Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town with tanti beddi cosi

vincent-schiavelli-polizzi-generosaI wrote this post from the heart, because many of you asked me to write and give information about the Sicilian town of Polizzi Generosa. There isn’t so much information around the web and some of it is not so complete to understand why you should visit it. This is a small town in the province of Palermo with not over 3500 inhabitants. This is important for Sicily and for you because it is also the brightest symbol of Sicilian history of the past century. Polizzi Generosa is the emblem of what Sicily is: a beautiful land with a wonderful landscape, but with poor job opportunities for its people. For this reason, in the past century, many Sicilians (they could be your grandparents, parents and even yourself) were forced to leave Sicily, also by boat, with a cardboard suitcase to seek for a job or a better future in the US. Nowadays, it is very normal that there are many natives of Polizzi than Americans in the US. The former Sicilian migrants are fairly abundant abroad, especially the ones coming from this Sicilian town. These former migrants also include very famous people such as the grandparents of director Martin Scorsese, the parents of the American actor Vincent Schiavelli (see the image), who was buried just in this Sicilian town after passing away in 2005. Schiavelli starred a ghost in the namesake movie of 1990. His famous sentence in Sicilian was “Tanti beddi cosi”, “Many beautiful things”, to wish good things to people. Just think this sentence is also the title of a book written by the actor to remember his Sicilian birth town.  Another famous native of Polizzi Generosa is Domenico Dolce, one of the two members of the Dolce & Gabbana Italian Fashion House. Hence, if you want to feel the scent of Sicily again, the noise of the trees during a windy day or the clouds surrounding Polizzi Generosa on the mountains, you should come to this town once again. This Sicilian destination has also healthy typical food, stunning artisanal products, medieval alleys and monuments and a pretty natural reserve near the mouth of the Imera river. As usual, I invite you to read the following paragraphs to get a clear overview about Polizzi Generosa.

Tourist information

polizzi-generosaPolizzi Generosa is in the district of Palermo, at the entrance of the fabulous Madonie Park. It seems like a town suspended in the sky, because it is just perched on a chain of mountains. In the early hours of the morning, at a distance, you can also see this small town surrounded by mist and the effect is similar to a fairy town. The name of the town comes from the Greek name Polis, also used by the Byzantines. The name became Polizzi in the following centuries. The second name, Generosa (generous), comes from the King Frederick II, who decided to call this place generous because when he arrived in the town, in 1234, he was well welcomed by the people. In Sicilian, Polizzi Generosa is also called Pulizzi Ginirusa. The town also boasts an excellent record of modernity because it has had several hospitals and fountains since the Middle Age and is was also the first town to get electric light in 1901 when other cities still had gas lamps. The town allows you to visit the Madonie Park and other important Sicilian destinations such as Cefalù. However, since this is a medieval place, you can also see several tourist attractions in Polizzi Generosa.

What to see in Polizzi Generosa

You can visit Polizzi Generosa for the landscape and for the architectural style. I suggest that you start with the latter. As many Sicilian towns, Polizzi Generosa has many ancient palaces and churches you can visit while you walking the downtown.

What to see in the downtown

gagliardo-palaceIn the Matteotti street, just to the Eastern entrance of the town, you can admire the Carmine Church and the convent built in 1549. Both of these buildings are surrounded by a picturesque landscape. Moving on Borghese street, you can enjoy a large underlying valley and visit the museum of Rampolla Collection, where are exhibited many ancient electric tools dating back to 1895 and 1960. As soon as you arrive in the Umberto I square, on the left you can walk Cardinale Mariano Rampolla street, where, on the right, you can see (walking toward Carlo V street), the magnificent Gagliardo Palace ( see the image), built in the XVI century by La Farina family and embellished with precious decorations. Today, the palace hosts a luxury restaurant where you can also spend your wedding party. You can also rent this palace –from 15 June al 30 July and from 1° September to 30 October.

Walking the same street, you’ll reach the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, called Badia Nuova, with the adjacent Benedictine monastery. Passing over Medici square, on the right, you’ll see San Nicolò De Francis Church. This is one among the most ancient churches of the town because it was built in 1167. The church was renewed in 1260 with a chapel in memory of the Protector of Polizzi Generosa, Saint Gandolfo. A few further steps, you can see the ancient Monastery of Santa Margherita or “Badia Vecchia” built in 1400 and renewed in 1660. The monastery was destroyed in 1950 and today there are the namesake church and a school that replaced the building of the monastery. Inside the church there are precious ceramic tiles that also are one the most important products of Polizzi Generosa. Walking the alley of the Capuchins to Gagliardo street and the square of the castle, you’ll see the ruins of an ancient castle used by King Roger to protect the town. Unfortunately, many architectural buildings are only ruins nowadays, but don’t worry, rather, keep calm and follow my travel itinerary to discover what to see in this town. Another building you can still visit is the Environmental Museo of Madonie. The museum is in an ancient palace (Notarbartolo Palace) built just near a part of the Castle I mentioned above. This museum reproduces the same landscape of the Madonie Park, plants, rocks and animals to show the deep relationship between humans and nature. This museum can be visited after booking, from Monday to Sunday from 09.00 to 13.00.

polizzi-generosa-mother-churchIn Rome street, there is also a gothic Church dedicated to Saint Francisco. Renewed in 1800, today the church should host meetings and workshops. Down Rome street, there is the cathedral of the town, namely The Mother Church( see the image), this is the main church of Polizzi Generosa dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Its origin is unknown, but it is probably in the XI century. Renewed in 1887, the church has still gothic elements. The external entrance is magnificent with a beautiful stair, while inside, there are stunning and valuable marble statues along with an Eighteenth century organ and the silver urn keeping the remains of the protector of Polizzi. The other churches you can visit are: San Gandolfo la Povera, the protector of Polizzi, San Girolamo, San Pancrazio and Udienza church , the church of Santa Maria Lo Piano, Chiesa della SS.Trinità dei cavalieri Teutonici, Chiesa di S.Antonio Abate, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Porta o degli Schiavi, Chiesa di Sant’Orsola, della Commenda, di Santa Caterina. From this last church you can reach the hermitage of Saint Gandolfo and admire the surrounding landscape. Near San Girolamo Church, you can see the municipal palace, a former Jesuit convent that today hosts the archaeological museum with remains of the Hellenistic age found just in this zone. Inside, there is the municipal library that keeps ancient manuscripts. The Municipal palace should also host the custom and toy museum. The museum of the toy keeps the most ancient toys of Sicily. Unfortunately, the museum is being undergone to renovation works and it can’t be visited currently. You can visit the archaeological museum from Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 – 13.00; opened in the afternoon from April to September. on Saturday and Sunday 15.00 -18.30. Closed on Monday. The visit is free the first Sunday of the month.
The other churches of Polizzi are Saint Nicola, opened during the feast of August 15, the Church of Saint Nicola of the mills, dedicated to the workers of the Sicilian mill, the church of the Pietatella and the church of the Saint Mary of collection built thanks to the funds of devotees. I know, there are too many churches in this town, but they are a good occasion to discover many valuable sculptures and decorations and ancient Sicilian habits. From Garibaldi street, instead, on the right, there is a large stair leading to Carpinello square, where is the namesake palace. This has two floors and a long façade with ancient meridians. This was the seat of the Secrezia Court that managed the financial power of the city.

Nature attractions

polizzi-generosa-viewThe natural landscape of Polizzi Generosa is stunning and  breathtaking. As I said, the town is divided by the mouth of Imera river. It lies in the mountains of Madonie that are an important nature Park with abundant flora and fauna. I’ll talk about this Park in another post, here, I want to only show the beautiful places that surround Polizzi Generosa. The town is nestled on a limestone mount at 917 metres on the sea level. This position offers an extremely evocative sight that towers over the two wide valleys of the Imera river. The Northern valley has lush hazelnut, fruit and olive trees, while the Southern one has wheat and pasture fields. The landscape offered by this charming town is enriched with the spell of the high peaks of the Madonie mounts which surrounding the valleys. From here, in the cloudless days, you see the sea at a distance. Extremely touching is the phenomenon called “maretta”, when a soft sea foam and clouds wrap the town and create an unreal landscape ( see the image). The small village seems to float over this foamy wave, unveiling a fabulous sight, such as stone isles suspended between the earth and the sky. The landscape is really fabulous in the winter, also, when the snow covers the mountains as a real nativity scene. The Madonie park that you can visit while you are in Polizzi Generosa is a real paradise for hikers. In this zone, you can climb Pizzo Carbonara mount , that is the second highest mount of Sicily, after Etna. From Polizzi, the round trip is about 2 half an hour, but since the path is fairly steep and not secure, it is better you hike only with good weather . From this mount you can admire a stunning and unforgettable sight of the entire Sicily. On the North Western side of the Cervi Mount, instead, you can admire a valley called Il Manico della Padella ( the handle of the Pan) , a small valley with a form of a pan just engraved on the side of the mount. Another thing you must visit is the Valley of mills located in the North side of Imera river. This is also a nature reserve, also called “ Flomaria molendinorum” or Flomaria dei Mulini, characterized by many hazelnut trees and picturesque mills dating back to the XII century. There are several mills that witness the ancient milling work . Unfortunately, you can only visit one of them, called Pitta mill.

Typical products and food in Polizzi Generosa

hazelnut- festival-polizzi-generosaThis Sicilian town is greatly appreciated for its typical products and food, also. Here, you can taste olives, hazelnut and delicious Sicilian pasta, made with original wheat of Sicily. From August 18, you can also attend the hazelnut festival with a parade of Sicilian carts, Sicilian donkeys and groups of people dressed with typical Sicilian clothes ( see the image). In addition to these products, you can also taste a delicious Sicilian soup made with a local food called “badda” in the Sicilian language. These are beans with a rounded shape which is like a small ball. These legumes can have a white colour with purple or black spots. Thanks to the “ badda”, Polizzi generosa is a Slow Food Presidium , now. There also are many talented artisans in Polizzi Generosa who made stunning artworks , tiles and pottery with ceramic. This material is also another typical product of Polizzi. Sometimes, you can also visit their laboratories to see how they make their artworks, but this visit should be booked calling the municipal clerk on the phone.

How to get to Polizzi Generosa

You have several options to get to Polizzi Generosa. You can reach the town by plane and by car. You can land at Palermo – Punta Raisi Airport that is 115 km from Polizzi Generosa, this is the nearest point to reach the town.  You can also land at Catania Fontanarossa airport or at Comiso airport, but these are over 140 km of distance from Polizzi and I don’t know if you can find a transfer to get to the town.

I knew about other transfers by train or boat, but the stations to reach Polizzi result to be abandoned and transfers by boat are not always available. To reach the town from the airport of Palermo or Catania, the best option  is to rent a car.

To surely reach Polizzi Generosa, follow the path by plane and by car. To find cheap flights to Palermo airport, you can see this link.  After landing at Palermo airport, take a taxi or a car and follow this road: ride Palermo-Catania highway ( A19) and exit the road junction to Scillato. Continue driving for a further 18 kms on the SS 643. If you rent a car from Catania, instead, ride Palermo- Catania highway ( A19) and exit the road junction to Tre Monzelli. Continue driving on the SS 120 and 643 for a total of about 14km.
If you want to reach Polizzi from Messina by car, ride Palermo Messina highway ( A20) and enter Palermo Catania ( A19) highway. Exit the road junction to Scillato and continue driving for about 18 kms on the SS 643.

Where to stay in Polizzi Generosa
farmhouse-polizzi-generosaIf you come from Polizzi, I suppose you also have the home of your relatives to stay in this town. You could also stay in Palermo and do a trip to Polizzi for a day, only. If you want to stay just in this charming Sicilian place, but you don’t have your own home or the one of friends and relatives, you can book some pretty and picturesque accommodations ( see the image of The Feudo San Giorgio), with the architectural style of the Sicilian countryside. Polizzi is, indeed, a rural and mountain place, with fresh air and lush green. Here, you can breathe all the Sicilian oxygen to detox your mind and your body. Plants, wood and trees are in front of you to tell about the nature and the history of Sicily and above all about Polizzi Generosa. That is why you should stay in a villa or chalet or a rural house. The latter is often offered by farmhouses. Many farmhouses are placed in the heart of the Madonie Park, just at a short distance from the center of Polizzi Generosa and a few kms Palermo . The prices for a room in Polizzi Generosa go from 35 to 150 euros.

You can book the accommodations I described here at this link.

Photocredits:

Vincent-Schiavelli-Polizzi Generosa -www.grifoeventi.it

Polizzi Generosa view – blog.listentosicily.it

Polizzi Generosa Mother Church – www.cefalumadoniehimera.it

Polizzi Generosa maretta – www.parchiletterari.com

Gagliardo Palace: www.alidimare.net

Hazelnut festival -www.prolocopolizzi.it

Polizzi Generosa accommodation: www.feudosangiorgio.it

6 thoughts on “Polizzi Generosa, the Sicilian town with tanti beddi cosi

    1. Rosalba

      Thank you so much MC for your kind comment.
      Sorry for my late reply, I was engaged to write new articles about Sicily in the past days.
      I also hope you’ll visit this town, one day.

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