We are based in Castelbuono, a small and lovely medieval town (9 000 inhabitants). It is located in the Madonie Natural Park, about 90 km from Palermo and only a few kilometres from the Tyrrhenian coast.
Like many other places in Sicily (and more generally in Italy), Castelbuono is rich in fascinating history, beautiful art, good food and charming small streets.
Yes, but it is so much more than this! The town’s geographic position, both near the sea and the mountains, is ideal for holidays. And Castelbuono has something absolutely unique: manna.
5 good reasons to come to Castelbuono
A cool place not far from the sea
Castelbuono is very close to the coast. The first beach is only 20 minutes by car and you can reach Cefalù, the local sea resort, in 30 minutes.
But as the town is 423 m above sea level, temperatures in summer are cooler here and definitely nicer for those who are not used to Sicily’s hot season (particularly July and August).
A perfect base point to explore the Madonie
Castelbuono is a good place to stay for those who would like to visit the Madonie Natural Park and its lovely villages for a few days.
The town is at the foot of the Carbonara Massif (1979 m – second highest mountain in Sicily after Mount Etna). From here, you can easily organise trips to Gangi, Petralia Soprana, Petralia Sottana or Polizzi Generosa. Many nice hikes (see our excursions) also depart from Castelbuono’s territory.
Regarding accommodation, Castelbuono offers a good choice of hotels, B&Bs, agriturismi and holiday houses. Click here to see a list.
OK, you will eat well almost everywhere in Sicily, but some places are even greater than others and Castelbuono is one of them. The local produce, such as cheese, meat, vegetables, olive oil and honey, are top quality. No mystery: animals pasture freely, the cycle of the seasons is respected for everything.
The town offers a good choice of restaurants and some of them are in the Italian Michelin Guide. Want to have a deeper food experience? Have a cooking class with us!
The local specialties mostly belong to the “cucina povera” (poor cooking), born from the imagination of the local mammas. With very little at their disposal – typically wild edibles, breadcrumbs, eggs, aromatic herbs – they managed to prepare appetizing dishes for their families. Here are a few examples: stuffed sun-dried tomatoes, wild edibles cooked with broad beans, fried thistles, stuffed aubergines, egg croquettes. Not that poor, actually!
If you have a sweet tooth, try the local specialty called Testa di Turco (Turk’s head – a fried pastry with cream flavoured with lemon and cinnamon) and don’t miss the now famous panettone from the fratelli Fiasconaro.
Small town, big culture
For centuries, Castelbuono was the capital of the Ventimiglia. They were one of the most powerful Sicilian families, took part in major historical events and ruled most of the Madonie territory.
In 1454, they settled in Castelbuono’s castle. As they were fond of art and sciences, they invited poets, writers, painters, sculptors and astronomers to their court. They populated the local churches with precious works of art and, in a certain way, instilled love for culture in the local population.
Nowadays, all year long the town offers a rich programme of festivals, art exhibitions, concerts, religious celebrations, conferences, etc. The most important appointments are St. Ann’s celebrations (the patron saint, 25th-27th July), DiVino Wine Festival (end of July), Ypsigrock (big international indie-rock festival, in August) and Funghi Fest (fungi festival, end of October).
Regarding monuments and museums, don’t miss the Castello dei Ventimiglia – Museo Civico, with its impressive baroque chapel and its contemporary art exhibitions. The most beautiful churches in town include the Matrice Vecchia (14th century), the Matrice Nuova (17th-19th century) and San Francesco (14th-18th century – usually open in the morning until 9.30 am). Naturalist Museum Francesco Minà Palumbo is also worth a visit.
Manna’s last place
Castelbuono (and the nearby village of Pollina) is the last place where manna is still produced. Technically speaking, it is the dried sap of the local ash trees. It is mostly used as a natural medicine for any kind of digestive problems and is particularly efficient against constipation. But it is also a healing substance and studies are ongoing to understand all its properties.
The harvest takes place in summer. In the past, manna played an important part in the local economy. Its production and sale, in addition to other field works, allowed peasants to live less miserably and, sometimes, to even send a son to study at the university.
Nowadays, only a few people still make manna. Why? Well, it’s not that easy! It requires experience, patience and sensitivity. But things could change: as natural products are more and more trendy, the demand is rising. Abandoned ash tree groves are cultivated again, new manna producers are being trained and visits are organized to let people know about this very special tradition.