The town of Menfi is situated near the coast of south-east Sicily between Selinunte and Sciacca. Menfi has developed to have a tourist industry based on the seaside, such as the beaches of Porto Palo, Capparrina and Lido di Porto Palo, which have beaches with very clean sea and facilities for visitors.
Menfi suffered substantial damage to its monuments during an earthquake in 1968.
Away from the beach be sure to also visit Menfi itself - the town developed over an extended period of time but has kept the layout of the original feudal settlement. The main focus in the town is the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III, reached along Corso Garibaldi and where the rebuilt Cathedral Church stands, dating from the 18th century but destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, and the old Town Hall.
The most significant monument in the city was once the Castle of Burgimilluso in the Old Town, erected to protect the medieval village, and the castle originally consisted of two square towers side by side.
Today unfortunately only one tower remains, with four floors of an irregular shape and a height of about 18 meters, formed of two rectangular buildings. The earthquake of 1968 destroyed the tower, that was was rebuilt, partly reusing the ruins.
The castle was originally a kind of "hunting lodge", a fortified building but with the main purpose of providing support to game-shooting expeditions.
Among the civil buildings in Menfi the Palazzo Pignatelli is worthy of a visit. This building has two floors with twelve rooms and a barrel vault and was built by Diego Aragona Tagliavia.
The main entrance through a wide doorway in the square reaches a large courtyard, and from here you reach the first floor via an impressive marble staircase that leads to the gallery above. On the ground floor of the Baron's Palace you can visit the excavations to get an understanding of the history of the area.
There are also many religious buildings in Menfi. Among the most important of these is the Mother Church, built around 1650 with three naves, partially destroyed by the earthquake of 1968, and now rebuilt by Vittorio Gregotti (born 1927).
Inside the church are some remnants of the old church and also some fine works of art such as a 17th century wooden statue of St. Anthony of Padua (to whom the church is dedicated); a group of sculptures of the “Virgin of the Rosary with Saints Catherine and Dominic”, also 17th century; some 18th century paintings by “Fra Felice da Sambuca” (Gioacchino Viscosi, 1734-1805), wooden sculptures by Girolamo Bagnasco (1759-1832) and a 17th century wooden crucifix.
Also in Menfi it is intersting to visit the rocky Church of St. Margaret, dug in the tuff by Byzantine monks. The interior is divided into two spans by an arch, and it has a vault, two altars, and a series of 13th century frescoes.
The main altar in the apse has a fresco of “Santa Margherita”, while in the two side sections there are scenes from the life and martyrdom of St. Margaret, St. Peter and St. Paul, and in the middle of the vault there is 'Christ Pantocrator'.
Ancient Menfi: excavations on Montagnoli
In recent years there have been interesting archaeological excavations near Menfi, especially in "Montagnoli di Belice” where the remains of several huts were discovered. These important studies were carried out by by Giuseppe Castellana, allowing the town to redefine its territory, in terms of both culture and tourism.
Castellana writes that "[...] the territory of Menfi...has brought to light a new hut of rectangular shape...and a votive grave with the presence of animal bones...going back to the 8th century BC...the hut can not be regarded as a mere dwelling, it seems to be intended for political and cult ceremonies that we are not able to specify. This hut suffered a violent destruction around the mid-7th century BC [...]"
(See G. Castellana, “Nuovi dati sull'Insediamento di Montagnoli presso Menfi”, In “Terze giornate internazionali di studi sull'area elima”, Atti, I, 2000, pp. 263-271).
Menfi wine production
Apart from tourism, wine production is also an important economic activity at Menfi and is connected to a series of local festivals that are related to the ancient Sicanian city of “Inycon". These festivals have given a great impetus to the nature and heritage tourism of Menfi.
The position of the ancient site of Inycon is disputable, however a local legend claims that Menfi is located where Inycon once stood. Inycon was famous in ancient times because of its wine.
In addition to the prestigious local wines, Menfi has an impressive culinary heritage which reflects the traditions of the ancient rulers, and that can be found in dishes like cous cous, sorbet, marzipan, candied fruit and honey. Among the local dishes you could try the sauce with sardines, pine nuts, raisins and saffron, the rice balls, swordfish and bluefish.
Selected places to visit near Menfi
See the Sicily guide for more travel ideas...