Sambuca is a small village which became very famous some months ago. This Sicilian town was indeed mentioned by tons of international newspapers, because the mayor put the houses of the village on sale for one euro. From that day, tons of people have arrived in the village from all over the world, to buy their house for one euro. However, Sambuca is much more than a place where you can buy low cost property. It is a historical and picturesque town with a bright past and a likewise interesting future. If you are ready to know more about this town, go to the paragraphs below.
Where is Sambuca
Sambuca is a small village located in the province of Agrigento. It lies on a low hill, 357 meters above the sea level. Nowadays, it has less than 6,000 inhabitants. For this reason, the municipality launched the idea to sell their houses for one euro. That is only a way to revitalize tourism in a place which has been steadily abandoned by its people. Sambuca is also 78 km away from Palermo and 89 kms away from Agrigento. The town is also near another beautiful Sicilian village, namely Sciacca, only 34 kms away. I’ll talk about the latter in a future post. For the moment, let’s stay focused on Sambuca. A few years ago, the town was also included among the most beautiful villages of Italy, for its historical, artistic and cultural relevance and its habitable environment.
The origin of the name
The name of Sambuca stems from the Arab name of the castle founded by the emir Al-Zabut. In Arab, this name means “the splendid”, for his value. The castle worked as a fortress to defend the Arabs from their enemies. According to others, the name derives from the elderberry plant or from the architectural style of the village, which resembles a music instrument, namely: a small harp called sambuca.
Archaeological digs prove that Sambuca was inhabited by the Greeks coming from Selinunte and Agrigento.
The ancient Greek settlement of the village was called Adranone. In the V century B.C, the Carthaginians razed the settlement to the ground. The survivors, hence, moved to the bottom valley, where they settled the rural hamlet of Adragnus. During the Early Christian age, the rural hamlet became the hamlet of Adragna.
In this hamlet, in 830 A.C, the Arab Emir Al-Zabut built the castle with his name. Today, you can see the tower overlooking the town. It resembles a temple (see the image). The tower of the castle of Zabut was the guardian of the valley.
The Arabs lived in Sambuca until 1225, when they surrendered to the army of King Frederick II. However, the signs of the Arab domination can still be observed in the architectural style of the village and in the local culture. After several sales, the town belonged to noble families until the XIX century. In 1863, the name the town became Sambuca-Zabut, but for an order of the Fascist government, it was turned into the Italian name Sambuca di Sicilia. The history of Sambuca is the proof that the village has always been a place for sale, as nowadays. But, I want you to consider it a relevant tourist attraction, also, because it is really worth a visit.
What to see and do
In Sambuca, you can do and see many things, not only properties for sale.
Indeed, the downtown has an acropolis and a picturesque district with narrow alleys. They show all of the beauty of this town. Furthermore, in Sambuca, you can hike Genuardo Mount. You can explore the mount on a mountain bike, also. This mount is just in the area of the village. The area also includes the zone of Santa Maria del Bosco and il Bosco del Pomo. In turn, this lush wood is a part of a Nature Reserve to explore and admire. The reserve is 1180 meters above the sea level and is placed on the ancient Greek settlement called Adranone. In the East of Genuardo Mount, you’ll see the valley with the Arab castles. They controlled the trade roads of the port of Sciacca up to Palermo.
Orange lake, instead, is an artificial basin, where are trekking paths behind. One of them goes along the gorge leading to Sciacca, namely: Tardara gorge. You must pay a visit, at least, to the tower of Pandolfina (see the image), dating back to the XV century. It rises to defend the farm and the tower of Cellaro (XI century), on the side of the lake. The tower also served to defend the nearby ruins of the Arab small fort of Mazzallakkar (see the image below).
From the lake, through the SS 188 driveway, you’ll reach the grottoes called Misilbes, dug alongside the hill like Egyptian temples. In 1960, the famous Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia wrote that they were marvelous and fairy. To the North of the downtown, you’ll find the church of Santa Maria di Adragna, known as “Bammina”. It is one of the most ancient churches of this territory. It seems to stem from a primitive temple annexed to the ancient settlement of Adragna. At last, you can visit the archaeological site placed on Adranone Mount.
Those who don’t love trekking, can visit the theatre. You must know that Sambuca hosts one of the most ancient theatres of Western Sicily. At 40 kms, in Gibellina, you can also visit the Cretto by Alberto Burri. That is one of the most important and impressive land art works of the past century. Moreover, on the August 10, namely the night of saint Lorenzo, you can also attend a festival called Calici di Stelle (goblets of stars). This event is held in the breathtaking landscape of the Arab district, and is enriched with art galleries, street shows and wine tastings.
What to eat
In Sambuca, you can taste a famous typical Sicilian cake called “minni di virgini” (the breasts of virgins). That is a delicious dough, stuffed with milk cream, chocolate and candied pumpkin, covered with icing sugar. The shape of the dough is just the one of a breast. According to the Sicily’s tradition, the recipe was invented by a nun of the Convent of Mary, charged, in 1725, by the marquise of Sambuca, to prepare a cake for the son’s wedding. Sister Virginia got her idea from the shape of the hills that surround Sambuca and created the cake I just described here. This shape is alike a breast and due to the fact that the dough was invented by a nun (it supposed that nuns are virgin), it was called minni di virgini.
In the town of Sambuca, you can also taste the Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, delicious ovine cheese, ricotta and the famous vastedda from Belice Dop. That is a filate pasta cheese entirely made from the milk of sheep and with the awesome shape of flat bread (vastedda in Sicilian). Another recipe you can eat in Sambuca is the “maccu”, that is a delicious fava beans puree. You can eat this recipe, for free, on August 5, on the occasion of a local festival held near the castle.
Sambuca properties for sale
As said before, this village gained international fame for the initiative of the mayor to sell the abandoned houses for one euro only. The same initiative was launched some years ago in Gangi. In reality, one euro is only the start, because you must be committed to renovate the property you bought, spending 15,000 euros, at least (if you see the image above, I think you must spend more than 15,000 euros to renovate it). The initiative has been launched to revitalize tourism in the village and foster the resettlement. Due to the economic crisis, in fact, many people left Sambuca to search for a job elsewhere. Repopulate this picturesque town will give the locals a new hope and propel an economic and tourist revival. For information about properties for sale at one euro in Sambuca, visit the official website of the Municipality.
How to reach Sambuca
To reach Sambuca from your Country, you must land at Palermo airport. Indeed, Sambuca is about 80 kms away from Palermo. To reach the downtown, I advise you rent a car. As soon as you arrived in the town, especially if you visit it in the summer, I suppose you want to see the beaches. The beaches are 15 kms away from this village and you must use the car to reach them. However, if you have the courage to take this further trip, you’ll visit the awesome bay of Portopalo of Menfi, in Agrigento. If you want to stay in Sambuca, instead, I advise you read the latest paragraph, where you’ll have interesting information about the restaurants and the hotels in the village.
Hotels and restaurants in Sambuca
The village is very small and has not many restaurants. A good solution is the one to find a hotel with a good restaurant annexed.
I searched this place for you and I advise you to reserve a room at Don Giovanni Hotel. This accommodation (see the image) is 3,5 kms away from the downtown of Sambuca, in a countryside with olive trees and grapevine. The hotel has a swimming pool and a restaurant that serves international dishes and famous food of the Sicilian tradition. The rooms have a terrace overlooking a stunning Sicilian landscape. The architectural style of this hotel is like an ancient farmhouse. If you find this hotel booked, you can see the other hotels I selected for you, here.
Photocredits in order of appearance:
Giovanni Distefano – Flickr
Ennio Gurrera – winner of the photo contest “a postcard for Sambuca” at Wikipedia