, the town belonged to Geraci county, under the domination of Guerrera countess. There was also a fortress, built on the rock and dating back the Byzantine or Saracen age.  From the XIII century to 1625, Gangi belonged to Ventimiglia family. In 1299, the town was destroyed during the battle of the Vespers and the new village was rebuilt on Marone mount. To protect it from further raids, the village was surrounded by high walls  and defense towers.  During that time, also the beautiful  Ventimiglia tower was built.  The access roads of the town were very small and narrow and these features made it still more attractive.  In the Middle age, Gangi was also ruled by several religious orders which built many churches.  In the XVIII century instead, artists and  writers settled in Gangi along with the local owners of the town’s lands. In the late XVIII and the early XIX century, the most notorious palaces of the town were built, including the municipal Palace. The latter, with a new gothic  style.   The history of the following years witnessed the slow decline of the local aristocracy,  Italy reunification and the two world wars, but above all, in the early years of the past century, Gangi witnessed the most incisive and firm battle against the Sicilian Mafia. This battle was conducted by Prefect Cesare Mori. Many mobsters were imprisoned thank to him and some of them escape  to the US and Argentina.  Also Gangi is the most sublime symbol of the fight against the Mafia. For this reason, you must visit it! In the past century, unfortunately,  emigration didn’t concern only the fugitive mobsters, but also the local inhabitants. The phenomenon  continued  in our century.  Many people, men and women, flee from Gangi to search for a better future abroad and to find a job. The economic crisis and the lack of job opportunities forced many Sicilians to leave Gangi and the town ended up abandoned with the population decreased from 16000 to less than 6000 inhabitants.

In 2014, to foster tourism and the resettlement of Gangi, the mayor launched an unusual initiative: selling the houses of Gangi for one euro.

Gangi houses for sale at 1 euro

Gangi-alleyUnfortunately, this town became very famous all over the world just for what I said in the paragraph above, namely for the houses of the town for sale at one euro. In reality, they would have been sold for one euro, but provided that the new owner paid for 35,000 euros of renovation works, at least. The price of 1 euro was only symbolic. In 2014, foreign people invaded Gangi to buy these notorious houses for an euros, while they found owners who sold their old houses for 15,000 euros, instead! I think that if you want to visit Gangi to buy houses for one euro, it is better you don’t move from your home. Do you really want to buy a property in Sicily for an euros and then spend 35,000, 40, 000 euros to renovate it? I don’t think. Often I receive messages from foreign buyers interested in cheap properties for sale in Sicily, but when it is the moment to buy, they step backward and never buy! The homes of Gangi offered for free or for 1 euro were only abandoned, ruined and crumbled homes that needed to be razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. The positive side has been that the initiative rebooted tourism in Gangi. Hence, visit Gangi for vacation or for your holidays in Sicily, but forget the sale of the houses for free or for one euro.

What to do in Gangi

ventimiglia castleIn Gangi you can do many things. The most important are the ones to visit the main tourist attractions of the village.  Since Gangi  is nestled in the mountains and is formed by narrow alleys, you must stroll these alleys to visit all of its  attractions. The town is very small, anyway,  and you can visit it in a weekend. Through these alleys, you’ll see the ancient houses curled up among them. They shaped  a unique downtown with the churches and their tower bells.  Through the stunning view of Popolo square, you can also admire the  beneath valley and the roofs of the medieval houses, along with the cone of Etna mount.  Among them,  you can visit,  the noble Palaces, such as palazzo Spadari, which is the seat of a Museum, and Bongiorno Palace, which is the seat of the municipality. The entire town of Gangi is surmounted by Ventimiglia castle ( see the image),  built in XIV century on the will of Francesco I Ventimiglia. It is on Barone Mount, at a height of 1000 meters. The main façade overlooks Valguarnera square, among two ancient towers and a classical medieval doorway.

The most picturesque tourist attractions of Gangi are the churches, such as the mother church, Holy Spirit Church, San Paolo Church and San Cataldo church. In  the mother church  you can also visit the crypt of the dead priests.

Gangi crypt and mummies

gangi mummiesIn the Mother Church of Gangi, you can visit a crypt containing the corpses of mummified priests. In the town, the crypts is called” the tomb of the dead priests, “a fossa de parrini” in Sicilian. It consists of two large and adjacent rooms connected to the dark basements of the church. The basements are closed nowadays , but in the past they also were used as burials. In the internal zone of the Crypt, you can see a drier that was used to dry the corpses and drain the body liquids. The corpses were mummified through a natural method. The same corpses were covered with sacerdotal garments. The heads were detached from the corpses, waxed and hung to a stick to be better preserved. Every niche, which contains the corpses, is labeled with the names and the works of the dead priests, in order to make known what they did during gangi crypttheir earthly life. The crypt of the dead priests is a particular burial containing the corpses of the priests who carried out their religious functions in this town between 1728 and 1871. This crypt also contains the corpse of the famous Sicilian priest, poet and medic Giuseppe Fedele Vitale. His tomb was found closed with two locks during the renovation works of the crypt. The reason of this is perhaps linked to the death of this priest, who committed suicide and for this he didn’t deserve to be resurrected and exposed to the public. Soon before to enter the crypt, on the wall above the stair, you’ll read the following words: “The living ones go down, to visit death, before that death falls over to visit you. It is always good to prevent the fate”. It is a spiritual warn to address your life to God. Entering the crypt, you can see an entrance hall, the ancient seat of a catholic order , where you can admire the pictures and frescoes dating back 1735. On the opposite side, you’ll see the mummies, standing up in the niches and held by an invisible stick, dressed with a sacerdotal hat and religious garments. Some of them are well preserved, others are rotten and covered with wax. On the niches, you’ll see shelves containing other burials with corpses of other fathers and priests. To visit Gangi crypt and for more information about opening hours, you can see the official website of the town.

How to get to Gangi

Gangi viewGangi is located out of the borders of the province of Palermo, 120 km away from this city. It lies on Marone mount. There, the village appears as a rocky cone with leaning houses separated from two large valleys, where two rivers, Gangi and Rainò, run. You can get to Gangi by plane, train, car, bus and by boat. By plane, you must land at Palermo airport. Then, you can take a bus to go to Cefalù or Gangi. You can also go to Palermo rail station by taxi and from there reach Gangi by train. You can also go to Palermo port by taxi and go to Gangi by boat. From Palermo airport to can also take a bus to easily reach Cefalù, Gangi and Catania. If you want to reach Gangi by car, follow this pathway:
From Palermo: Highway A19, interchange Irosa, Blufi, forks of Madonnunna , Petralia Soprana and Geraci Siculo, toward Sperlinga, Nicosia. From Palermo, you can also follow the interchange Tremonzelli , forks of Polizzi Generosa, Castellana Sicula, Petralia Sottana, Geraci Siculo (toward Sperlinga) and Nicosia. However, the second pathway is  longer than the first.
From Catania: Highway A19, interchange Mulinello, Leonforte, fork of Nicosia, Sperlinga.

If you are already in Cefalù, you can get to Gangi through S.S 286 torward Castelbuono and Geraci Siculo.

GANGI HOTELS AND ACCOMMODATIONS

In Gangi, hotels and accommodations have the same charm of the village. They have a medieval style and give the impression to travel back in time. Gangi is far from the beaches and hotels and accommodation are located on the mountains and in the green and stunning Sicilian countryside. They fit a quiet vacation in any season. Just because the hotels are distant from the beaches of Palermo and Cefalù, reservation prices are fairly affordable. Indeed, reservation prices start from 45 euros. However, in summer, they could be higher. Gangi is also suitable to live an enjoyable experience of rural tourism, in the picturesque farmhouses located on the Madonie mounts. They have been gained from the renovation of ancient medieval castles and palaces. Today, even the famous Ventimiglia castle, one of the most important tourist attractions of Gangi, is a hotel managed by private owners. To book a stunning accommodation in Gangi, you can click this link.

Photocredits in order of appearance:

Mobilita.org

Asarca.com

Raffaella Fazio

Balarm.it

Vice.com

Iinegozidigangi.it

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