Cinisi is a small town and coastal resort located in the eastern Gulf of Castellammare, in the valley of the “Furi” stream, in north-west Sicily near Palermo.
The towns proximity to Palermo (and airport), and the presence of an attractive natural landscape with a rocky coastline, and also sandy beaches, make Cinisi a popular tourist destination. While the beaches and countryside attract the most attention be sure to also explore Cinisi itself.
Your visit to Cinisi can start from the Benedictine monastery, which has an imposing façade and two cylindrical towers that date from the 18th century and overlook the town. The rooms of the central structure, which is accessed by a double flight of stone steps, have a painted wooden ceiling (in the central room) and tufa stone vaults (in the two side rooms).
G. Etna, a scholar of Giovanni Meli (see below) and of the friary of Cinisi said that it was to the Convent of Cinisi, at that time deep in the countryside, that the Abbots of the Monastery of San Martino delle Scale “assigned the more crude friars, perhaps the children of the provincial lords who were familiar with the country. The convent was a kind of fortress, with a facade equipped with battlements against the Barbaresques".
Church of Santa Fara
Leaving the Convent of the Benedictines, in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele Orlando is the Mother Church of Cinisi, dedicated to “Santa Fara”, the patron saint of the town. The church dates from the mid 17th century and has a single nave, divided from the choir by an arch.
Of great artistic value in the church is the frontal choral on the main altar, attributed to 18th century artists. Also remarkable are the wooden statues of "Sant Anna" and "San Benedetto", and the painting of the Martyrdom of Santa Barbara by Filippo Randazzo (1692-1744).
At the Mother Church you can also visit the crypts, a necropolis dating from the 18th century, in which crucifixes, gold and silver coins, and bronze medals were found.
Church of the Holy Souls
In addition to the Mother Church, another religious building of interest in Cinisi is the Church of the Holy Souls.
Built in the early 19th century it is characterized by a wooden altar and two paintings attributed to the school of "Zoppo di Gangi" (1550-1630), "The Nativity" and "Marriage of St. Catherine", which were brought here from the church of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Catherine.
Near the church of the "Holy Souls" is the house of Giovanni Meli, a native of Palermo (1740-1815), but considered a citizen of Cinisi - he worked as a doctor for five years in Cinisi. Meli later moved to Palermo where he was professor of chemistry at the local University.
G. Meli studied the life and customs of the people of Sicily, and carfeully collected proverbs and slang expressions. Meli was also a talented poet, and with a typical Arcadian taste he described the spectacles of nature and ancient country traditions.
For antique lovers, we recommend a visit to the Mignosi Museum, which also contains some models of period old cars.
Watchtowers in Cinisi
The importance of the maritime area at Cinisi has deep-seated historical roots. From the 15th century, three watch towers were built because of possible enemy attacks and to protect the nearby tunny nets.
- The first, called the “Torre dell’Orsa” (Bear Tower), belonged to the Benedictine monastery of St. Martino delle Scale and dates from 1569. The tower may actually be much older than it seems since a document referring to the tower dates back to 1344, although to confuse matters it is likely the document was a fake produced a couple of centuries later.
- The next tower is the "Torre Pozzillo", an imposing two-storey building situated on a rock. At the time of its construction it was called" Torre Torisano seu Poczillo', and on a map from 1826 it was called “Torre Nuova” ['New Tower']
- A third defensive tower is called "Torre Molinazzo”, where some Roman artefacts have been identified.
Sitting on the beaches...
For beach lovers visiting Cinisi, near the Torre Molinazzo there is a sandy beach called Magaggiari. This coastal area not far from Palermo also provides various nature trails. Between Monte Pecoraro and Mount Anello there are woods of holm oak and of ash.
These ash trees were once exploited for the extraction of the famous "manna," which had, according to tradition, special medicinal properties as a purgative and a laxative, and it was indicated in cases of indigestion.
...Looking at the peaches
Each May in Cinisi there is a Ricotta Festival, with the tasting of typical local products. Cinisi is an important town for the cultivation of olive trees and others such as carob, almonds, walnuts, apricots and peaches, and dairy products such as cheese are also of great local importance.
Selected places to visit near Cinisi, Italy
See the Sicily guide for more travel ideas...